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- Semi-permanent hair dye is a no-ammonia, no-bleach and no-developer hair color that coats the hair surface to alter its tone without damaging it.
- Depending on the dye you buy, semi-permanent hair color can last anywhere between 4 and 12 washes, fading gradually.
- Washing your hair less frequently with lukewarm water, protecting from heat damage, and deep-conditioning are the main ways of prolonging the life of your semi-permanent hair color.
With so many colors and such a low commitment, you can bet that we love semi-permanent hair dyes here at Glowsly! Semi-permanent hair colors come in every shade of the rainbow, and they’re quite easy to use at home. They’re by far the most fun you can have dyeing your own hair.
Today, we give the low-down, starting with the 13 best semi-permanent hair dyes you can buy online. Then we discuss what makes a semi-permanent hair dye and how it differs from other types of hair color formulas. We also give some important tips for dyeing and maintaining semi-permanent hair color, and finish with advice for hair dye removal. So, go and get colorful!
Semi-Permanent Hair Color Guide: Contents
- 13 Best Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes
- What Is a Semi-Permanent Hair Dye?
- Semi-Permanent vs. Temporary vs. Permanent Hair Dyes
- Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Damage Hair?
- How to Dye Hair with a Semi-Permanent Color?
- How Long Does a Semi-Permanent Hair Color Last?
- Tips for Keeping Your Semi-Permanent Hair Color Bright
- How to Remove Semi-Permanent Hair Color?
13 Best Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes
From vibrant fashion shades to soft and natural tones, these are the best semi-permanent hair color formulas you can try.
1. Best Overall: Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color
When it comes to at-home use, Arctic Fox is considered one of the best semi-permanent hair dye brands. The colors are vibrant, creamy, and easy to work with, and the actual range of colors is massive. The formula includes soy protein, so it’s very fortifying and moisturizing to the hair. The hair dyes smell a little bit like grapes, so get ready to feel fruity! They’re available at Ulta and Amazon.
2. Best for Blondes: L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color for Light Bleached or Blondes
L’Oreal’s entry into the semi-permanent hair color arena is a welcome one since their permanent hair dye offerings are just so good. The range of colors has a youthful vibe, with options like peach and lime, not to mention a color mixer for achieving pastels. The dyes are formulated like hair conditioner, so they’re very moisturizing, and applying them to the hair is a very easy process. You can buy them on Amazon.
3. Best Demi-Permanent: Clairol Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Hair Color
This is the best semi-permanent hair dye in natural shades. If you want to shift your hair color to something natural and subtle, you really can’t go wrong with this formula. It comes in a wide range of deep, natural tones, and the formula itself is gentle.
It’s a little longer-lasting than the typical semi-permanent formula, as it holds up through 28 washes. It does come with a peroxide-based activator, so we’d say it’s more of a demi-permanent formula, but this means that it does a better job blending gray hairs. Pick it up from Amazon!
4. Best Neon Colors: Good Dye Young Semi-Permanent Hair Color
There’s something special about the silvery tubes of Good Dye Young’s semi-permanent hair dye. These dyes come in some very exciting shades, including lobster red and vivid purple. Because they’re in tubes, it’s very easy to squeeze out just a bit at a time if you like to only dye a few streaks here and here. The formulas smell citrusy and delicious, and they condition the hair beautifully. They’re sold at Sephora.
5. Best Vegan: Manic Panic Amplified Semi-Permanent Hair Color
Manic Panic is one of the original brands when it comes to fashion hair colors! They still have some of the best semi-permanent hair colors on the market, and anyone can find something to like in the huge color range. Just be aware that the different shades behave differently – the more vivid ones are slightly more likely to bleed, while the lighter ones won’t, but they’re less likely to show up on unbleached hair. Get them from Ulta or Amazon!
6. Best Long-Lasting: Wella Colorcharm Paints
Wella is a professional-grade hair product brand, so these semi-permanent hair dyes are the real deal! They come in some really beautiful shades, and they can also be mixed together for totally original colors. They’re a little thick, which prevents drips and mess but does mean you have to work a little harder to get the color to saturate your hair. Order them through Amazon!
7. Best Multi-Tasking: dpHUE Gloss+ Semi-permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner
This three-in-one formula makes dyeing the hair a breeze. It’s effectively a hair conditioner loaded with natural hair color pigments, so when you massage it in and let it sit in your hair, the colors slowly seep in and gently alter the shade of your hair. As a bonus, they also make your tresses absurdly shiny and healthy-looking. This formula is not as intense as the other semi-permanent dyes on this list, so be aware that you won’t be able to make radical changes to your look. Shop for them at Sephora!
8. Best Intense Colors: Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Semi-Permanent Hair Color Full Coverage
Lime Crime hair dye is a lot of fun. The formula smells like candy, and it comes in adorable packaging! The colors are a lot of vibrant shades, and they work pretty well on a slightly wider range of base hair colors (though they’re still most intense on light hair). The only drawback is that they can be a little messy. Grab a jar from Ulta or Amazon!
