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Is it better to use demi or permanent hair color?

When it comes to coloring your hair, you have two main options – demi-permanent hair color and permanent hair color. Both have their pros and cons and suit different hair types and needs. Deciding between demi and permanent color depends on factors like how often you want to touch up your roots, how damaging you want the process to be, and your desired intensity of color. Read on for a detailed comparison of demi vs permanent hair dye.

What is Demi-Permanent Hair Color?

Demi-permanent hair dye is also sometimes called semi-permanent color. It deposits color onto the hair shaft without penetrating the cortex. Here are some key facts about demi-permanent hair color:

  • Lasts 4-12 shampoos or around 6 weeks
  • Does not require developer
  • Less damaging to hair than permanent color
  • Subtle, natural-looking results
  • Gradually fades out over time
  • Can’t lighten hair, only darken it
  • Usually less expensive than permanent color

Demi color is best for someone looking for short-term, low-commitment color change. It’s great for trying a new shade without damaging your hair. Frequent root touch-ups are needed.

What is Permanent Hair Color?

Permanent hair dye opens up the hair cuticle and deposits color pigments into the cortex. Here’s an overview:

  • Lasts until hair grows out or is cut off
  • Requires developer to activate color
  • More damaging to hair than demi dye
  • Vibrant, intense and long-lasting color
  • Can lighten or darken hair
  • More expensive than demi
  • Root regrowth is visible as hair grows in

Permanent color is best for someone seeking a major, long-term color change. It’s damaging but offers bright, fade-resistant color. Regrowth is visible so touch-ups every 4-6 weeks are required.

Key Differences Between Demi and Permanent Hair Dye

Factor Demi-Permanent Dye Permanent Dye
Lasting power 4-12 shampoos/6 weeks Until cut or grown out
Damage level Minimal damage Highly damaging
Color results Subtle, natural looking Intense, vivid
Lightening power Cannot lighten hair Can lighten up to 3 shades
Cost Around $10-$20 $35-$50 salon services
Upkeep Frequent root touch-ups Regrowth visible, touch-ups needed

Which is Better for Your Hair Type?

When choosing between permanent or demi hair dye, it’s important to consider your hair type and condition.

For damaged or thin hair: Demi-permanent color is gentler and less likely to cause further dryness or breakage. The lack of developer is ideal for fragile hair.

For coarse, thick or resistant hair: Permanent hair color can better penetrate and deposit color on dense, hard-to-dye hair types. The vivid results may be worth the damage.

For normal, healthy hair: Either demi or permanent dye work well on balanced hair. Pick demi for subtle color or permanent for intense transformation. Avoid over-processing.

For chemically treated hair: If hair is relaxed, bleached or color-treated, permanent dye can be too harsh and cause damage. Opt for kinder demi-permanent formula.

Pros of Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Here are the main benefits of using demi-permanent hair dye:

  • Less damaging to hair: Demi dye coats the hair cuticle without penetrating it so it’s gentler on your locks.
  • No developer needed: The lack of developer means one less harsh chemical on your hair.
  • Subtle, natural looking results: Demi dye looks realistic, like your own hair just better.
  • Great for trying a new color: Test run a new hue without a months-long commitment.
  • Quick and easy application: No need to pre-lighten hair so you can DIY at home.
  • Conditions while coloring: Many demi dyes use conditioning agents to soften hair.
  • Won’t lighten your hair: Lower risk of breakage since darkening is safer than lightening.
  • Cost effective: At around $10-$20 per box, demi dye is budget-friendly.

Cons of Demi-Permanent Hair Color

There are a few downsides associated with demi-permanent hair dye:

  • Short-lasting results: Color starts fading after just 4-12 shampoos and needs frequent refreshing.
  • Can’t lighten hair: Demi dye works by depositing color not removing it, so no lightening.
  • Subtle color payoff: Don’t expect dramatically different results from demi dye.
  • Frequent root touch-ups: Regrowth will be obvious so maintenance is needed.
  • Easy to apply wrongly: Uneven or splotchy results can happen if application isn’t smooth.
  • Limited color selection: Fewer vivid shades available compared to permanent colors.

Pros of Permanent Hair Color

Here’s a look at why permanent hair dye remains popular:

  • Long-lasting color: Permanent color remains vibrant until new growth needs a touch-up.
  • Lightens and darkens: Thoroughly alters existing hair color for dramatic effects.
  • Intense, vivid results: From rich black to platinum blonde, permanent dye delivers.
  • Wide range of shades: From natural hues to fantasy colors, permanent dyes offer endless options.
  • Covers grays: The penetration of cortex means excellent gray coverage.
  • Can be DIY or salon applied: Permanent color works both at home or professionally done.
  • Recolors treated hair: It adhere well to previously relaxed or colored hair.

