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Demi-Permanent Hair Color: The Complete Guide

Demi-permanent hair color has become so popular in recent years for a reason. Temporary and permanent dyes are popular alternatives when playing around with hair color. However, semi-permanent hair dye washes off too soon, while permanent hair color requires more maintenance and long-term commitment. So, if you want a hair color that’s easier to maintain and doesn’t wash off demi-permanent hair dyes come into play.

Demi-permanent hair color promises the perfect balance of durability and semi-permanence. But will this hair color suit your hair? Read on as we introduce you to demi-permanent hair, what it is, its longevity, and how to use it.


  • Demi-permanent hair color is more permanent than semi-permanent, and less permanent than permanent color.
  • Permanent dyes involve penetration and chemical reactions to embed color molecules in hair, Semi-permanent dyes rely on diffusion, with dye molecules washing out with each shampoo. Demi-permanent dyes use developers to open the hair cuticles, allowing dye molecules to penetrate.
  • The level of developer affects the lift or lightening of hair.
  • Demi-permanent dye uses low-volume, mild peroxide developer (usually 10 volume) for surface layer penetration.
  • Demi-permanent hair color won’t lighten your hair. They are good for blending uneven color adding lowlights, toning, and shine.
  • Not suitable for drastic color changes on dark hair.
  • The demi-permanent dye lasts for about 25 washes before fading.
  • Demi-permanent hair color can darken hair but not lighten it.
  • Suitable for those wanting to go darker, blend grays, try bold colors, refresh existing hair color, or try new tints.
  • Demi-permanent color provides more DIY flexibility but we strongly recommend you to visit a beauty salon as it can cause hair color disaster.
  • To make the demi-permanent color last longer, limit hair washing and use a color-safe shampoo.
  • Clarifying shampoo can accelerate the fading process if the color is unsatisfactory.

What Is Demi-Permanent Hair Color?

Demi-permanent color is an alkaline, ammonia-free hair dye that offers a low-maintenance, low-commitment option to those who want to color their hair. It’s perfect for color correction, highlights, gray blending, and hair color enhancement.

Demi-permanent hair dye provides longer-lasting color than temporary hair dye but is not as long-lasting as permanent hair color. They are also less damaging to your hair than permanent dyes. It contains lower levels of ammonia or no ammonia at all. They are often used with a lower-volume developer, which helps open the hair cuticle to deposit color without causing significant damage.

Demi-permanent hair color is typically used for:

  • Enhancing natural hair color or blending gray hair: You can use demi-permanent hair dye to add depth and dimension to natural hair color. It’s an excellent choice for blending gray hair and for a more natural-looking result.
  • Refreshing color-treated hair: Demi-permanent color is useful to refresh your previously colored hair. It helps to maintain the color vibrancy and can help you correct any fading or unwanted tones.
  • Toning highlights or balayage: Demi-permanent dye is also used to tone or adjust the color of highlights or balayage. It creates a more even and polished finish.
  • Color transitioning or experimentation: Demi-permanent hair color is ideal for those looking to try a new hair color without committing to a permanent change. As it fades gradually, it allows for a smoother transition back to the natural hair color.

Benefits of using demi-permanent hair color

  • Provides better gray coverage than semi-permanent hair color
  • Causes less damage to hair as it doesn’t strip hair color
  • Gradual fade reduces the visibility of grow-out and roots
  • Offers a more natural appearance by retaining hair’s natural color variance
  • Easy to apply at home, widely available, and affordable
  • Suitable for creating highlights and adding color dimension
  • Ammonia-free, making it gentler on hair
  • Can be used to refresh faded permanent color or after damaging treatments like perms or relaxers
  • Offers a balance between longevity and minimal damage to hair

How Does Demi-permanent Color Work?

How does demi-permanent hair color work?

Demi-permanent color works with a low-volume developer (with 3% or less peroxide) to open up the upper cuticle of your hair for color deposition.

This might sound like the same process involved when using a permanent dye. Unlike permanent hair color, demi-permanent color does not change your hair’s structure, texture, or color.

Instead, it adds new color molecules to your hair, which is why demi-permanent hair colors work well when transforming hair from a lighter to a darker shade.

Permanent hair color works by breaking down the structure of your hair shaft and lifting its natural color. This process allows the new color molecules to attach to your hair. Once dry, these molecules are locked in, and while they may fade when washed, the hair doesn’t regain its original color.

With demi-permanent hair, your natural hair structure and color remain.

Will Demi-Permanent Dye Cause Damage to Your Hair?

Bleaching and permanent color procedures are known to cause damage even to healthy virgin hair. Demi-permanent color lacks the bleaching and color-lifting chemicals that damage hair.

