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What if my demi permanent is too dark?

Having hair that is too dark after a demi-permanent hair color application can be discouraging. Many factors can cause demi-permanent hair dye to turn out darker than expected, including the original hair color and porosity, the dye chosen, and how it was applied. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lighten hair that turns too dark with demi-permanent dye.

What causes demi-permanent hair color to turn out too dark?

Here are some common reasons demi-permanent hair dye may end up darker than anticipated:

  • Your natural hair color is darker than you thought – Demi-permanent dyes look darker on darker bases.
  • Your hair is porous or damaged – Porous hair absorbs more dye, resulting in darker color.
  • The dye formula is too dark for your base color – Reading the box instructions carefully is important.
  • Too much dye was applied – Using more dye than directed leads to darker results.
  • Dye wasn’t rinsed out fully – Leftover dye continues to develop and darken.
  • Hair wasn’t lightened enough beforehand – Demi-permanent dyes won’t lighten hair, only deposit color.

What are my options for lightening hair dyed too dark with demi-permanent color?

If your demi-permanent hair color is darker than you want, here are some possible solutions:

Color Remover

Using a color remover, also called color stripper, can help remove some of the artificial dye molecules from your hair. This lightens the overall color and allows you to go lighter when re-coloring. Be aware color removers are harsh and can damage hair.

Bleach Bath

A bleaching bath, or bleach wash, uses a very diluted bleach solution to gently lighten hair overall. This lifts the color so you can go lighter when re-dyeing. Bleach baths are less damaging than full bleaching. However, bleaching does still weaken and dry hair over time.

Full Bleach

Fully bleaching your hair will strip the color and allow for dramatic lightening. However, this is damaging and should be done professionally. Toner is needed after bleaching to avoid brassy undertones.

Color Correction

Seeing a professional colorist for color correction is a good option if the other methods are too harsh for your hair. A colorist can do a strand test to find a demi-permanent color that counteracts the too-dark dye and lightens it to your desired shade.


Demi-permanent dyes do fade gradually over time, especially with repeated washing and exposure to sun. You can speed up fading by using clarifying shampoos to help strip the color quicker. Just keep in mind, fading takes patience.

Tips to prevent demi-permanent dye from turning out too dark

To avoid having hair color that is too dark in the future when using demi-permanent dyes, keep these tips in mind:

  • Do an allergy patch test before coloring hair
  • Get a professional consultation on your best color match
  • Pick a color 1-2 shades lighter than desired
  • Lighten hair first if going more than 2 shades lighter
  • Only apply to clean, dry hair
  • Use the right tools – no metal or plastic
  • Apply very precisely following instructions
  • Comb through hair to disperse evenly
  • Rinse for the full recommended time
  • Don’t leave on longer than directed

What’s the difference between permanent, demi-permanent, and semi-permanent hair dye?

It’s important to understand the differences between permanent, demi-permanent, and semi-permanent hair color:

Type Lasts Fades Lightens Hair
Permanent Until grown out No Yes
Demi-permanent 4-12 washes Gradually No
Semi-permanent 4-8 washes Quickly No

Permanent hair dye contains ammonia and opens the cuticle to deposit color that gets locked inside the strand. Demi-permanent lacks ammonia so it doesn’t lighten, but still penetrates moderately for longer-lasting color. Semi-permanent coats the outside of hair for the shortest lasting effects that wash out easily.

What ingredients should I look for in a demi-permanent hair dye?

Here are some good things to look for when selecting a demi-permanent hair color:

  • Ammonia-free – Less hair damage
  • Conditioning/moisturizing ingredients – Counteract drying
  • Low or no PPD – Prevents allergy risk
  • Natural oils and extracts – Improve hair health
  • UV filters – Prevent fading from sunlight
  • Antioxidants – Minimize oxidative damage to hair

Some key ingredients that offer conditioning, moisturizing, and other benefits include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Coconut oil
  • Honey
  • Argan oil
  • Keratin
  • Silk proteins
  • Olive oil
  • Shea butter


Having demi-permanent hair dye turn out darker than expected can be frustrating. But there are ways to lighten the color again either on your own or with professional help. Being patient and allowing the color to fade some first is best if your hair is already damaged. To avoid this issue in the future, only color hair 1-2 shades darker than your base, lighten first if going much lighter, and precisely follow the dye directions during application and rinsing. Choosing ammonia-free demi-permanent dyes with conditioning ingredients can also help prevent hair from becoming overly dark.