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Semi-Permanent Hair Color: What A Colorist Wants You To Know

If you’re considering changing your hair color but don’t want to lighten it, try semi-permanent hair color. These types of color deposit pigment into the hair, which wash out over time, making them a great way to try out a color or for people who like to change shades.

However, depending on the situation, semi-permanent dyes might not be the best option for you. Some people’s hair may not absorb the color.

Others looking for a longer-lasting solution may not be satisfied with maintaining a semi-permanent. Keep reading to find out if this type of hair color can work for you.

What Is Semi-Permanent Hair Color?

Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Salon professionals classify hair color by permanence using three levels: semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent. All hair colors deposit pigments to change the color of your hair, but the way the product does this depends on the level.

Semi-permanent colors rank at level one, which means they have the least lasting power of any dyes besides temporaries. As these dyes don’t have any ammonia or bleaching agents, these colors stay the least amount of time because while the pigments penetrate the outer layer of your hair, they don’t reach the inside where natural pigments exist.

A demi-permanent dye goes deeper into the hair, interacting with your natural pigments to change your hair color. Permanent hair dye takes this a step further by replacing your natural pigments with ones deposited by the dye.

Pros and Cons of Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Each type of hair dye has advantages and disadvantages. Depending on why and how long you want a color in your hair, the shorter length of time semi-permanents stay in your hair may be positive or negative. These are some pros and cons of choosing a semi-permanent hair color.


  • You won’t need a developer, which means using fewer chemicals on your hair, so it stays healthy.
  • Frequent color changes are more feasible when using a semi-permanent color.
  • Since you won’t be mixing chemicals, semi-permanent treatments are easier to accomplish at home.


  • Semi-permanent hair color doesn’t lighten your hair. If you want lighter locks, you may need to use a developer.
  • Healthy hair that’s never been chemically treated may have difficulty picking up the color. The cuticle, or the outer part of the hair, doesn’t open enough for the pigments to penetrate in these cases. 
  • Your color fades over time.

Depending on the desired results, many aspects of coloring hair with a semi-permanent can be construed as positive or negative. Let’s look at more information to determine if this color suits your situation.

When to Use Semi-Permanent Hair Color?

When to Use Semi-Permanent Hair Color

There are many instances in which semi-permanent hair color is a great option. If you’ve already lightened your hair, these colors will work great. Even though a developer isn’t required to color hair with a semi-permanent if your hair has already been treated with one, the color takes much better than never dyed hair.

Semi-permanent hair colors are an excellent option for folks who like to switch up their hair frequently. These products provide a safe way to change your hair to suit your mood without damaging other types of dye.

As long they last, semi-permanent colors are a great way to try out a new look. Though longer lasting than temporary hair dyes, these colors wash out, so you’re not stuck with one color for a long time.

Semi-permanents provide an excellent choice for special occasions like a vacation, after which you can let the color fade out.

difference between semi-permanent and permanent hair color

Semi-Permanent Hair ColorPermanent Hair Color
DurationAbout 3 weeksFades in 6 to 8 weeks. Lasts until hair grows out or is recolored.
Ammonia ContentAmmonia-freeContains ammonia
DeveloperDoes not require a developerRequires a developer (hydrogen peroxide)
PenetrationDeposits color on the surface of the hair shaftPenetrates the hair shaft, altering the hair’s structure
DamageMinimal to no damageCan cause damage, especially with repeated use
Gray CoverageCan blend or cover gray hair temporarilyProvides long-lasting gray coverage
Color ChangeLimited, no major lightening or darkeningCan lighten, darken, or change tone
Commitment LevelLow commitment, fades graduallyHigh commitment, requires maintenance and touch-ups
Color RangeLimited, mostly vivid and fashion colorsWide range, including natural and fashion colors
Application ProcessEasier, can be applied at homeMore complex, recommended to be done by a professional

Will Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Cause Damage To Your Hair?

No, one of the best aspects of using a semi-permanent hair color is that it doesn’t damage your hair. Some of these colors are also formulated as conditioners, so you moisturize your hair while you add the color.

There has been a concern that semi-permanent hair dyes may contribute to cancer which is proven to be just a rumor by this Harvard study.