Cons of Permanent Hair Color

Despite its popularity, permanent hair dye isn’t for everyone. Here are the key drawbacks:

  • Harsh on hair: Bleaching then coloring the cortex is damaging. Hair can be dried out.
  • Regrowth is obvious: Dark roots against colored hair looks noticeably fake. High maintenance.
  • Can cause allergic reaction: PPD chemical has been linked to skin/eye irritation in some.
  • Scalp sensitivity is common: Ammonia swells the cuticle causing mild burning or itching.
  • High cost for salon coloring: Getting hair colored professionally is an expensive service.
  • Permanent commitment: You’ll have artificially colored hair until time it grows out naturally.

Which is Better for Covering Gray Hair?

Both demi and permanent hair dyes can cover greys but permanent color does it better and for longer. Here’s a comparison:

  • Permanent dye penetrates the cortex so it colors gray hairs from the inside out. Provides longer-lasting coverage.
  • Demi-permanent dye coats the outside of the hair so washes off faster. Grays tend to reappear quicker than the rest of the hair.
  • Permanent color offers more bleaching strength to remove stubborn gray discoloration. Demi dye only deposits color.
  • Root regrowth is quicker with demi dye so grays at the root will be obvious sooner. Permanent color touch-ups are needed less often.
  • Frequent shampooing, hard water and sun exposure can cause demi dye to fade on grays faster than other parts of the hair.

Overall permanent hair color gives the most complete, resistant gray coverage. But demi can work for short-term gray blending as a low-commitment option.

Is Demi or Permanent Better for Damaged Hair?

If your hair is damaged, demi-permanent dye is strongly recommended over permanent options. Here’s why:

  • Demi dye coats the outside of hair gently without swelling the cuticle open harshly.
  • No developer is mixed with demi formulas making it one less damaging chemical component.
  • Without lightening agents, demi dye doesn’t dehydrate and deteriorate the hair like permanent can.
  • Conditioning agents in demi hair color provide added moisture to counteract any drying effects.
  • Permanent hair dye makes pre-lightening damaged hair near impossible without major breakage.
  • With permanent dye, overlapping lightened bands create frizz-prone areas down the hair shaft.

Go for a demi shade that matches your natural color for subtle enrichment. Avoid permanent options until hair is stronger.

Is Demi or Permanent Better for Fine Hair?

Fine hair has a delicate texture that can easily be overwhelmed and damaged by harsh chemicals. Here’s a comparison of demi vs permanent hair dye for fine locks:

  • Demi-permanent is safer for fine hair as it gently coats the outside of strands without lifting the cuticle forcefully.
  • Permanent hair dye risks significant drying and breaking of fragile fine hair. Pre-lightening is too abrasive.
  • The lower levels of ammonia and peroxide in demi formulas help avoid thinning of the hair shaft diameter.
  • Permanent color swells the cuticle radically which can diminish fine hair. Regular touch-ups compound damage.
  • Low-volume demi developer is advised. Standard permanent developer can overwhelm fine hair.
  • Stick to semi-permanent shades close to your natural to avoid an artificial look on fine hair.

Overall, permanent coloring is too harsh for most fine hair types. Take a gentle approach with demi dyes instead.

How to Care for Hair After Demi vs Permanent Dye

Proper at-home care is important after any hair coloring service to keep your strands healthy. Here are some tips:

After demi dye:

  • Use sulfate-free shampoo and lukewarm water to make the color last
  • Apply a weekly nourishing hair mask to replenish moisture
  • Protect hair from sun exposure which can fade color faster
  • Use leave-in conditioners and oils to boost shine and softness
  • Avoid too much heat styling which can dry out hair over time

After permanent dye:

  • Pick a reparative shampoo and deep conditioner to heal damage
  • Use a pre-wash gloss or oil to limit drying effects of regular shampooing
  • Get occasional bonding or strengthening salon treatments
  • Use heat protectant sprays before hot tool styling to limit further damage
  • Avoid chlorine, salt water and excessive sweat which leach out permanent color

With some TLC, you can help keep hair healthy and vibrant regardless of whether you choose demi or permanent dye.


When deciding between demi vs permanent hair color, there are several factors to weigh up. Permanent dye offers bolder, longer-lasting color transformation but requires more maintenance and is damaging to hair. Gentler demi-permanent formulas provide a subtle tint for 6 weeks with minimal damage. Consider how often you want to touch up roots, your hair’s current condition, and your desired color intensity. For long-term vibrancy, permanent dye delivers excellent gray coverage and vivid shade options but must be used with care to avoid brittle, dry hair. Demi-permanent color gives a temporary boost of natural-looking color for less commitment. Take lifestyle, maintenance and hair health into account to choose between demi and permanent hair dye.