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Is color depositing conditioner semi permanent?

Color depositing conditioners have become increasingly popular as a way to temporarily change your hair color without fully committing to permanent dye. But there seems to be some confusion over whether color depositing conditioners are actually semi-permanent dyes or simply wash out after a few shampoos. Here’s a look at what color depositing conditioners are, whether they can be considered semi-permanent, and how long you can expect the color results to last.

What is Color Depositing Conditioner?

Color depositing conditioner is a hair care product that deposits pigment into your hair strands while conditioning. The pigments are similar to semi-permanent hair dye but weaker in concentration. When used regularly, color depositing conditioner can temporarily alter your existing hair color, enhance color treated hair, or add subtle hints of color highlights.

Unlike permanent hair dyes, color depositing conditioners do not use ammonia or bleach. This makes them gentler on hair. The colors are deposited onto the outside of the hair strands only, without penetrating or lifting the cuticle layer. For this reason, color depositing conditioners are considered semi-permanent rather than permanent.

Are Color Deposit Conditioners Semi-Permanent?

Whether color depositing conditioners can technically be classified as semi-permanent hair dye is up for debate. On one hand, the color results are temporary and will wash out over several weeks. The pigments only coat the outside of the hair strands rather than cause permanent chemical changes. This seems to fit the definition of semi-permanent hair dye.

However, traditional semi-permanent dyes contain higher concentrations of pigment and additional chemicals that help the color deposit more deeply and adhere better. The gentler formula of color depositing conditioners means the color payoff is lighter and washes out much quicker. So some argue that calling them semi-permanent is misleading.

Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Color Deposit Conditioner
High pigment concentration Lower pigment concentration
Designed to last 4-8 weeks Designed to last 2-6 washes
Penetrates cuticle layer more Coats outer hair strand only

Based on the major differences summarized in the table, some hair experts believe that “semi-permanent” is not the right classification for color depositing conditioners. They consider color depositing conditioners more of an enhancing temporary color treatment rather than a true semi-permanent dye.

How Long Does Color Deposit Conditioner Last?

On average, the color results from most color depositing conditioners last for 2-6 washes. But there are a few factors that influence exactly how long the color will stick around:

  • Hair porosity – More porous hair will absorb and hold onto color better than hair that is less porous.
  • Regular use – Using a color depositing conditioner 1-2 times per week will make the color last longer compared to occasional use.
  • Shampooing – Frequent shampooing will cause the color to fade faster.
  • Strength of formula – Salon quality color depositing conditioners with higher pigment concentrations tend to last longer.
  • Darkness of color – Darker colors like blues, purples, and blacks stick to hair the best.

Some brands claim their color depositing conditioners can last for up to 30 washes. But this is primarily with repeated use. If you are expecting dramatic color results from a single application, plan on the color fading significantly after just a couple washes.

Getting Maximum Color Deposit

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your color depositing conditioner:

  • Apply to clean, product-free hair. Any styling products on your hair can prevent the color from depositing evenly.
  • Massage the conditioner thoroughly into your hair and let sit for 5+ minutes before rinsing.
  • Use warmer water when rinsing the conditioner out, as hot water helps seal in color.
  • Avoid shampooing too often. Use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo to make the color last longer.
  • Use a leave-in conditioner or mask to help protect the color between washes.

Risks and Considerations

While gentler than permanent dye, color depositing conditioners still come with some risks and things to keep in mind:

  • Can still cause hair damage if overused. Avoid applying more than 1-2 times per week.
  • Results tend to be subtler and less predictable compared to permanent dye.
  • Can potentially stain skin, clothes, countertops, etc. Use with care.
  • Not recommended for use on hair that has already been bleached or chemically treated.

It’s also important to do a patch test before applying a color depositing conditioner all over your hair to check for any potential allergic reaction.


While opinions differ on whether “semi-permanent” is the right term, color depositing conditioners do offer a gentler way to temporarily change your hair color without permanent dye chemicals. The color payoff won’t be as dramatic or long-lasting as permanent hair color, but can add subtle highlights and dimension for 2-6 washes.

To get the most out of a color depositing conditioner, apply to clean damp hair, leave on for several minutes before rinsing, use a gentle sulfate-free shampoo, and repeat applications 1-2 times per week. Take care when applying to avoid skin and surface staining. And do a patch test first to check for allergic reactions.

While not giving the same level of long-lasting color as permanent dyes, color depositing conditioners offer an easy way to experiment with different hair colors for a short time. Just don’t expect the color to stick around forever.