Therefore, it will not damage your hair or change its texture when used correctly. Demi-permanent colors are also safe to use for damaged hair.

Different Forms of Demi-permanent Hair Color

Forms of Demi-permanent Hair 

Demi-permanent color comes in various forms, from glosses to liquid hair colors.

Hair glosses are formulations that temporarily even out the tone and improve the gloss of your hair. They come in clear or colored varieties. Colored varieties are demi-permanent colors mixed with a developer to tone, gray-blend, or enhance your natural hair color.

Demi-permanent hair colors are also available as color-depositing conditioners. These conditioners pack in the benefits of hair colors and conditioners in one product, and the resulting color can last up to 6 weeks.

Demi-permanent hair also comes in liquid form. Liquid color is perfect for gray-blending. It is less economical than crème hair color. Crème hair color is much easier to apply, making it ideal for hairline and root touch-ups.

How Long Does Demi-permanent Hair Color Last?

Demi-permanent hair color lasts about 25 washes. The longevity period of the hair color depends on your hair’s porosity and condition before coloring, the type of demi-permanent hair color you use, how you style your hair, and how frequently you wash your hair.

Follow these tips to make demi-permanent hair color last longer.

  • Wait 72 hours after applying a demi-permanent color before you shampoo. This gives your hair cuticle more time to close, trapping the hair dye inside.
  • Wash your hair about two times per week. Use a dry shampoo in between washes.
  • Use shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for color-treated hair.
  • Use cool to warm water when washing or rinsing your hair. Hot water makes hair more porous, thus capable of releasing more color.
  • Use color-depositing shampoos or conditioners to freshen up your hair color.
  • Minimize heat styling as it opens up your hair cuticles. If you must, use a heat-protectant product.
  • Cover your hair whenever you spend extended periods in the sun. Doing so makes your hair less susceptible to sun bleaching.

If you want a demi-permanent color to last a shorter time, you can remove it with a clarifying shampoo or color remover.

When Should You Use a Demi-permanent Hair Color?

When Should You Use a Demi-permanent Hair Color

We’ve figured out what demi-permanent hair is and how long it lasts, so when can you use it?

Refresh Color

Demi-permanent hair color is perfect for refreshing permanent hair color that has faded over time. Although permanent hair color lasts long, it also fades with time, adopting a dull appearance.

Demi-permanent colors give it a fresh, vibrant look without subjecting hair to the damaging permanent hair coloring process. It’s also great for root touch-ups if you’re trying to grow out permanently colored hair.

Shift Tones

Demi-permanent colors come in cool and warm shades. You can use cooler shades to tone down the warmth in your hair or use warmer shades to add warmth and match the warmth of your skin tone.

Hide Grays

Whether your hair is graying or has gray highlights from a previous color job that you want to conceal, demi-permanent hair color is the way to go. It works well in camouflaging early grays and perfectly matches your tone. Using a demi-permanent hair color does not leave a stark demarcation line as your hair regrows.

Corrective Work

Color correcting is the best way to fix your hair after a permanent dye job fails. Dye is a good color correction remedy, but since your hair is probably weak from the previous dye job, you’ll want a mild formula that’s gentle on your hair, like a demi-permanent hair color.

Toning Highlights

Demi-permanent hair color is perfect for toning highlights and bleached hair. It doesn’t damage hair strands as it lacks the lifting capabilities of permanent hair color. It’s also long-lasting, meaning you’ll need fewer salon appointments than when using semi-permanent toners.

Can Demi-permanent hair color lighten Hair color?

You cannot lighten your hair with demi-permanent color. If you have extra blonde highlights and want to add warmth, use a gold or beige toner. If your ends have an ash toner, use a clarifying shampoo to remove some of the cool tones before applying a warm-toned toner.

How To Use Demi-Permanent Hair Color: 10 Steps

How To Use Demi-permanent Hair Color

This guide should come secondary to the hair dye’s instructions. Always read the instructions that accompany your hair dye. The instructions should detail the amount of product to use and the processing time.

Step 1: Gather the Materials You Might Need

For this hair-coloring process, you will need the following:

  • Demi-permanent hair dye
  • A pair of vinyl gloves
  • Sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair clips for sectioning
  • Mixing bowls (for crème dye) and an applicator bottle (for liquid dye)
  • A low-volume developer of about ten is recommended, but you can go lower or use a demi-permanent hair color developer
  • Petroleum jelly

Step 2: Preparation

Prepare your hair by detangling it, then divide it into four quadrants. Don’t wash your hair 48 hours before applying a demi-permanent color to prevent scalp irritation.

