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Temporary Hair Color: The Complete Guide

Do you ever get in the mood to switch your look but do not feel like committing? If so, temporary hair color might be the answer.

For some people, their hair color is a part of their fashion sense. It reflects their mood, matches their clothes, and harmonizes with the seasons and the weather. Often, these individuals are drawn to hair color that is bold, bright, and on-trend.

For others, hair color is something they want to try. Dipping their toes in, so to speak, to see how they feel about it but are not 100% sure if they will spend the money or risk the damage of a permanent dye job. 

There are several different ways to apply temporary color to your hair. This article will discuss those options and other aspects of using temporary colors.

What Is a Temporary Hair Color?

temporary hair colors

Temporary hair color refers to products meant to color hair for a short period and wash it out when you shampoo your hair. These hair coloring products are for shows, events, costumes, or to try on a new look. These temporary options are available in several forms and a wide range of colors.

Effects of Temporary Hair Dyes

Many positive effects come from using temporary hair dye. The harsh chemicals found in permanent hair dye can damage hair. One of the greatest benefits of temporary hair color is that it does not cause hair damage. Listed below are some of the other benefits of temporary hair color.

  • Adds color 
  • Can add other effects like sparkle/shimmer
  • Does not damage hair 
  • Can be used as a styling aid (depending on the type of product used) 
  • Can, in some cases, add softness or manageability 

Best Temporary Hair Colors 

If you are looking online or at the hair color section of your pharmacy or beauty supply store, you will find plenty of options for temporary hair color. What are the pros and cons of each, and which one is best for you? 

1. Temporary Color Sprays 

temporary hair color - hair spray

Temporary color sprays are aerosol sprays that coat the hair shaft. These are perfect for creating fun, bright colors. Some come in more natural colors designed for touching up gray between salon visits.

L’Oreal Magic Root Cover-Up is a reliable, affordable choice if you want a spray to cover gray. If you are going bright, try MANIC PANIC Amplified Color Spray. It comes in eight popular colors, can be mixed and matched, and is safe for your hair. 

The application is simple: Shake the container to distribute the pigments and spray the product directly on the sections of hair you want to be colored. Color sprays are quick and usually offer good saturation, but the main drawback is the mess they make. It can be challenging to control where the spray goes, and it can end up everywhere. 

2. Color Waxes

temporary hair color waxes

Thanks to social media, Mofajang Hair Color Wax has caught on lately. When used correctly, the thick formula clings to every hair and dries nicely, giving a strong, bold color result. 

You apply the wax by hand to the desired areas of damp hair and then wait for it to dry. Once dried, it does not transfer onto clothes or skin unless you get it wet. 

There are several off-brand hair color waxes on the market but beware, not all of these work as well as Mofajang. Reviewers complain about some waxes being very messy, making hair stiff, or not having enough pigment. 

3. Hair Mascara

temporary hair color mascara

Hair mascara is exactly what it sounds like, a tube of color with a wand applicator. This particular temporary hair color is best used in small areas rather than a full head application. 

It is applied in a simile to mascara as well. Use the wand to put the hair mascara where you want it. It can be messy but great for adding streaks or a dip-dyed look for your ends. Kryolan Aqua Color and Colorme Hair Mascara are some of the brands available in this category. 

4. Hair Chalk 

temporary hair color - hair chalk

Hair chalk is one of the most fun and risk-free ways to add temporary color to your hair. Its often used by kids and young teens as a safe and creative way to experiment with bright hair colors. 

The application is simple and involves moving the chalk down any parts of your hair that you want to be colored. It works well for ponytails, bangs, and other small areas of hair but not so well for full head application. 

Depending on the brand, you can purchase hair chalk in single colors or in packs that include a full spectrum of colors, just like a regular chalk set. A popular hair chalk brand to try out is Got2Be.

5. Hair Color Rinse 

Hair color rinses are not the same as color depositing shampoos. Instead of rinsing them out, you leave them in like a leave-in conditioner or detangler. Hair color rinses generally will not drastically change your hair or give you bright, bold results. 

They are used more often to mask gray and enhance the hair’s natural color or as a toner to remove brass and add depth. Roux FanciFull Temporary Color Rinse has been one of the top-selling color rinses for decades. 

6. Temporary Color Serum and Creme

Temporary Hair Color Creme

This lightweight color option is easy to apply and will not make your hair sticky, goopy, or stiff. The application is like any other kind of serum. It can be one of the longer-lasting temporary hair color options out there, with a life of up to one week.

