Hair » Temporary Hair Color Guide: Benefits, Uses & Removal

Temporary Hair Color Guide: Benefits, Uses & Removal

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  • Temporary hair color is a no-ammonia hair dye that changes the hair color instantly without lightening, darkening, altering the natural hair color, or causing any damage.
  • It comes in the spray, paste, cream, and powder forms, and can be washable and semi-permanent.
  • Depending on the type of temporary hair dye, it can last you from a single shampoo to around 18 washes fading progressively.

If you have commitment issues, temporary hair color will change your entire look, but only for as long as you want it to! Today, we give all of the must-know info about temporary hair color, from explaining the different types and how they differ from traditional hair dyes to detailing how to use and maintain different kinds of temporary hair dye. We finish off with a guide for the removal of both temporary hair color and dye formulas.

In this article:

What Is a Temporary Hair Dye and How Does It Work?

Temporary hair dye is a catch-all term that encompasses all hair color options that don’t stay in your hair forever. This includes washable hair sprays, pastes, and creams, which are sometimes also referred to as hair makeup as well as semi-permanent colors that will stick around for a month or two until they get washed out.

Types of Temporary Hair Colors

Here are all of the types of temporary hair colors and dyes that you can try!


The first subcategory of temporary hair colors is the washable ones. You apply them to your hair, and they will cover it from the outside to give you a pretty color. They come in the following formats:

  • Sprays with which you can quickly cover your hair, but that can also be a little messy.
  • Creams, which you apply to dry hair, but otherwise treat like a regular hair dye. They dry down and work well for all-over color or for streaking.
  • Wax, which works beautifully on curly hair or shorter hair because it provides a bit of hold along with color.
  • Finally, there’s hair chalk, which is awesome for adding streaks and is especially nice for children.

Semi-Permanent and Color-Depositing Formulas

The second subcategory is semi-permanent dyes, which are color depositing formulas that actually allow pigment to penetrate the hair, although it fades with every show until it eventually totally washes out.

  • Semi-permanent dyes are the most common. They often come in unusual colors and are meant to be applied to dry hair before a shower. 
  • Conditioners, masks, and color depositing shampoos are similar to semi-permanent dyes, but they need to be applied in-shower. They can be left on the hair for longer or shorter periods of time, depending on how vivid you want the color to turn out.
  • Hair glosses and tints are less saturated with color, so they give more of a tint and color-refreshing effect. They are usually used in the shower, as well.

Differences Between Temporary, Semi-Permanent, Demi-Permanent & Permanent Dyes

In addition to temporary hair colors that come out with a single wash and temporary hair dyes that deposit color into the hair without changing its integrity, there are also demi-permanent and permanent hair dyes, which aren’t considered “temporary” at all.

The main difference between the temporary options and the demi-permanent/ semi-permanent ones is the absence of ammonia in the color and a peroxide-based developer. Whereas temporary colors either cover the hair or deposit a bit of color into it, both demi and permanent hair dyes include a developer that also lifts the hair cuticle.

This gets the color deeper inside the hair and results in a more long-lasting change. It can also slightly dry out or damage the hair.

Permanent dyes can actively lighten the hair or darken it significantly, and while the color may slightly fade with time, the hair will be permanently altered. With demi-permanent dyes, the results are much less intense because of the lower percentage of cuticle-lifting ingredients, but the color will still last a lot longer than with a semi-permanent formula.

Differences Between Temporary, Semi-Permanent, Demi-Permanent & Permanent Dyes

Does Temporary Hair Dye Damage Hair?

If your main concern is keeping your hair healthy, then temporary hair dye is exactly what you should be going for! Temporary hair dye doesn’t damage the hair at all, regardless of whether it’s a wash-out or a semi-permanent formula.

Unlike permanent hair dyes that include bleach-based developers, both semi-permanent and temporary hair dye options only deposit color without changing the structure of the hair. They often also include different conditioning agents that can actually make your hair softer and shinier!  

How to Dye Hair with a Temporary Color?

When it comes to dyeing hair with temporary hair color, it totally depends on what kind of hair product you’re using and what kind of effect you would like.

