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What is better semi or demi-permanent hair color?


When it comes to coloring your hair, you have two main options for longer-lasting color that isn’t permanent: semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair dye. Both can last 4-6 weeks, add shine, even out color, cover grays, and allow you to go lighter or darker than your natural shade. So what’s the difference, and which one is better for you?

What is Semi-Permanent Hair Color?

Semi-permanent hair color contains no ammonia or peroxide, so it can’t completely strip color from your hair or penetrate the hair shaft the way permanent dye does. Instead, it coats the outside of the hair strands with dye molecules that are small enough to enter the porous surface layer.

This means semi-permanent color washes out over time and fades gradually with each shampoo. It won’t leave obvious regrowth lines as your roots grow in. The color tends to last around 4-6 weeks, although this can vary based on hair type and care.

Some key facts about semi-permanent hair dye:

  • Uses small dye molecules that coat the outer hair shaft
  • No ammonia or peroxide to lift or penetrate the hair
  • Lasts around 4-6 weeks
  • Subtly fades with each wash instead of leaving regrowth lines
  • Can’t lighten hair, only deposit color
  • Less damaging than permanent dye since no harsh chemicals

Semi-permanent color is great for:

  • Enhancing natural color with a glossy tint
  • Covering up to 50% gray hair
  • Refreshing faded highlights or permanent color
  • Trying out a new color without full commitment
  • Adding depth, dimension, and shine

It won’t significantly alter your natural shade, but can add subtle hints of color. Keep in mind it may not cover 100% of grays.

What is Demi-Permanent Hair Color?

Demi-permanent hair dye is somewhere between a semi and permanent hair color. It contains a low volume of peroxide developer, which opens up the outer hair cuticle layer slightly so the dye can partially penetrate the strand.

The peroxide helps demi-permanent color last longer than semi-permanent by depositing dye inside the hair shaft as well as coating the outside. However, since it uses a lower volume developer, it’s less damaging than permanent color.

Here are some key facts about demi-permanent hair dye:

  • Uses a low volume peroxide developer (5-15 vol)
  • Can partially penetrate the hair shaft
  • Lasts up to 24 shampoos or 6-8 weeks
  • Fades more gradually than permanent color
  • Less damaging than permanent dye
  • Can lighten hair up to 2 shades

Demi-permanent hair color is ideal for:

  • Covering up to 100% of grays
  • Gently altering your natural shade
  • Going slightly lighter or darker
  • Boosting shine and dimension
  • Blending gray roots between permanent color

It lasts longer than semi-permanent since it penetrates the hair more. Demi-permanent dye can make more noticeable color changes than semi-permanent, while still fading naturally.

Semi vs. Demi-Permanent Hair Color Comparison

Here’s a quick overview of how semi and demi-permanent hair dyes compare:

Feature Semi-Permanent Demi-Permanent
Durability 4-6 weeks 6-8 weeks
Fading Subtle, gradual Gradual
Chemical Process Coats outside of hair Partially penetrates hair shaft
Lightening Power None Up to 2 shades
Gray Coverage Up to 50% Up to 100%
Ammonia None Low levels
Peroxide None Low volume (5-15 vol)
Damage Level Very little Low

As you can see, demi-permanent color lasts a bit longer, lifts more, covers grays better, and penetrates the hair more than semi-permanent. However, semi-permanent is still an excellent option for subtle color with no chemicals.

How to Choose Between Semi and Demi-Permanent Hair Dye

When deciding between semi and demi-permanent hair color, consider these factors:

Your Natural Hair Color

If you have dark hair and want to go lighter, a demi-permanent is a better choice, since semi-permanent won’t lighten. For subtle color on medium to dark shades, either option works. On light hair, semi shows up better.

Condition of Your Hair

If your hair is fine, fragile, or damaged, semi-permanent is gentler with no peroxide. Chemically-treated hair benefits from less harsh semi-permanent dye.