If you want moveable hair with a gleam of beautiful color, try a product like Good Dye Young I’m Bored Temporary Color serum or Good Dye Young Semi-Permanent Vegan Hair Dye

7. Color Mousse

Temporary Color Hair Mousse

Temporary color mousse is a styling product that helps you keep your hair in place, while at the same time providing you with a color-enhancing effect. While a mousse usually will not provide as intense a color result as some other applications, it can add tone and noticeable color. 

The application process is similar to that of other hair mousses. You apply it by hand and work it through your hair until the desired result is achieved. 

Truhair Revive and Style Color Mousse is an excellent choice to enhance your natural or color-treated hair color. Or, you can rediscover your grandma’s secret to lovely hair with Roux Fanci-Full Color Mousse.

8. Hair Color Gel

hair color gel

Another solution for trying out temporary hair color is tinted gel. Temporary tinted hair gel will give you a new look, but wash out in the shower. If you want to try it out, the MANIC PANIC Hair Color Gel is a great option.

9. Hair Glaze

A hair glaze is typically used to brighten faded dye jobs. The glaze is less intense than the mask mentioned earlier. However, if your hair is light enough, then you can absolutely use a good glaze to add a hint of temporary red, brunette, or blonde to your coiffure.

10. Color-Infused Conditioner

hair color conditioner

Conditioners such as Undertone are becoming more popular. The conditioner is infused with hair dye, so each time you condition your hair, you’re adding to your color. You can use it daily or weekly, depending on how your color fades.

11. The Kool-Aid Method

Kool-Aid Hair Color for women

The above curly hair color looks stunning. This was a fun method back in the ‘90s. It allowed kids to experiment with crazy hair colors without getting into too much trouble.

The process is a bit of a pain, though. You have to boil the colors/flavors of your choice, let it cool, and then dip your head.

The more Kool-Aid you use, the more concentrated the color. Bear in mind that you want the solution to be the correct consistency for Kool-Aid. If you end up with a paste, you need to add more water.

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How To Make Temporary Hair Colors Vibrant and Long-lasting

Temporary dyes do not last very long; it is designed to be a short-term styling product that washes out with water and shampoo. The only way to prevent your color from disappearing is to not wash your hair for a couple of days after applying it. Your color will stay in until you shampoo. 

The great thing about temporary hair color is that most of the time, it is relatively inexpensive. Often you get a generous amount of product per container, so you can use it when you want to and wash it out when you are ready for a change. These hair colors can give you the freedom to play and enjoy your creativity.

Bleach Your Locks

bleach hair to make temporary hair color vibrant

It’s a bummer, but bleaching your hair is often the easiest way to add noticeable, vibrant, but temporary color. Once the color washes out, your locks fade back to blonde, and you can start all over again. Now, once more, you can use several temporary color methods to add different hues to darker hair. It’s just that if you want your fantasy shades to stand out more brightly, a light base is best.

Reapply Often

Longevity is not the domain of temporary hair color. It isn’t supposed to last a very long time. You can make it semi-permanent by often reapplying.

For example, if you choose a dye-infused hair mask, then you can apply it once a week to keep your color vivid and eye-catching. This doesn’t apply to you if you simply want a new color for a night out on the town, of course.

Stay Out of the Sun

The sun bleaches the color out of everything except your skin. Leave a brightly painted table in front of a row of windows, for instance, and soon the color fades.

Although prolonged exposure to the sun burns your skin, it strips the color from your hair. Try to stay inside when the sun is at its very brightest.

Remain indoors from, say, about eleven in the morning until one or two in the afternoon. Whatever you do, don’t let the sun beat directly down onto your head.

At Least Protect Your Tresses

It’s not always feasible to stay locked away inside, though, so even if you can’t physically stay out of the sun, you can at least take precautions to protect your hair.

A hat or scarf is a fashionable choice, but to avoid hiding your light under a bushel and your new hair color under a hat, you can also consider sunscreen for your hair. That’s also the best option if you’re out at the beach, even if you wear a sun hat while you’re lounging on the sand.

Avoid Chemical-Laden Shampoos

Traditional shampoos strip color from your hair, as well. You can see it as you massage the shampoo into your scalp. Pull your hands away, and the suds are probably tinted pink, red, blue, or purple, right?

Stick to natural shampoos—but read and reread the list of ingredients to ensure no chemicals are hiding in there. With temporary dyes, not even color-safe shampoo is genuinely safe.

