Last Updated on January 28, 2023 by Gaga
Permanent dyes are the most effective types of hair coloring: they offer even and long-lasting coverage, and efficiently hide gray hair. However, the chemicals that enable such dye molecules to penetrate the hair shaft can damage your hair in the long run. This is one of the main reasons for the growing popularity of semi-permanent hair dyes.
Semi-permanent dyes don’t require ammonia and don’t contain peroxide. Plus, they provide conditioning benefits, making your hair look fuller and shinier. Semi-permanent dyes work great for experimenting with new shades. The thing is, if your current hair color is dark, you will probably need to use bleach if you want your hair to take on a new color with a semi-permanent dye. This is usually the case, although some semi-permanent dyes are advertised as able to provide subtle color changes to brunette hair (Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color for Brunettes from L’Oréal Paris and Color Crave Semi-Permanent Hair Dye from Clairol).
How Long Does Semi-Permanent Color Last?
Another potential downside of semi-permanent hair dyes is their shorter lifespan compared to permanent colors. These dyes only adhere to the cuticle, depositing their color onto the outside of the hair shaft. Since they don’t fully penetrate the cuticle, they wash out faster than permanent colors. Depending on the product and the condition of your hair, the color will last between 6 and 12 shampoo cycles. For the best results, you should always aim to purchase a quality product. Some of the longer-lasting semi-permanent dyes come from brands like Arctic Fox, Pulp Riot, and Adore.
Even so, the color will wash out little by little each time you wash your hair until it’s completely gone. Some fashion colors fade gracefully to more pastel colors that still look beautiful, but if your goal is a vivid color that lasts longer, there are plenty of tricks to prevent premature fading. Let’s have a look at eight of them.
Suggestions for Longer Lasting Color
1. Prep Your Tresses Properly Before Coloring
If you are a brunette, make sure to have your hair pre-lightened by a professional. Properly bleached hair experiences less damage. This is important because overly processed hair grabs the color but doesn’t maintain it over a long time. Your colorist will use an appropriate bond-repairing product to minimize the damage sustained during the bleaching process.
It is also essential that your hair is completely clean before you apply the color. Any grease, dirt, or product build-up may prevent the pigments from adhering or cause them to quickly wash off. To eliminate stubborn build-up, use a chelating shampoo a day or two before coloring. Immediately before the coloring process, you should wash your hair thoroughly with shampoo but without conditioner, as conditioning tends to smooth the cuticle and prevent the color from adhering tightly to your hair.
2. Follow the Instructions
Each brand has its own development time, so make sure you leave the product in your hair for as long as directed. Leaving it in for less time than recommended may result in uneven coverage and faster color fading. If you leave it in for longer than directed, you may get a more intense color, but be warned that “the longer the better” doesn’t apply to all products. Sometimes prolonged use may instead result in a darker color than is shown on the package.
All being said, although semi-permanent dyes are convenient for home use, the safest way to ensure that the job is done well is to leave it to a professional.
3. Wait at Least Three Days Before Shampooing
We’d also recommend not washing your hair immediately after coloring. Instead, wait a few days to let the color settle in. After dyeing, the cuticles need some time to fully close, and shampooing so soon can wash away the pigments trapped in the scales. It’s best to wait at least three days before even wetting your hair.
However, if your hair looks greasy, try using mild dry shampoo to refresh it. Powder shampoos are a great choice here, both for your locks and the environment. The Apple Cider Vinegar Dry Shampoo Powder from dpHUE is one example: it’s designed to refresh your hair and enhance its shine without stripping the color.
4. Stretch Out the Time Between Washings
Since semi-permanent color dyes only adhere to the outside of your hair, they will wash out gradually with each shampoo. For those who wash their hair daily, this means that the color will fade quickly.
To slow down this fading process, reduce the frequency of washing and protect your hair from water in the shower. Only use shampoo when necessary—not more than twice a week—and when you do, focus on your scalp and don’t forcefully massage your hair.
If you feel that your hair is getting greasy or you’ve been sweating, we again recommend that you use a dry shampoo to refresh your locks and protect them from over-washing.
5. Use Color-Safe Shampoos
The type of shampoo you use will have a big impact on your color. Sulfate-based shampoos, clarifying shampoos, and some anti-dandruff shampoos can speed up the color fade process. To avoid this, stick to sulfate-free shampoos that are designed for color-treated hair. These are usually pH-balanced or slightly acidic, which keeps the cuticles sealed and prevents the trapped color dye particles from escaping.
Your rinse-out conditioner should also be formulated with colored hair in mind. Again, the pH value of color-friendly conditioners is adjusted to keep your cuticles aligned, adding shine to your locks.
6. Reduce Exposure to Heat
When drying and styling your hair, keep in mind that high temperatures can cause damage and fade your color. To minimize these negative effects, set your styling tools to a lower temperature and only use them in moderation. Make sure to also use a quality heat protection spray—it’ll create a protective barrier around your hair.
Another trick is to use the “cool shot” button at the end of your blow-drying sessions to cool your hair down and seal your cuticles for extra shiny hair.
You should also use lukewarm water when rinsing out your shampoo or conditioner. Hot water tends to open the cuticles further, sending color molecules straight down the drain, but cool water helps seal the cuticles.
7. Protect Your Hair from Chlorine, Hard Water, and Sunlight
The chlorine found in swimming pools tends to bond to hair, so going swimming may fade your color. To minimize these unwanted effects, soak your hair with clean water before swimming or saturate it with a pre-swim protector. Also, make sure to rinse your hair with clean water immediately after leaving the pool.
If you’ve got hard water at home, be aware that it contains minerals that can affect the appearance of your hair and dull its color. A good idea to avoid this is to invest in a shower filter—it will minimize the amount of minerals reaching your hair through your shower head.
Finally, keep in mind that the sun can also act like bleach, causing hair color to fade faster. You can reduce this fading effect and prevent UV damage by using a sun protection spray when you go out in the sun.
8. Use Color-Depositing Shampoos and Conditioners
Color-depositing products are real game changers for colored hair—they add a little bit of color every time you wash your hair with them. They can be used to color pre-lightened hair temporarily, but they also work great for refreshing your color. Color-depositing shampoos and conditioners help to keep your color bright and prolong its lifespan.
Some great choices for colored hair include Keracolor’s Clenditioner color-depositing conditioner and Celeb Luxury’s Intense Color Depositing Colorwash shampoo and conditioner. You can even try making them yourself by just adding a bit of semi-permanent dye to your regular shampoo or conditioner.
If you are not happy with your new color, rest assured that nothing is lost because semi-permanent dyes won’t damage your hair. You can always try out a new color without it being a long-lasting commitment.
If you do not want to invest so much time and effort in maintaining your fashion color, opt for a quality color that fades nicely. Some colors go from vivid and bright to a beautiful pastel shade that you can wear proudly until your next coloring. Remember, semi-permanent dyes are just a way to have fun and add more color to your everyday life. Enjoy!
Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.