Skip to Content

How long should you leave a color rinse in your hair?

When it comes to coloring your hair, one of the most common questions is how long to leave the color rinse in. The answer depends on a few different factors. Keep reading to learn how long you should leave color rinse in for beautiful, vivid color.

What is a color rinse?

A color rinse is a deposit-only hair color product that coats the outside of the hair strand. It contains no developer or ammonia and simply deposits temporary color that washes out over time. Color rinses come in many fun shades and add shine, depth, and vibrancy to your existing hair color.

Benefits of using a color rinse

There are several benefits to using a color rinse:

  • Adds temporary color without commitment
  • Enhances natural or permanent color
  • No chemicals to damage hair
  • Conditions while coloring
  • Easy to apply at home
  • Inexpensive

How long to leave in color rinse

Most color rinse products recommend leaving the product in hair for 5-30 minutes. However, there are a few factors that determine exactly how long you should leave color rinse in:

Hair type

Fine, thin hair will require less time, while thick, coarse hair needs more time for the color to deposit. Below are general time recommendations based on hair type:

Hair Type Time
Fine, thin hair 5-10 minutes
Medium, average hair 10-15 minutes
Thick, coarse hair 15-30 minutes

Desired intensity

The longer you leave color rinse in, the more intense the result will be. For a subtle touch of color, rinse after 5-10 minutes. For more vibrant, saturated color, leave on for 15-30 minutes.

Natural hair color

Those with light blonde or gray hair will see color show up quicker than those with dark brown or black hair. Darker hair needs more time for the color to show. Add 5-10 minutes if you have dark hair.

Product instructions

Read the instructions on the specific color rinse product you are using. Follow their recommendations for exact times based on the color and your hair type.

How to apply color rinse

Here are some tips for properly applying color rinse:

  • Shampoo and towel dry clean, product-free hair
  • Put on gloves to avoid staining hands
  • Divide hair into sections and clip up top layers
  • Start applying color at bottom layers first
  • Use tint brush to thoroughly saturate hair from roots to ends
  • Once hair is fully saturated, gather into a bun on top of head
  • Cover with a plastic cap if desired to retain warmth and allow longer processing
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water when time is complete
  • Shampoo and condition as normal

What to expect from color rinse

Here’s what you can expect when using a color rinse:

  • Color will be more vibrant on pre-lightened hair
  • Darker natural hair will have a subtle tint
  • Color washes out gradually over 4-6 weeks
  • No damage from chemical processing
  • Shine, conditioning, and temporary color
  • Can be reapplied as color fades out


To make your color last longer:

  • Use sulfate-free shampoo
  • Wash in cool water
  • Use color-protecting conditioner
  • Avoid chlorine and salt water
  • Use a toning shampoo as color fades
  • Reapply as needed to boost color

Do’s and don’ts

Here are some do’s and don’ts for best results:


  • Strand test for sensitivity before applying to whole head
  • Follow product instructions
  • Apply to clean, dry hair
  • Wear gloves to avoid stains
  • Rinse thoroughly


  • Leave on too long or color may become too dark
  • Overlap time between touch-up applications
  • Apply right after bleaching or permanent coloring
  • Use hot water when rinsing out
  • Shampoo multiple times after rinsing


When using a color rinse, it’s best to follow the product directions for exact timing. In general, plan on leaving color rinses in for 5-30 minutes depending on your hair type and desired color intensity. Fine and medium hair needs less time than thick, coarse hair. Pre-lightened hair will allow more vibrant tones. Have fun experimenting with different application times to find your ideal temporary hair color results!

In summary:

  • Most color rinses recommend 5-30 minutes processing time
  • Fine hair needs less time, thick hair needs more
  • Pre-lightened hair shows more vibrant results
  • Longer time leads to more intense color deposit
  • Rinse thoroughly, shampoo, and condition as usual
  • Reapply as color fades out to maintain your look