Ditto Conditioners

use deep conditioner to make temporary colors long lasting

Not all conditioners affect your color, but many do. It’s best to find the complement to the natural shampoo you use. If your temporary coloring method involved bleaching your hair at all, then you also need to find a natural but effective deep conditioning treatment to apply to your hair on a regular. Bi-weekly is usually often enough, but for damaged or dry hair, weekly is preferable.

Don’t Wash Too Often

One way to keep your shampoo and conditioner from stealing away your vivid new hue is to wash your hair less. No, your hair won’t get oily or greasy—not if you’re hair-smart, anyway. It’s time to introduce yourself to dry shampoo.

It absorbs the oils on your scalp and gets rid of that greasy look once you brush it through the rest of your hair. Besides, there’s nothing better than styling second or third-day hair.

How To Get Temporary Color Out of Your Hair

Temporary hair color is easy to rinse out of your hair. Shampoo your hair to get the pigment to come out. Sometimes, traces of color might remain in your hair after washing, especially if your hair is dry or damaged or if you have very light-colored hair.

If this happens, you might find it tempting to wash your hair repeatedly, but be cautious; over-washing can dry hair out and make it frizzy and unmanageable. It is best to let it wash out with your typical hair care routine. 

If your temporary color has left a color cast on your hair you can give it another wash using a clarifying shampoo. The use of higher-temperature water may also be effective. To get a deeper cleaning effect, you can also add baking soda or dish liquid to your shampoo. 

Just remember to give your hair some extra TLC afterward. Use a deep conditioner and dry it gently, avoiding heat styling. Temporary hair color will not damage your hair, but excessive washing can. 

Temporary Hair Color vs. Permanent Hair Color

Temporary Hair Color vs. Permanent Hair Color

Temporary hair color is an entirely different product from permanent hair color. They yield different results, and aside from the fact that they both add color to the hair, they have little in common. 

Permanent hair color works by penetrating the cortex of each hair strand, depositing the pigment deep into the hair. It is a chemical process that causes the color to be permanent, meaning it does not wash out; it only grows out. The chemical process is what can cause hair damage as well. 

Temporary hair color does not penetrate the cortex of the hair shaft. It sits on the outside of the hair and coats it, giving it color until it gets washed away. It contains no harsh chemicals and does not harm the hair. Generally, it washes away in 1 or 2 shampoos, although some brands can last longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is not uncommon for people to have questions about the different options for temporary hair color. Below are some of the most common questions that people ask.

Can I use temporary hair color over permanent color?

Yes. Temporary hair color doesn’t damage the hair and doesn’t chemically change your hair color. It can be used over natural or color-treated hair. 

Can temporary hair color cover gray hair?

Yes, you can use temporary dyes on gray hair. Depending on your product, you can try out bright colors and cover new growth between salon visits or tone and brighten your gray hair.

Can temporary dyes damage your hair?

No, temporary dyes don’t damage your hair because they don’t go into the hair shaft. Some of these colors may even add some conditioning to your hair.

If a temporary hair color does harm your hair, it could be because it was a spray that causes extra build-up and contains alcohol. The alcohol dries out your hair and makes it look damaged and fried. 

Are temporary hair color sprays safe?

Temporary color sprays are safe if you take the proper precautions. Since hair color particles will be in the air when you’re spraying, you should wear a mask and some eye protection. Ensure the area where you’ll be using the spray is well ventilated. 

What temporary hair color works best for dark hair? 

Any highly-pigmented temporary hair color works on dark hair. Waxes and sprays tend to show up best on darker hair colors. You can even achieve light pastel colors on dark hair if you use a better-quality hair wax. 

Does temporary color require bleaching?

No. While you can use it in bleached hair, there isn’t any reason to bleach your hair before applying a temporary color. Bleaching is a commitment and can be damaging to your hair. Temporary hair color is designed to give a short-term result and washes out when you’re tired of it. 

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

Semi-permanent hair color is created to stick to the hair strands longer, anywhere between 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the brand and method. Temporary dyes lasts a day and gets washed away down the drain! 

How long does temporary hair color usually last?

Many types of temporary hair color last until you rewash your hair, while some last a bit longer. It’s a good idea to read the product labels of any dye to figure out if it washes out immediately or lasts for several days. 

Temporary hair color can be fun for plays, events, or simply for fun at home. It can help you change your look with no commitment and is safe enough not to damage hair. There are many temporary hair colors available and so many shades to try them in. 

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