Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes for Low Commitment Colors

Semi-permanent dyes are a gentle alternative to permanent hair colors. Unlike most permanent formulas, these dyes are free from ammonia, and most of them don’t require a developer. Semi-permanent dyes only deposit color on the hair, without chemically altering hair structure.

Semi-permanent hair dyes provide you with longer-lasting hair color than temporary dyes, but they fade out faster than permanent colors. Depending on the brand, the color may stay bright and vibrant for several washes before fading.

This is a great low commitment color for people who prefer vivid colors that are relatively easy to change. If you want to try out a new hair color but are not willing to make a major commitment, a semi-permanent color may be the right choice.

How do Semi-Permanent Dyes Work?

Semi-permanent hair dyes are not capable of lightening hair as most don’t contain peroxide. These highly pigmented dyes work by depositing pigments on the hair without opening the cuticle and penetrating the hair shaft.

This type of hair dye is easy to use, and in most cases, you can apply the color straight from the applicator. You can easily do it yourself as long as you follow the directions.

What Results Can You Get?

The results may vary depending on your natural hair color and the porosity of your hair. Semi-permanent dyes are only capable of darkening existing hair colors. If a vivid color is your goal, you have to lighten your hair before coloring it.

You can skip bleaching only if you have very light hair or you just want to add a subtle tint to your dark locks. The lighter the hair, the brighter the color you will achieve.

If you are a natural blonde, your hair will look richer and shinier after semi-permanent coloring because the pigments give your hair a boost of shine.

Benefits of Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes

Semi-permanent hair colors have many benefits, especially if your hair is dry and porous:

  1. Semi-permanent hair dyes are harmless: These dyes are free of ammonia, peroxide, and other harsh additives, so they are gentler on fragile hair than permanent dyes. Semi-permanent hair colors condition the hair and smooth the cuticle, leaving your hair smoother and softer than before coloring.
  2. Fade gracefully: When the color starts to wash out, it still looks beautiful. These colors gradually fade into a gorgeous pastel that is just as beautiful as freshly applied color.
  3. Boost shine: Semi-permanent hair dyes are often used to remove brassy tones from hair and to add instant shine to lackluster, dull hair.
  4. No noticeable regrowth: Semi-permanent colors fade nicely and evenly without the harsh demarcation line of grown-out roots.
  5. Low commitment: You can switch up the color without a long-term commitment. The color gently fades between services, so you can simply choose another color to experiment with.
  6. More volume: Fine and thin hair looks thicker and denser because the pigments instantly provide more volume.
  7. Easy to use: They are easy to apply, so you can easily do it yourself! You don’t have to mix anything and can apply the color straight from the bottle.

Covering Grey Hair with a Semi-Permanent Color

If you’re looking to cover a small percentage of gray, most of the semi-permanent colors will do the job, blending gray hair nicely. The color fades without showing a harsh root line. Make sure to leave the product to process for longer because gray strands can be stubborn about taking color.

If you have a lot of gray hair, a permanent hair coloring product will give you better coverage.

The exception is Clairol Natural Instincts semi-permanent hair color, which is advertised to provide 100% gray coverage, but this color brand contains hydrogen peroxide in its formula.

Will Fashion Colors Show up on Dark Hair?

The semi-permanent color will coat all of your strands, but the resulting color depends on the underlying color and the color you choose to apply.

If your hair is dark and you want a bright color, you have to bleach your hair until it is almost white to get an appropriate base for the desired color. Otherwise, vivid semi-permanent dyes will just slightly tint unbleached dark hair and the color only shows as a hidden tone in the sunlight.

If you have darker hair with highlights, the color will show up very vibrant on the highlighted strands while giving a nice tint on the rest of your hair.

Another problem with using funky colors on unbleached hair is that the color will fade quickly.

Although you typically have to lighten your hair to be able to play around with fashion colors, the exceptions are innovative beauty brands like Splat and Lime Crime.

How Long Does Semi-Permanent Color Last?

Semi-permanent colors will typically start to fade after 4-8 weeks, depending on the porosity of your hair, underlying color, and how often you wash your hair. The color loses brightness gradually with each wash.

Low porosity virgin hair is more resistant than processed hair, so the color pigments will not stick to the surface, and may wash out quickly.

High porosity (bleached) hair grabs color pigments easily and holds them for longer than virgin or healthy hair. A possible problem with overly porous hair may be uneven fading.

Charming girl with pink colored hair

How to Dye Your Hair with Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Semi-permanent color products come ready to use. The application is simple and can be easily done at home. Follow the instructions carefully.

  1. Wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo and repeat if needed. Don’t use conditioner!
  2. Dry your hair completely before the color application.
  3. Apply protective cream around your hairline and on your ears to prevent the color from staining your skin.
  4. Put on latex gloves and pour the product into a bowl.
  5. Apply the color onto desired areas and massage it in to coat the strands well.
  6. Leave the product in your hair according to the instructions on the bottle. For more intense, longer-lasting color, leave the product in for longer.
  7. Rinse the hair away from your face using cool to lukewarm water. Rinse until the water runs clear. Do not shampoo.

If you like your color to appear more pastel, dilute it with your conditioner.

To replenish the color, mix some of the dye with your regular hair conditioner and use the mixture for 10 minutes every week or bi-weekly.

If you are using the same color, you can redo it once a month or more often if you like. But, if you are going to change your color, you might want to wait a few weeks after the previous color treatment.


  • Shampoo your hair less often as the color fades with each shampoo.
  • Use sulfate-free shampoos formulated for color-treated hair.
  • Wash your hair with relatively cold water and avoid using very hot water for that purpose.
  • Always follow with a conditioner!
  • Wait a week or two before going to swim in a chlorinated pool.
  • To keep your color looking fresh, periodically add a few drops of the color to your conditioner and use the mixture after shampooing.


These dyes can stain anything they come into contact with while you are dying your hair. Then the color will continue staining your hands, your clothes, your towels, and your pillowcase for at least a week.

Use latex gloves, wear a shirt you don’t mind getting stained, and cover all your bathroom surfaces with “throw-away” towels. Cover your pillows with old towels and wear dark clothing for the first couple of weeks. Use a bathroom cleaner with bleach to clean bathroom surfaces.

Popular Brands

Special Effects SFX Hair Color Hair Dye, Pravana ChromaSilk Vivids, Iroiro Premium Natural Semi-Permanent Hair Color, Joico Intensity Semi-Permanent Hair Color, Splat Hair Color Kit,  Semi-Permanent Conditioning Hair Color by Punky, L’Oreal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color, and Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Semi-Permanent Hair Dye. 

woman with fashion color
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