The Best Temporary Hair Dyes for Commitment-Phobes

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Best Temporary Hair Dyes

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Unlike changing your haircut (which will have some pretty long-term consequences if you don’t like the results), changing your hair color is an easy way to switch up your look without any major commitment. And in that realm, temporary or semi-permanent at-home dyes are the lowest-commitment option of all.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

With 16 bold shades and an affordable price, L’Oréal’s Colorista Semi-Permanent Color is our top choice for a commitment-free change in hair color. 

Rather than altering the actual hair strand, these bleach-free dyes only coat the outside of it with color, explains colorist Karissa Schaudt. Depositing temporary pigments that usually wash out after about 10 shampoos, they’re ideal for a result that lasts long enough for you to get a feel for your new hue but not so long that it’s the end of the world if you hate it. And if a week's worth of commitment is still a turn-off? Some will only last until your next shampoo. Temporary dyes are the best way to play with bold, fashion-forward shades, though there are plenty of natural colors available, too. The other upshot? They’re not damaging to the hair, which means they're especially great for someone who's always changing their color, notes Schaudt.

Check out the best temporary hair dyes below and get to DIY-ing.

Best Overall: L'Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Color

L’Oréal Colorista Semi-Permanent Color
Courtesy of Ulta
What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Ammonia-free

  • Shades for both blondes and brunettes

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in fantasy shades

What do buyers say? 74% of 5,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

There are 16 shades of this formula available, split into options for blonde and brown hair. They’re bright and bold, though there’s also a clear mixer available that lets you create more of a pastel hue from any of the existing shades. Ammonia-free, it’s super gentle, not to mention affordable, as well. Expect results to last anywhere between four and 12 shampoos.

Active Ingredients: Amodimethicone | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 16 | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss

John Frieda Colour Depositing Gloss

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Weekly use keeps color vibrant

  • Eliminates brassiness and dullness

  • Works in three minutes

What We Don't Like
  • Results are subtle

One bottle of this color-boosting gloss has six treatments, meant to be used weekly to keep your shade vibrant. It deposits just enough of the tones you need, while also eliminating any unwanted brassiness or dullness, and works in just three minutes, an easy add-on step you can do in the shower. It comes in seven shades, offering an option for pretty much all hair colors.

Active Ingredients: Dimethicone | Type: Temporary | Shades: 6 | Size: 6 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Bold Colors: Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Semi-Permanent Hair Color Full Coverage

Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Full Coverage Semi-Permanent Hair Color

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Nourishing and conditioning

  • Gentle

  • Great scent

What We Don't Like
  • Subtle on dark hair

An array of 25 rainbow-inspired shades make up this collection. They’ll deliver the most saturated color when used on platinum or light blonde hair, though they can also be used on dark blonde or light brown hair for a more subtle tint. The formula is completely vegan and cruelty-free, and, unlike lots of other hair colors, actually smells good.

Active Ingredients: Hydrolyzed adansonia digitata seed extract | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 25 | Size: 6.8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Bold Colors, Runner-Up: Splat 10 Wash Temporary Hair Color

Splat 10 Wash Temporary Hair Color


What We Like
  • Can adjust vibrancy

  • Affordable

  • Bleach-free formula

What We Don’t Like
  • Limited number of shades

  • Long/thick hair may need two boxes

Temporary hair dyes are ideal for when you want to experiment and play with bright hues, and this formula makes it easy to do so. As the name suggests, it lasts for just 10 washes, and you can easily tamp down or increase the vibrancy based on how long you leave it on. It comes in seven shades, each of which specifies what base colors it will work best on.

Active Ingredients: Polyquaternium 37 | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 7 | Size: 6 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gloss: dpHue Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner

dpHue Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Nourishing and conditioning

  • Increases shine

  • Natural look

What We Don't Like
  • Won't cover grays

A tinted hair gloss is choice for anyone seeking a more subtle, natural effect, and we particularly like this option. Rather than creating a dramatic color change, it enhances and deepens your current color—it comes in 11 shades—while also deeply conditioning hair. To that point, you can also use it as often as you want since there’s no risk of damaging your hair.

Active Ingredients: Dimethicone | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 11 | Size: 6.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gloss, Runner-Up: Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss

Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Subtle results

  • Good value

  • Effects last three to four weeks

What We Don’t Like
  • Takes 20 minutes to work

  • Contains phosphates and ethanolamine

Here we have another amazing tinted gloss, this one available in 10 shades to help enhance the tone of your color without necessarily changing it. The formula also leaves your hair with mega-watt shine; think of it as the haircare version of a nail polish top coat. It’s silicone- and ammonia-free, too, and while you’ll only get one use out of the bottle, the results do last for three to four weeks—longer than many other comparable products.

