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We’re all for naturally sun-kissed blonde and subtly highlighted brunette, for sure. But sometimes you just want to think outside the natural hair color box and mix it up with a rainbow hue. Experimenting with bright shades is all the rage; scroll through social media and you’ll see exactly what we mean. And the nice thing about dipping into a more dramatic dye? The majority of the options out there are semi-permanent, meaning they’ll gradually fade over the course of several weeks/shampoos. In other words, you can easily go bold, without having to make any kind of serious color commitment.
Do keep in mind that the base shade you’re starting with will definitely affect the end result; generally speaking, bright tones work best on bleached or blonde hair. (If you’re starting with a darker color, you may want to consider lightening it first, or seeking out formulas specifically made for brunettes.)
Ready to play? Take these bright hair colors for a test run.
Best Overall: Manic Panic Classic High Voltage Hair Color
When you want to go really bold, Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue says this is one of the best—and brightest—formulas there is. There are over 40 shades to choose from, in every shade you could possibly imagine, including neons that glow under black light. The cruelty-free, vegan color is also gentle on hair, free of ammonia and PPD, and contains plenty of conditioning ingredients.
Best Washable: Good Dye Young Poser Paste
Looking to go bright just for the night? This washout color is the perfect alternative. Think of it as hair makeup rather than hair dye, since experimenting with these vibrant tones is as easy as swiping on a new eyeshadow. As the name suggests, it has a creamy, paste-like consistency that you work it into your hair with your fingers. Layer it on thick for maximum pigment impact, or brush it out immediately for a more subtle wash of color. Either way, it’s totally transfer-proof and will stay put until you shampoo it out.
Best Coloring Conditioner: oVertone Coloring Conditioner
These tinted conditioners, another one of Faith’s favorites, are exactly what they sound like—ultra-hydrating conditioners infused with plenty of color. The application also couldn’t be easier. Work it into wet or dry hair (the latter if you want more intensity), leave on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse. Also nice: Each of the bright shades also comes in a version made for brown hair, so brunettes can score the best result, without any prior bleaching required.
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Colorista Semi-Permanent Color
We especially like this drugstore buy for blonde or bleached hair; the five colors show up especially well on a lighter base. It’s ammonia- and peroxide-free to minimize damage, a big win if you do in fact already have bleached hair, and will last anywhere from four to eight shampoos. While you can easily apply it all over, it also comes with an included brush that makes it easy to create rainbow-inspired highlights.
Best for Brown Hair: Splat Midnight Series Semi-Permanent Color Kit
Per our previous point about bold colors being trickier for brunettes, this formula offers the perfect solution. Tailor-made for those with brown hair, you don’t need any bleach in order to achieve any of the five electric shades. Choose from magenta, blue, red, green, and ruby, all of which are surprisingly intense.
Best Permanent: Garnier Color Sensation Long-Lasting Color Cream
Pick up this formula if you’re ready for and want to commit to an unexpected color; because it’s a permanent color, it won’t wash out. There are plenty of more natural colors to choose from, as well as a ‘trend’ line featuring eight dramatic shades, think a punchy purple and look-at-me-teal. The easy-to-use, no-drip formula stays put as you apply it, and an included conditioner ensures your new shade has plenty of shine and hair stays strong and healthy.
Best Mask: Maria Nila Colour Refresh
Faith likes this formula too, a creamy and moisturizing mask that delivers more color the longer you leave it on. Simply work it through clean, towel-dried hair and let it sit for anywhere from three to 10 minutes; the longer you leave it on, the more intense the final color will be. Along with bold hues such as cherry red and electric pink, there are also some more subtle options like lavender and peach, for those who prefer pastels.
Best Shade Range: Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color
There are 23 colors to pick from, a long list of purple, pink, blue, red, green, and orange options. And if you still can’t find the exact shade you want? They can also be blended to create entirely new hues. Just FYI, this formula is best for those with platinum to light brown hair, so take a pass if your hair is any darker.
Best Metallic: Got2B Metallic Permanent Color
To really make a statement, consider not only a bright shade but a bright metallic. The dye, another rare permanent formula, comes in blue, red, and purple colors, all of which have a metallic gleam. (Credit a metallic shine booster in the formula that imparts this unique finish.) Rounding out the line are equally glimmery silver and steel tones.
If your hair past your shoulders, pick up two boxes for the most complete and even application.
Best Spray: Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Rainbow Mist
Here’s another choice option for those seeking a completely commitment-free color. Spritz on any of the eight shades all-over, just on tips, or to create bold highlights; the options are endless. It works well on both blondes and brunettes (though the final result will admittedly look a bit different), and also has the added benefit of imparting both shine and a bit of hold.