Percentage of Gray Hairs

Demi-permanent hair color covers more grays completely. For minimal grays, you can use either type. Semi-permanent blends grays but doesn’t cover them fully.

Duration Desired

Want longer lasting color? Go for a demi-permanent dye. If you plan to change your color often or just want a temporary refresh, semi-permanent fades faster.

Color Change Needed

Can’t decide between a subtle tint or making a more noticeable change? Demi-permanent alters your shade more, while semi-permanent adds a sheer hint of color.

Hair Health and Damage

Prefer to avoid bleach and chemicals as much as possible? Semi-permanent is the least damaging option. Demi-permanent isn’t as harsh as permanent color, but still uses low levels of peroxide.


Demi-permanent hair color costs a bit more than semi-permanent on average. If price is a concern, semi-permanent saves you money.

Consider how long you want the color to last, your hair’s current condition, percentage of grays, and how dramatic of a color change you’d like when deciding between semi and demi-permanent hair dye. An expert stylist can also give you guidance choosing the best option for your hair goals.

How to Get the Most from Semi or Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Follow these tips to extend the life and look of your semi or demi-permanent hair color:

  • Shampoo less frequently – only lather up every 2-3 days to keep dye from fading quickly.
  • Use cool water – hot water opens the cuticle causing color to wash out faster.
  • Pick sulfate-free products – harsh sulfates strip color more rapidly.
  • Apply gloss treatments – use weekly glossing products to boost shine and refresh color.
  • Blot wet hair – cut down on friction damage by gently blotting with a towel.
  • Limit heat styling – allow hair to air dry when possible and lower heat tools to prevent fading.
  • Use UV protection – sunlight and pool water can cause color to fade faster.
  • Get a trim – remove any dry ends to maintain healthy hair and keep color looking vibrant.
  • Prep with clarifying shampoo – remove buildup before coloring for optimal semi/demi-permanent dye absorption.

With the proper prep and care, you can make semi or demi-permanent hair color last longer for beautiful salon-quality results!

How Semi and Demi-Permanent Hair Dyes Work

Now that you know the key differences between semi and demi-permanent hair color, let’s look at how each formula works when applied to the hair:

Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

Semi-permanent hair color is made up of smaller dye molecules that can penetrate the outermost layer of the hair cuticle but don’t enter the cortex. Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. Dye molecules are small enough to pass through the porous outer cuticle layer.
  2. The color coats the surface and deposits pigment into the damaged areas of the cuticle only.
  3. Little to no peroxide or ammonia means no significant lifting or penetration into the hair shaft.
  4. The hair appears colored evenly, but color washes out gradually as dye fades from the outside of the strands.

Limiting dye penetration means less damage but also shorter durability. Rinsing with cool water and sulfate-free products helps maximize longevity.

Demi-Permanent Hair Dye

Demi-permanent formula uses low levels of peroxide to open the cuticle and allow some dye to enter the cortex for longer-lasting color:

  1. A lower volume peroxide (5-15 vol) swells the cuticle slightly.
  2. Some dye penetrates into the cortex while the rest coats the outer area.
  3. More dye enters the hair shaft compared to semi-permanent, but less than permanent color.
  4. The cortex holds onto color longer, so it fades gradually over more washes.

The hair cuticle closes more tightly again after rinsing. Demi-permanent hair color resists fading better than semi-permanent due to some cortex penetration.

How Long Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Last?

On average, you can expect semi-permanent hair color to last 4-6 weeks before fading significantly. However, the exact longevity depends on several factors:

Your Natural Hair Color and Texture

Semi-permanent color adheres best to light, porous hair and shows up most vibrantly on blonde to light brown shades. Coarser or darker hair may cause the color to fade faster. Chemically-treated hair tends to hold dye less effectively.

Shampooing Frequency and Water Temperature

Washing hair less often with cool water allows semi-permanent color to last longer. Hot water opens the cuticle causing faster fading. Sulfate-free shampoo helps prevent excessive stripping of color.