Wear protective gloves to protect your hands from staining. Drape an old towel over your neck and shoulders to protect your neck and clothes from staining. If you work near a stain-prone surface, cover it with newspapers.

Step 3: Mix Dye and Developer

Always read your demi-permanent hair dye instructions before mixing to get the correct ratios and recommended developer strength. Use a demi-permanent hair color developer if you can find one.

Step 4: Apply petroleum jelly or barrier cream along your hairline to prevent staining

Step 5: Start Applying the Color to Your Hair

Take small pieces of each section and apply color from root to tip, ensuring that each strand is covered in the dye. Repeat for all the hair sections.

Step 6: Let the Hair Process Take Effect

Let the hair process take effect for up to thirty minutes or as recommended on the hair dye packaging.

Step 7: Rinse out The Dye

Rinse the dye in cool running water until it runs clear.

Step 8: Shampoo Your Hair

Shampoo your hair several times with a sulfate-free shampoo. You can also use a color-protecting shampoo recommended by the hair dye manufacturer you’re using.

Step 9: Apply a Color Sealant

The color sealant rebalances your hair’s pH and allows the color to last longer. Leave the sealant for about five minutes before rinsing it with cold water.

Step 10: Deep Condition Your Hair

Deep condition your hair and style it as desired.

Demi-permanent hair color is an ammonia-free hair dye that lasts about 25 washes. It offers the perfect middle ground between semi-permanent and permanent dyes.

It’s ideal for enhancing natural color, blending gray hair, toning, and color correction, but it doesn’t carry the damaging effects of permanent dyes on your hair.

difference between semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair color

The primary difference between semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair colors lies in their longevity and how they interact with the hair.

Both options offer a temporary color change, but demi-permanent hair color typically lasts for about 24 to 28 washes/shampoos, while the semi-permanent color fades after approximately 3 to 6 washes.

Demi-permanent color deposits pigment on the hair surface without penetrating the strands, while semi-permanent color stains the hair and can temporarily enhance its tone. Here is a comparison in tabular form:

Demi-Permanent Hair ColorSemi-Permanent Hair Color
LongevityLasts for about 25 washes3 to 6 washes
ApplicationApplied to dry hairApplied to freshly shampooed hair
Interaction with HairDeposits pigment on hair surfaceStains the hair
Gray CoverageSuitable for less than 25% grayNot suitable for gray coverage
Regrowth AppearanceSoftens transition between colorsNo effect on gray regrowth
Target UsersWant longer lasting color change or enhance the current shadeWant a bit more than temporary color change or looking to experiment with color changes

Both semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair colors are suitable for various hair types and preferences. However, demi-permanent is better for those seeking a longer-lasting color change or for enhancing their current shade, while semi-permanent is a great choice for people who want a more temporary color change or want to experiment with different colors.

FAQs About Demi-Permanent Hair Color

What is the difference between demi-permanent hair color and semi-permanent hair color?

Demi-permanent hair color requires a developer to activate and penetrate the hair shaft. In contrast, semi-permanent hair color is a deposit-only hair dye that coats the outside of the hair.

Does demi-permanent hair color work for every hair type?

Demi-permanent hair color works for all hair types without altering your hair’s structure or texture. However, it does not lighten darker hair.

Will hair go back to normal after using a demi-permanent hair color?

Demi-permanent hair color does not alter your hair structure or damage it. It also washes away within 12-25 washes.

Why Should I use a demi-permanent hair color?

Demi-permanent hair color is the way for a low-commitment, minimal-damage hair coloring option. It’s also great for maintaining or darkening your hair shade.

Is a demi-permanent hair color suitable for all hair types?

Yes, demi-permanent hair color is suitable for all hair types. However, it is important to note that demi-permanent dyes can only deposit color. That means they can match your current hair color or make it darker, but they can’t lift or lighten the hair.

Can I use a demi-permanent hair color to lighten my natural hair color?

No, you cannot use demi-permanent hair color to lighten your natural hair color. Demi-permanent hair color is a deposit-only color, which means it can only deposit color onto your hair, making it the same shade or darker. It does not have the ability to lift or lighten your natural hair color. If you wish to lighten your hair, you’ll need to use a permanent hair color or a lightening product like bleach, which can lift your hair color by removing some of the natural pigment.

Does a demi-permanent hair color require a developer to activate it?

Yes, demi-permanent hair color requires a developer to activate it. Demi-permanent hair color is typically mixed with a low-volume developer, usually around 10 or 20 volume, to help open the hair cuticle slightly and allow the color to deposit onto the hair. The developer also plays a role in activating the color molecules, helping the hair color to adhere better and last longer. However, the developer used with demi-permanent color is less concentrated than the one used with permanent hair color, which helps to minimize hair damage.

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