  • Always read the instructions on whatever product you end up buying to ensure that you’re using it correctly to achieve the results you want.
  • Generally, washable dyes should be applied to dry hair either before or after it’s been styled and then should be left in the hair without washing or getting it wet at all.
  • To avoid making a mess, always cover your shoulders with a towel when applying a temporary hair color.
  • With some temporary colors, the tint may rub off on clothes or skin after you’ve applied it. To avoid that, seal the color in with a hair spray.
  • Color-depositing masks and conditioners should be applied in the shower while the hair is damp and then rinsed out after a set amount of time.
  • Semi-permanent formulas should be applied to dry hair and then rinsed out after a set amount of time, just as with any other hair dye. You can check out our hair color articles to dye specifically based on the technique or color you love. 
How to Dye Hair with a Temporary Color?

How Long Does Temporary Hair Dye Last?

Longevity totally depends on the kind of temporary hair dye you purchase.

  • Most washable chalk, cream, and spray hair colors will only last a day or two and will come out the first time you wash your hair.
  • Some wash-out formulas are a little more persistent, especially if your hair is naturally very light, so you might have to wash your hair 2-3 times before all of the color totally washes out.
  • Temporary hair dyes like the Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel will wash out after 5-7 washes, which puts them between washable and semi-permanent formulas.
  • Semi-permanent hair dyes will start to fade after 3-4 washes and will usually fade completely after 12-18 washes. However, it’s important to note that if your hair is naturally extremely light (especially if it’s bleached), then a bit of color might stain your hair, so even though it’ll go back to being light, it’ll still have a tint.
How Long Does Temporary Hair Dye Last?

Maintaining Your Temporary Hair Color

Do you want your temporary hair color to look super vibrant for as long as possible? We have some tips!

Washable Temporary Color

Ultimately, the best thing about washable temporary colors is that they wash out easily, but we still have a few tips that’ll help you keep the color in place.

  • After applying your temporary hair color, seal it in with a healthy coat of hair spray. The hair spray will leave a protective layer over your hair that will prevent the color from rubbing off or fading.
  • Avoid washing your hair for as long as possible since a washable formula will start coming off the second you bring it in contact with water.
  • When you shower, wear a shower cap to protect your hair.
  • Go to bed with a hair cap on to avoid the temporary color from rubbing off on your pillows and making a mess. 

Temporary Hair Dye

Maintaining a temporary hair dye is a lot like maintaining any other hair dye, so here are the must-know care tips!

  • The more often you wash your hair, the faster the color will fade, so try to limit shampooing.
  • Hot water will open the cuticle and force the dye to seep out, so make sure to only wash your hair in lukewarm water.
  • Use a shampoo that is free of sulfates and other stripping detergents.
  • You can actually use a product like Keracolor Clenditioner that will constantly add more pigment to your hair to keep the color always updated.
  • Avoid heat styling your hair too often and stick to gentle options like blow-drying on low heat.
  • Wear hats and UV-protecting hair oils when going out in the sun since UV rays can fade semi-permanent dyes.
  • If you’re a swimmer, saturate your hair with water before hopping in the pool to prevent the chlorine from seeping in and changing or fading your temporary hair color.
How to Use a Temporary Hair Color?

How to Remove Your Temporary Hair Color?

Removing temporary hair color can be as easy as hopping in the shower, or it might require a slightly more intense washing routine, depending on what kind of product you chose.

Removing Washable Dye

When it comes to washable temporary hair colors like sprays, chalks, and waxes, all you have to do is hop in the shower. Even a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo will work for getting the temporary color out of your hair. Some formulas are a little more persistent, so you might have to shampoo your hair twice before all of the color comes out.

Fading Semi-Permanent Dye

If you’ve used a semi-permanent dye and want it to fade faster, start using a clarifying shampoo in the shower. Any cheap, sulfate-based shampoo can work, although you’ll want to make sure to condition your hair well afterwards since it can be very drying. The more often you shampoo, and the hotter the water you use, the faster the temporary hair dye will fade from your hair.

Totally Removing Semi-Permanent Dye

If you don’t want to wait for your temporary hair dye to fade over the course of a few showers, you can utilize a product like Color Oops, which helps to pull color out of the hair with relatively minimal damage. You apply it to dry hair just as you would a hair dye and leave it in for 20 minutes with a shower cap on.

Once the time passes, hop in the shower and continuously rinse your hair for 20 minutes with the help of shampoo. This will normally be enough to fade semi-permanent dye that has been applied to virgin hair.

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