Temporary, Semi-Permanent, Demi-Permanent and Permanent Hair Dye – What’s the Difference?

Does the freedom of being able to have a new hair color every few weeks excite you? Or are you afraid of the commitment that comes with most hair colors? The beauty of temporary hair colors is that there’s something for almost everyone!

With low maintenance coloring trends on the incline, temporary, semi-permanent, and demi-permanent hair color has never been more utilized. Read on to understand the difference between the color types and put them to the best use.

What is a Temporary Hair Color?

Temporary hair color can be found in a few different forms, including tinted sprays, mousses, gels, hair mascara, and even shampoos. Some great uses for one-day hair dyes include gray coverage in between hair appointments, adding a pop of color for a night out, or neutralizing unwanted undertones within the hair.

How Long Does Temporary Hair Dye Last?

Temporary color only lasts until you shampoo because it does not make any chemical change within the hair. The pigments within temporary hair color are actually too big to penetrate the hair at all, so this kind of color only sits on that outermost layer of the hair and rinses right out when you wash your hair.

The most commonly used temporary hair dyes are tone neutralizing shampoos (purple shampoo), and root touch up sprays. This is a safe way to apply hair color at home, so I often encourage and instruct my clients on how they can use these to reduce the frequency of appointments.

Temporary Hair Dyes

Instagram / @clairolcolor

What Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Mean?

If you’re looking to have a bit of fun with your hair for more than just a night out, you may want to consider a semi-permanent hair color. It is considered a temporary color: it’s ammonia-free and its molecules are small enough to somewhat penetrate the hair shaft, but it is also washable.

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How Long Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Last?

The color holds on just long enough to make it through the first several shampoos. You can expect a semi-permanent hair color to last no longer than 6 weeks and fade more with each wash. Many women love this option because they are able to do something new at each salon visit or try bald hair experiments. Below is an example of such an experiment: see the hairstyle on the day of coloring it black rooted blue with a semi-permanent hair dye, its fade 4-5 weeks after, and ultimate color correction to the signature hairstyle, rooted blonde.

After doing a few non-permanent hair colors and watching them wash out with each shampoo, I came up with a custom blended tinted hair mask that would help women make a new hair tone last. Using such a color bomb with Olaplex hair treatment you can literally bottle up the color and refresh it at home as it starts to fade.

What Are Demi-Permanent Colors?

Demi-permanent color is great for so many things including: introducing color to someone who has never had color in their hair, gray blending, refreshing faded color on the ends, toning out unwanted undertones in the hair, and – my personal favorite – root shadowing.

Demi-permanent hair color is often used to tone out unwanted undertones within the hair with a process commonly referred to as toning or glossing and is usually done after a blonding service. What you’re seeing on the left side of this photo is what a hair lightens to naturally. As you can see here, a toner is used to neutralize the yellow.

Toning out yellow normally requires using a purple undertone within the toner because yellow and purple are the exact opposite and will create the most neutral blonde in the end like the one we got in the result:

Root shadowing is another way that a demi-permanent color is used, and is sometimes referred to as root smudging or root melting. This process is usually done if the desired result is a more ‘lived in’ or rooted blonde, or whenever someone is looking for a color that won’t have a solid line of regrowth after just a few short weeks.

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Demi-permanent hair color is great for anyone looking to camouflage their gray. I also always recommend it to anyone considering coloring their hair for the first time or someone who is looking to darken their current hair, simply because it will slowly fade out and leave no harsh line of regrowth or commitment behind.

How Long Does Demi-Permanent Color Last?

Demi-permanent hair color is considered a form of temporary hair color because not all color molecules sit deeply in the hair strand. The majority of the color molecules penetrate through the outermost layer of the hair; however, some of the molecules sit right underneath the outermost layer, and that’s why you’ll notice a bit of fading within 4-6 weeks.

The very fact that it fades contributes to the beauty of using demi-permanent hair color for a root shadow, as it makes the hairstyle appear fresher for a longer duration, despite the new growth. A simple root shadow can allow you to go 4-5 weeks longer in between appointments.

How Permanent Hair Dyes Differ After All?

Now, you’re probably wondering how permanent hair color is any different, but trust me, there are many reasons why your stylists may use permanent color on you. Permanent hair color is the only color that will give you complete gray coverage, and it is also the only color that has the ability to lighten the hair.

The way the color penetrates the hair is a huge reason for these abilities. Temporary hair color lies more towards the surface of the hair, whereas permanent color is able to make a chemical change to the hair because it lies in the middle layer of the hair. Unlike demi- and semi-permanent dyes, permanent color can lighten natural hair color, making it a better option when the desired result is a lighter look.

Although permanent color has the ability to lighten the hair, it is also important to know that permanent color cannot lift through previously colored hair. If you have previously colored hair, your only option to go lighter is through a lightening process with a certain level of peroxide, or as you might call it, hair bleach.

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For example, this hair has been pre-lightened and toned with demi-permanent hair color.

If you want to dye dark hair with a semi-permanent pink, you will need pre-lightened hair too.

A demi-permanent color can also help you transform bright blonde hair color shades into more natural “lived in” colors, like this:

Which are Best for DIY Color?

Using any type of hair color at home always comes with risks such as overlapping, ‘browning out’, uneven saturation, and more unfortunate hair color mistakes, so it is important to seek the help of a professional when you’re craving a change. Hair color is a chemical, after all, so they do need to be taken seriously.

If you do decide to use a temporary color enhancing shampoo or a root touch up spray in between your appointments, please watch out for these common mistakes:

  • While using a root touch-up spray, avoid holding the nozzle of the spray too close to your root area.
  • Apply a root touch-up spray by holding the spray no closer than two fingers width.
  • Using a tinted shampoo or purple shampoo at home is pretty straightforward and to the point, but it is not for daily use. Use purple shampoo only about once a week, as using it more frequently will result in a duller looking and drier-feeling blonde.

Ready to learn more about what you can be using at home to make the most out of your hair color? Make sure you follow my Instagram @jessicamariehairartistry for product reviews, hair advice, and the newest hair trends.

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