Exposure to Sun, Chlorine, and Heat Styling

Too much sun, swimming, or heat from hot tools can make semi-permanent hair dye fade prematurely. Taking steps to protect hair from damaging elements preserves the color.

Condition of Your Hair Before Coloring

Any damage or porousness in the hair shaft from over-processing allows dye to escape quicker. Prepping with a clarifying shampoo helps semi-permanent color absorb better and stay truer for the full 4-6 weeks.

Shade of Color Used

In general, darker semi-permanent shades last a little longer than lighter colors. Very vibrant tones may fade faster than natural hues. Application technique also impacts longevity.

How Long Does Demi-Permanent Hair Dye Last?

You can expect results from demi-permanent hair color to last an average of 6-8 weeks before significant fading occurs. As with semi-permanent dye, exact wear time depends on:

Hair Type, Texture, and Condition

The more porous and damaged the hair, the less it will retain demi-permanent color. Stylists recommend avoiding over-processing hair before coloring for best results.

Artificial vs. Natural Hair Pigment

Natural pigments tend to hold better in the cortex than artificial dye colors. For example, a blue-black demi shade may not last as long as a natural dark brown.

Depth and Intensity of Shade

Light, bright demi-permanent colors are more likely to wash out faster than darker, natural tones. Vibrant shades fade quicker than muted ones.

Heat and Chemical Processing

Frequent hot tool use, perms, sun exposure, chlorine, and other styling chemicals cause demi-permanent hair dye to fade more rapidly.

Frequency of Cleansing and Shampoo Type

Washing hair daily or with harsh, clarifying shampoos will strip demi-permanent color quicker than washing every other day with a gentle, sulfate-free formula.

When cared for properly, most demi-permanent dyes last 5-6 weeks on average. Ask your colorist for personalized tips on maximizing the wear time of your chosen shade.

Do Semi or Demi-Permanent Dyes Damage Hair?

Semi and demi-permanent hair dyes are gentler on hair than permanent color. Here’s an overview of the potential damage:

Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Damage

Semi-permanent contains no harsh chemicals, making it the least damaging dye option. The risks include:

  • Slight cuticle swelling from water absorption
  • Mild roughness from dye coating the strands
  • Minimal fading of natural underlying pigment

However, semi-permanent hair color won’t significantly lift or penetrate the hair. Choosing the right shade for your base prevents excessive cuticle swelling or discoloration. Overall, semi-permanent dye causes very minimal damage, especially with proper conditioning.

Demi-Permanent Hair Dye Damage

Demi-permanent color does use low levels of peroxide to open the cuticle, allowing some cortex penetration. Potential effects include:

  • More cuticle swelling than semi-permanent dye
  • Slight penetration to inner cortex
  • Fading of natural pigment when lifting color
  • Increased dryness if not conditioned properly

However, demi-permanent hair dye only uses 5-15 volume developer, compared to 20+ for permanent color. This keeps damage from harsh chemicals to a minimum. Proper prep and deep conditioning offsets the effects.

Overall, both semi and demi-permanent dyes are low risk for healthy hair when used correctly. They provide longer lasting color results than temporary rinses with minimal damage. Avoid overlapping applications to prevent excessive drying.


While semi and demi-permanent hair dyes share some similarities, they have distinct differences when it comes to their durability, peroxide content, color payoff, gray coverage, and damage.

For longer lasting subtle color with no chemicals, semi-permanent dye is the safer choice. Those seeking more vibrancy, lift, and gray coverage benefit from a demi-permanent formula.

No matter which you choose, proper prep and maintenance helps maximize the longevity of the color while keeping hair soft and healthy. Consult a professional colorist to determine whether semi or demi-permanent hair color is better suited to your specific hair goals and texture. With the right formula and application, you can enjoy weeks of glossy, fade-resistant results.