Everything You Need to Know About Using Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Updated 04/23/19
Women with long brown hair and green eyes
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Semi-permanent hair color is vastly underrated. It delivers vivid color without (too much) commitment. In fact, the four- to six-week lasting period is roughly equivalent to that of most color trends, meaning you can switch from rose gold to blorange to champagne pink and back again. It’s a trend spotter’s/lazy girl’s dream to start back at square one with natural color, no wait required.

Most people, though, aren’t completely familiar with the concept of semi-permanent hair color, which is why some of us are hesitant to try it. And for good reason, as there are some important questions that need answering. For example, does it wash out all at once? And what about haircare? Does a semi-permanent color require different maintenance products than a permanent dye? (Spoiler alert: The answers to these questions is a resounding no.) To learn more about semi-permanent hair color, including how to care for it and which brands and products to turn to, keep reading!

1. Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Will Fade out Evenly With Proper Care

If you’ve stayed away from semi-permanent color in fear of a spotty, uneven fade-out, don’t worry. According to AJ Lordet, senior celebrity colorist at Pierre Michel Salon, “Many semi colors will start to fade away after 15 or so shampoos whereas permanent color won’t fade away, it just fades.” With proper care, the color should leave nice and evenly, diminishing indiscriminately to the naked eye. Take it from Tiffanie Richards, colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon, who says, “The awesome thing about semi-permanent color is it will never grow out with a line of demarcation.” In fact, she says that semi-permanent hair color is a favorite among her clientele.

2. It Requires the Exact Same Care as Permanent Hair Color

Ali Ozel, celebrity stylist, also at Pierre Michel Salon in NYC, says the care of permanent and semi-permanent color is “just the same. Make sure you have a shampoo and conditioner that works for your hair and do deep treatments when needed.”

Michael Canalé, celebrity colorist and owner of Canalé Salon in Beverly Hills, stresses the importance of color-safe formulas. “I suggest using a mild shampoo that cleanses well. Regular shampoos are harsh and dull and damaged color-treated hair, while mild shampoos don’t often clean adequately, making your hair appear lifeless.” There’s nothing worse than a shampoo that leaves behind product buildup. To ensure you get squeaky clean strands without color fade, reach for his namesake Canalé Cleanse Restoring Shampoo ($38).

3. It's Available in Different Strengths

According to Lordet, the strength and longevity of semi-permanent color rely on the peroxide in the formula: “The level of peroxide you use to mix the dye with can vary from product to product.” Stronger peroxide equals more coverage and brighter shades, though you may see a small root line grow in before the color fades away. Weaker peroxide will provide less coverage and brilliancy (especially in fashion tones, like reds, golds, and ashes).

This is why she chooses to work with L’Oréal Professional Dia Lite, which is a salon exclusive formula that offers “three different levels of coverage by providing three different strengths of peroxide.”

4. Semi-Permanent Color Is Great for Covering Gray Hair

According to Richards, “For clients who have 50 percent gray or less and want to just minimize or erase the gray while still having their natural color, this is the way to go.” That’s because it fades and covers gray without showing a harsh root line. “It is the lowest of maintenance for gray coverage,” she says.

5. You Can Still Go to a Salon for a Semi-Permanent Dye

Ozel is all for professional treatment. “Don’t try it on your own,” he says. “Seek a professional to pick the right semi color for you! You want to make sure you get the results you’re after.” After all, four to six weeks can seem like an incredibly long time if you’re not confident in the way your hair looks.

Michael Canalé Replenish Hair Nutrient $39
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eSalon Tinted Love Color Enhancing Treatment $15
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L’Oréal Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color $11
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Do you prefer to be your own colorist or have it done professionally? Tell us below!

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