9. Best Color Range: Adore Semi-Permanent Hair Color
Adore is a great option for both fashion and natural hair colors. They have the richest browns and most vivid neons, with everything in between – just scroll down the drop-down menu to see all the color options (we missed it at first glance). The formula is a little thin, so it saturates the hair easily but can be a little messy to apply. It’s awesome mixed with conditioner as a color refresher! Find it on Amazon!
10. Best Fashion Colors: Ion Semi-Permanent Hair Color
If you love your grays and pastels, Ion is the semi-permanent hair color to check out! They have 30 colors to choose from, and the range leans towards the current trendy fashion colors, so you won’t have to make any of your own concoctions. The formula is very hydrating to the hair, though some shades are a little less pigmented, so they act more like a hair gloss. Purchase yours from Amazon!
11. Best Conditioning: Punky Colour Semi-Permanent Conditioning Hair Color
Punky is the brand that got us through our high school emo phase, and they’re still rocking it with their amazing, grape-soda-scented dyes. This is an easy-to-use semi-permanent hair dye with a gel-cream texture. It goes on the hair like a dream and takes serious hold. The range of shades leans towards the pinks, blues, and purples. You can get one at Ulta or Amazon.
12. Best Natural Colors: Clairol Professional Beautiful Collection Semi-Permanent Hair Color
We’ve already mentioned Clairol’s demi-permanent dye, but this is their true semi-permanent formula in a ton of brown and gold shades. If you are looking for a natural color that’s easy to use and requires no fussing or developers, this is the choice. The formula nourishes the hair while also adding a serious sheen. Buy one from Amazon!
13. Best Professional-Grade: Pravana ChromaSilk Vivids
It’s not always easy to get your hands on Pravana hair dye, but if you can find it, it’s totally worth it. Pravana is usually a professional-only brand, so their semi-permanent hair dyes are intense, long-lasting, and totally stunning. If you want maximum drama, see if you can find your favorite color amongst their selection. You can order them online through Amazon.
What Is a Semi-Permanent Hair Dye?
Semi-permanent hair dye is a type of hair color made without any ammonia or bleaching agents. It works by depositing color into the outer layers of the hair, which causes absolutely no damage! In fact, most semi-permanent hair dyes are formulated with a lot of moisturizing agents, so they can double as deep conditioning treatments.
Because they only coat the hair, semi-permanent dyes cannot change the hair’s lightness level. Because of this, they often don’t show up in darker hair. Additionally, they will also start to fade once the hair has been washed a certain number of times.
Semi-Permanent vs. Temporary vs. Permanent Hair Dyes
So, we’ve already explained what semi-permanent hair dye is, but then how does it compare to other formulas?
First, there are temporary hair dyes that are effectively washable formulas. They cover the outer part of the hair while semi-permanent dye sinks in a little bit, even if it doesn’t get deep into the hair shaft. As a result, they will come off the first time the hair is shampooed! They’re often used by children or for costumes.
As for permanent hair dyes, the difference is stark. Permanent hair dyes come with a developer, which is usually based on peroxide or ammonia. The developer lifts the hair cuticle and can also remove some pigment from the hair.
The result is that the hair strand undergoes a serious and permanent change, while the shade of the dye itself will take hold if it’s much darker or lighter than the color the hair was previously. Permanent hair dyes can still fade a bit but not as much as semi-permanent ones, and they can also be slightly damaging to the hair.
Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Damage Hair?
Because semi-permanent hair dye does not contain any developing agents, it’s extremely gentle on the hair! In fact, semi-permanent hair dyes are usually formulated with skin-nourishing proteins and conditioners, so they’re actually able to moisturize and strengthen the hair while changing its colors.
How to Dye Hair with a Semi-Permanent Color?
Using a semi-permanent hair color is ridiculously easy! You don’t need to worry about mixing together different creams or powders: you just open up the tube or jar and get going!
However, it’s important to remember that semi-permanent colors don’t show up on darker hair colors. This is especially true if you’re looking at a semi-permanent dye in a fashion color. For the color to turn out true to the box, the hair almost always has to be bleached first until the point where it’s a very light blonde.
For natural blondes or anyone with dark blonde hair or lighter, the color will still show up, but it won’t be as dramatic. If your hair isn’t light enough, check out our bleaching guide to learn more about how to lighten it.
Before starting to dye your hair, make sure to set an action plan in place. Are you dyeing your hair all over with one color, adding streaks, combining a few colors, or just adding some dyed tips? Whatever you choose, you’ll need to part your hair accordingly and consider placement. Once you have that mind, you’re ready to go! Just make sure you have all the necessary tools on hand.
You Will Need:
- The semi-permanent hair color (or colors) of your choice
- A hair dye applicator brush
- Hair clips
- Shower cap
- Disposable gloves
- Petroleum jelly
- An old shirt
- Dark-colored towel
• Start out by just making sure you have everything. Nothing is worse than starting to put dye in your hair and realizing you’re still wearing your favorite shirt! Change into an old blouse, get your gloves ready, drape a towel over your shoulders, and then you can get started.
• Your hair should be clean and dry when you start out. Make sure there is no leftover hair product hiding in your strands!