Remember that while semi-permanents are safe, using them frequently can dry out your hair, depending on the product used.

How long does semi-permanent hair color last

Semi-permanent hair color generally lasts between 3 to 6 washes. The color’s longevity depends on factors like hair porosity, the product used, hair washing frequency, and the hair care products you choose. Environmental factors, such as sunlight and chlorine exposure, can also impact color duration.

How to Make Semi-Permanent Hair Color Last Longer

In general, semi-permanent hair color lasts around 3 to 6 washes. This number varies by individual and is influenced by how often you wash your hair, the products you use, and even the temperature of your shower.

For longer-lasting semi-permanents, look for color-maintaining products like shampoos or conditioners that deposit more pigment. Showering in cooler water and less often helps color stay in your hair.

While semi-permanent hair colors are designed to fade over time, there are a few tips you can follow to help make them last longer:

  • Wait before shampooing: After applying semi-permanent color, wait at least 48 hours before washing your hair to allow the color to set.
  • Use sulfate-free shampoo: Sulfates can strip color from your hair, so opt for sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners to help maintain your semi-permanent color.
  • Wash with cool water: Hot water can cause color to fade faster. When washing your hair, use cool or lukewarm water to help preserve the color.
  • Limit hair washes: Washing your hair less frequently can help extend the life of your semi-permanent color. Use dry shampoo between washes to keep your hair looking fresh.
  • Protect from heat: Heat styling tools can fade color quickly. Use a heat protectant spray and lower the temperature of your styling tools to minimize damage.
  • Use color-enhancing products: Some hair care products are designed to help maintain and extend the life of colored hair. Look for color-depositing shampoos, conditioners, or hair masks to refresh your color between applications.
  • Avoid chlorine and sun exposure: Chlorine in swimming pools and UV rays from the sun can cause semi-permanent color to fade. Wear a swim cap when swimming and use UV protection sprays to shield your hair from sun damage.

Remember that semi-permanent hair color is designed to be temporary, so even with these tips, it will still eventually fade. However, following these suggestions can help extend the life of your color and keep it vibrant for a longer period.

Semi-permanent hair color provides a great way to refresh your look without damaging hair. Just remember, your new shade will fade away without proper maintenance.

FAQs on Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

Will semi-permanent hair color wash out?

Yes, semi-permanent colors wash out over time.

Can semi-permanent hair dye cover grey?

Some semi-permanent colors provide some grey coverage, but this depends highly on the product and texture of the grey hair.

In general, semi-permanent color helps to blend in grey by adding a new coat of color to your hair’s cuticle. For true grey coverage, a permanent dye may be necessary.

What semi-permanent hair color is best for dark hair?

The best way to choose a semi-permanent color for dark hair is to check the label. Many products have been formulated to work specifically for darker hair colors.

Is semi-permanent hair color a rinse?

Adding semi-permanent color and a color rinse are two types of hair treatments with similar results. Unlike a semi-permanent color, a color rinse penetrates the outer part of the cuticle to deposit a color tint.

Do I need to mix semi-permanent hair color with a developer?

No, semi-permanent colors provide pigment without the use of a developer. However, using one to lighten your hair before adding a semi-permanent hair color will make that color more vibrant.

How often can I use semi-permanent hair color?

Since semi-permanent colors don’t use chemical developers, they are safe for frequent use. To avoid color buildup, wait for several washes before adding more semi-permanent color.

Many maintenance products deposit new pigment in the hair rather than repeating the dyeing process. Try using these products in place of the entire color treatment.

Semi-permanent hair color vs. toner – what is the difference?

A toner uses a small amount of pigment to change the tone of your hair, making it a type of semi-permanent dye. Toners are available as salon treatments or in at-home products with lower concentrations.

Is semi-permanent better than permanent hair color?

Regarding avoiding damage to your hair, semi-permanent color doesn’t need a developer and doesn’t damage your hair while dyeing it. For some, this might mean it’s a better treatment.

For others looking for a long-term change, permanent hair color may be the better option. Note that you can’t mix permanent hair dye and semi-permanent hair dye.

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