Active Ingredients: Isopropyl alcohol, sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 10 | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Conditioner: Keracolor Color + Clenditioner

Keracolor Color + Clenditioner

Courtesy of Ulta 

What We Like
  • Strengthening

  • Cleanses and conditions

What We Don't Like
  • Takes a few uses to build color

Yes, this delivers color—13 shades, a mix of both natural and vibrant options—but it also conditions, and even gently cleanses, your hair at the same time. All you have to do is use it as you would any shampoo or conditioner, working through wet hair and letting it sit (up to 20 minutes) before rinsing. If you’re starting with a darker base, you can repeat for a more intense result. The formula is keratin-based to boost strength and results can last up to 15 shampoos.

Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, hydrolyzed keratin | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 16 | Size: 12 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Mask: Cristophe Robin Shade Variation Care Mask

Cristophe Robin Shade Variation Mask Chic Copper

 Courtesy of Sephora 

What We Like
  • Adds warmth to all hair colors

  • Minimizes hair porosity

  • Nourishing and conditioning

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Contrary to what it may sound like based on the name, this hydrating, color-depositing mask isn’t just for redheads. Yes, it enhances copper tones, but it works surprisingly well on red hair, brunettes, and even blondes alike (so long as you want a color that has more underlying warmth to it). Plus, the formula is packed with hydrating almond butter and buriti oil, and it is specially formulated at a pH of 4.5 to minimize the porosity of the hair. Why is that important, you ask? It keeps the color evenly distributed and minimizes the likelihood of ending up with splotchy spots.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, buriti oil | Type: Temporary | Shades: 4 | Size: 8.3 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Mask, Runner-Up: Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask

Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask


What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Comes in two sizes

What We Don’t Like
  • Bottle could be bigger

A product that can improve both the color and condition of your hair? Yes, please. On the color side of things, there are eight shades, a mix of fun, trendy colors (lilac, aquamarine), and more natural options (cocoa, champagne). On the deep conditioning side of things, a trifecta of argan oil, apricot kernel oil, and an amino acid blend help to add hydration, shine, and antioxidant protection. FYI, unlike a regular mask, this needs to be applied onto clean, towel-dried hair, then rinsed out.

Active Ingredients: Dimethicone | Type: Temporary | Shades: 8 | Size: 6.7 fl. oz and 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Highlights: IGK Amaro Ombre Highlight Spray

IGK Amaro Ombre Highlight Spray
What We Like
  • Easy-to-use spray formula

  • Provides UV and heat protection

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Only lasts through your next wash

Temporary color can be tricky on highlighted hair, given that the base shade and highlighted pieces will pick up pigment differently. Enter this spritz, which you can use to strategically add dimension and pigment, essentially faking the look of highlights. The one drawback? It only lasts until you wash it out. Still, for a quick fix, or if you can go a few days without washing, it’s a great solution.

Active Ingredients: Hydrofluorocarbon 152a, coconut extract | Type: Temporary | Shades: 1 | Size: 5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Shampoo: Punky Colour 3-in-1 Depositing Shampoo + Conditioner

Punky Color 3-in-1 Depositing Shampoo and Conditioner

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Cleanses and conditions

  • Strengthening

  • Highly-pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat messy formula

The easiest way to color your own hair? With a color-depositing shampoo, of course. You just have to use it like you would a normal shampoo (although you’ll want to leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing and make sure to rinse your hands right after). Not only does this formula both cleanse and condition hair, but it also delivers surprisingly intense color, which can last up to 18 washes. Credit a unique delivery system that helps the pigments better attach to the hair, coupled with amino acids that work to retain color.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, quinoa | Type: Temporary | Shades: 10 | Size: 8.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Brown Hair: Overtone for Brown Hair Coloring Conditioners

Overtone for Brown Hair Coloring Conditioners


What We Like
  • Deeply nourishing

  • Highly-pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Subtle on dark hair

Generally speaking, many of the temporary hair colors out there—particularly the more vibrant colors—are formulated to work best on hair that’s already bleached or super light blonde. Enter this line of seven different coloring conditioners, specially made to add color to medium, dark brown, and even deep brown hair. Granted, the result will be less dramatic the darker your base is; still, it’s nice to see an option out there that’s just for brunettes. No matter which shade you pick, the conditioning color is loaded with hydrating and good-for-your-hair ingredients to keep your hair soft and shiny.

Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, shea butter, avocado oil | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 7 | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Vegan: Maria Nila Colour Refresh

Colour Refresh Dusty Pink

Maria Nila

What We Like
  • Softening

  • Customizable color intensity

What We Don't Like
  • Won’t cover grays

This somewhat under-the-radar Swedish brand offers standout vegan, cruelty-free hair products (they’re PETA, Leaping Bunny, and Vegan Society certified), including temporary hair color. The 15 shades feature a mix of brighter and more natural options, and there are also two sizes available. Also nice: You can choose the desired intensity based on how long you leave it on, anywhere from three to 10 minutes.

Active Ingredients: Argan oil, panthenol | Type: Semi-permanent | Shades: 15 | Size: 10.1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for a Subtle Effect: eSalon Tint Rinse

eSalon Tint Rinse


What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Subtle results

  • Softening

What We Don’t Like
  • Bottle could be bigger

If you’re looking to just tweak or slightly enhance your color (no matter whether it’s natural or dyed), but don’t want to change it, per se, this is the way to go. The professional-grade treatment comes in nine “boosting” shades—meant to intensify your existing color and add salon-worthy shine—and three “balancing” iterations, which help to tone down unwanted warmth. The results last for a few washes either way, but the wheat protein-enhanced formula is gentle and safe enough that you can use it a few times per week.

Active Ingredients: Cocamidopropyl betaine | Type: Temporary | Shades: 9 | Size: 3.9 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Roots: Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray

oribe airbrush root touch-up spray
What We Like
  • Blends seamlessly

  • Quick-drying

  • Also absorbs oil

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

  • Contains octinoxate

To quickly camouflage telltale growth until your next color appointment, reach for this easy-to-use spray. Microfine, mineral-based powder pigments add the ideal amount of color (it comes in seven natural shades), though the color does only last for one wash. It also acts as a dry shampoo of sorts, thanks to the addition of rice starch to help absorb dirt and oil at your roots.

Active Ingredients: Isobutane, dimethylimidazolidinone | Type: Temporary | Shades: 6 | Size: 1.8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

When you’re looking for a fun and commitment-free hair color change, try L’Oréal’s Colorista Semi-Permanent Color. It's available in a whopping 16 shades that last anywhere from four to 12 shampoos—plus it's super affordable. For vibrant colors that don’t require a hefty dose of bleach, we’re big fans of the Overtone for Brown Hair Coloring Conditioners. They come in a variety of natural and fantasy shades and deep condition the hair as they deposit color. We’re also loving the Keracolor Color + Clenditioner whenever our color needs a refresh. It not only provides a soft wash of temporary color but also gently cleanses, conditions, and strengthens hair with a keratin infusion. And finally, if you’re after a super subtle effect that’s going to simply enhance your existing color rather than change it, try the eSalon Tint Rinse, which comes in nine shades to either boost or balance your current color.

Meet the Expert

What to Look for in a Temporary Hair Dye


Make sure the dye you choose is actually temporary, warns Schaudt. Some might be labeled as temporary but can contain ingredients such as bleach or ammonia, which will permanently change your hair color, she says.

Indication of How Long It Lasts

To that point, not all temporary hair dyes are created equal. Some will completely wash out after just one shampoo, while others will gradually fade with each wash and can last for days on end. 

  • How does temporary hair dye work?

    Rather than chemically altering the hair strand—either by removing pigment or depositing color into it—these simply sit on top of the hair, coating it with temporary color pigments.

  • How long does temporary hair dye last?

    This depends on the particular product you choose; some will last longer than others, but generally, none will last more than a few weeks. (How often you shampoo also impacts longevity.) To that point, if you’re using a temporary hair dye to create what you want to be long-lasting color, plan on frequent touch-ups, notes Schaudt.

  • How do you remove temporary hair dye?

    In short, it’s not hard to get rid of temporary color if you’re unhappy with it. Since the dye is only on the hair's outer surface, something as quick and easy as washing with a clarifying shampoo will usually do the trick, says Schaudt.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Since she doesn’t color her own hair (not even with a temporary dye), she relied on expert intel and tons of reviews and consumer input when researching this article.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  2. Hair Cosmetics: An Overview Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni Dias Int J Trichology. 2015 Jan-Mar; 7(1): 2–15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450

  3. Oshimura E, Abe H, Oota R. Hair and amino acids: the interactions and the effects. J Cosmet Sci. 2007 Jul-Aug;58(4):347-57. PMID: 17728935.

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