• Always start any dyeing session by sectioning off your hair. Using the sharp end of the hair dye brush, part your hair according to how you plan to actually dye it. This will help you work on one section at a time.
• After sectioning, you can apply some petroleum jelly to your forehead, temples, and ears to prevent your skin from staining.
• Open up your semi-permanent hair dye. If it comes in a bottle, you can squeeze it out into a bowl or squeeze it directly on the brush, while if it comes in a jar, you can just dip in. You can also mix your own blend of colors in a bowl.
• Pull down the section of the hair you’d like to start with and separate from it an even smaller piece of hair.
• To dye, use the brush to apply the semi-permanent hair color, either starting at the roots and pulling downwards or starting a little away from the roots for a grown-out look.
• Keep dyeing the hair in small pieces, and once you finish one section, move on to the next one.
• Once all of the parts of your hair you’d like dyed are covered, clip them up gently to avoid getting color on hair you don’t want to dye.
• If you’ve covered your whole head, pop on a shower cap to avoid making a mess with your hair.
• Depending on the instructions, wait between 15-30 minutes for the dye to take hold.
• Finally, remove the shower cap and clips, and pop in the shower to rinse out the semi-permanent hair dye with cool water. You might have to rinse it a few times but don’t shampoo or condition.
• That’s it! You can now dry your hair however you like (although we suggest on low heat), and enjoy your new look!
How Long Does a Semi-Permanent Hair Color Last?
While it depends on the person and the formula, in general, semi-permanent hair dye will last for around 6-12 washes, depending on the formula and on whether the hair had been bleached before dyeing. In very light or bleached hair, the semi-permanent hair color can be very persistent, and while it will fade, it might still leave a stain behind.
Tips for Keeping Your Semi-Permanent Hair Color Bright
Semi-permanent hair dye fades before you know it, but we do have a few tips and tricks that’ll help you slow down that fading process, so you can enjoy your semi-permanent hair color for longer.
• Since semi-permanent hair dye washes out as you shampoo your hair, try to limit shampooing. If you can handle it, only shampoo once or twice a week.
• Hot water also speeds up fading, so only wash or rinse your hair in lukewarm water.
• Stick to shampoo with a gentle, non-foaming, and sulfate-free formula. Depending on how you’ve dyed your hair, you might be able to find a color-refreshing shampoo that’ll actually deposit more color!
• In general, heat damages the hair and speeds up color fading, so try to avoid heat styling as much as you can. Blow-drying the hair on low heat (ideally with a diffuser) is the safest form of heat styling you can still experiment with.
• The sun is another factor that can fade hair color, so try to wear a hat when going outside or use a UV-protecting hair spray or oil.
• Chlorinated pools are another danger, so before hopping in, get your hair wet with regular water. This will saturate your hair and prevent the chlorinated water from seeping in. Another option is to actually apply a hair mask instead.
How to Remove Semi-Permanent Hair Color?
Semi-permanent hair color will fade on its own after you’ve washed it enough times, and that’s also the safest way to remove it. If you’d like to speed up fading your hair, you can use a cheap, stripping shampoo for a few days in a row (just make sure to condition well afterward). You may find that that will be enough to redye your hair!
If you want more extreme removal, you can try the following methods.
Color Oops is an ammonia-free formula available at Ulta and Amazon that is made specifically to pull the color out of the hair. It’s intense stuff, but any hair dye removing process can damage the hair.
You apply it to your hair a little like you would a hair dye and allow it to process for 20 minutes. Then you rinse it out for another continuous 20 minutes. Afterward, you can shampoo and check the condition of your hair. If you want to redye, you can do so right away with a semi-permanent hair color, but wait a few days if you intend to use anything more intense.
Using vitamin C is a common DIY method for hair dye removal. Like Color Oops, it can also take its toll on the hair. With this method, you’ll want to start with damp hair.
• For this method, you will need crushed vitamin C tablets or powder and a stripping shampoo (some users choose dandruff shampoo, while others use dishwashing detergent). Combine a 50-50 mixture of the shampoo and vitamin C in a bowl and mix it well. If the mixture is too thick, just add more shampoo.
• Massage the mixture into your hair, and once your entire head is thoroughly covered, pop on your shower cap and wait for around an hour.
• After that, you can rinse out the vitamin C mixture, and your semi-permanent hair dye will come out as well.
• Make sure to deep condition afterward to revive your tresses.
Finally, if none of these methods work, you might just have to bleach your hair again. Some people choose a total bleaching session, which can be quite harsh, while others choose a bleach bath, which is only mildly less aggressive.
Note that we don’t actually recommend this method – it’s a last resort, and it’s better to talk to a hairstylist before taking such extreme measures since over-bleaching the hair can cause serious damage and may even cause extreme breakage and loss of length.
For a bleach bath, mix your bleach powder and developer (ideally a low-volume like 20) together in a bowl and then add shampoo at an equal amount. As with the vitamin C treatment, apply this mixture to damp hair but don’t massage it in too much, or it may hurt your scalp. Check on your hair every 10 minutes to see how it’s coming along, and once it’s lightened enough to your satisfaction, rinse it out in cool water and condition your hair.
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