Applying color to damaged strands? You need a special, gentle dye that won’t further harm your hair in a shade that suits your complexion. Find the best hair color color for damaged hair in our guide as we explore the least-damaging box dyes in flattering shades.
What’s the Best Hair Color Color for Damaged Hair?
- Demi- and semi-permanent dyes won’t damage your hair
- Go lighter with the shade since damaged hair absorbs more dye
- Try natural, gentle henna dye if you like dark reddish-brown shades
When we started looking at the best hair color color for damaged hair – the best hair dye brands and shades for damaged strands – we narrowed our search to box dyes with gentle formulas that are 100% safe to use on hair that’s showing signs of wear.
We also kept an eye out for specific shades that do a great job disguising or camouflaging damage. These criteria meant we were able to instantly cross a few not-so-good hair color options and methods off the list.
Permanent color is out if your hair is already damaged. Permanent dye formulas contain ammonia that pries the hair cuticle (the outermost layer) open to allow the dye to deeply penetrate.
A harsh 40-volume peroxide developer is used with permanent color and further damages hair. If your strands have sustained damage from previous chemical processing or heat, using an ammonia-based permanent dye with a high-volume developer is only going to compound the problem.
Going by the pictured color on the box is a no-no for damaged hair, too. Your hair will absorb more dye when it’s damaged, so if you select shades based on the photo you see on the box, you’re always going to end up with results much darker than intended.
You should also skip applying dye directly to damaged hair without pre-treating it. The increased porosity of damaged hair means dye can appear patchy and uneven unless you take steps to prep your hair first.
Now that we’ve covered some of the don’ts, let’s talk about the do’s for your ‘do.
Choose Demi-Permanent or Semi-Permanent Dye
Instead of permanent hair color, damaged hair needs demi-permanent or semi-permanent dye. These options are both ammonia-free and won’t lift the cuticle for color penetration.
They also use a much gentler 10-volume developer (demi-permanent) or no developer (semi-permanent) that leaves strands soft and shiny post-color.
Demi-permanent color is the best hair color for damaged hair if you want longer-lasting color that lasts 20-24 washes. It’s not going to be quite as full-coverage as permanent dye, but that actually gives it a more natural and dimensional look.
Aim to go the same color level or up to 2 shades darker than your current color with a demi-permanent dye. You do need a 10-volume developer to achieve great results with a demi dye, but it won’t physically damage your hair by wrecking the pH balance like a stronger 30- or 40-volume developer.
Semi-permanent color has less staying power than demi-permanent because no developer is used to help the dye attach to strands. It washes out with 8-12 shampoos, so it’s ideal if you want to try a new color on damaged hair without fully committing.
Like demi-permanent, semi-permanent dye can’t be used to go lighter than your current color. You can use it to choose a shade the same level or up to 2 shades darker than your current shade.
Semi-permanent color is best for experimenting with a new shade, refreshing faded color, adding gloss/shine with tint, or blending out grays without fully covering them.
We’ll cover some of the best demi- and semi-permanent dye options in just a bit, but first, let’s talk about choosing the best hair color color for damaged hair.
Pick a Lighter Shade Than You Want
Generally, you’ll want to choose a shade that’s the same color level or slightly darker than your current color. That’s because you’ll be using gentle demi- or semi-permanent dye that can’t actually lift hair color.
To get the results you want with damaged hair, you’ll need to pick a box dye shade that’s actually a level lighter than the result you want. Why? When your hair is damaged, the cuticle has been lifted beyond the natural level and that makes each strand a little more porous.
Think of the cuticle as little shields that protect and seal each strand. Damage makes those shields stand up, leaving the “gates” open and increasing the porosity of each strand.
Porous, damaged strands absorb more than healthy, undamaged strands. They act like sponges for everything – moisture, products, and hair dye. When you apply dye to damaged hair, you can end up with patchy, irregular color that absorbs more deeply in the most damaged areas.
Your color will also appear darker than it appears on the box since more of the dye will be taken up by your hair. There are simple pre-dye methods you can use to get even coverage on damaged hair.
But it’s essential to choose a shade that’s a little lighter than the actual result you want. For example, if you want to go level 5 copper, choose a level 6 copper dye instead to get level 5 results.
Consider Natural Henna Dye
Another thing to consider is the types of shades you’re interested in. If you find yourself looking at shades of red, reddish brown, mahogany, or black, you might be a great candidate for super-gentle henna dye.
It’s one of the best hair color options for damaged hair. Henna color is natural, the same pH as your hair and scalp, and doesn’t require developer to color your hair.
There are limited color options with henna dye, but you can choose from shades like:
- Light brown
- Chestnut brown
- Dark brown
- Red wine
You can achieve these different shades with henna powder mixed with water to form a paste. Some shades (like the darker henna colors) use additional botanical ingredients like amla and shikakai powder to darken the color of the henna. Even with these additives, henna dyes are extremely safe and gentle on damaged hair.
6 Best Hair Color Color for Damaged Hair
If you want the best hair color color for damaged hair, you’re not just looking for pretty shades and tones. You want the brands and formulas that will give you the best results on hair that’s been through the wringer!
We’ve pinpointed the 6 best hair color options for damaged hair, from long-lasting demi-permanent dyes to temporary semi-permanent shades and henna colors that won’t harm your hair. Take a look and find a great box color option below to achieve healthier-looking hair!
1. Wella Color Charm Demi-Permanent Color
Wella Color Charm Demi-Permanent Dye is one of the top picks for damaged hair and gets 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Refresh, tone, or add glossy shine to your hair with a tint when you use this tried-and-true demi-permanent box color.
No ammonia is in the formula and you mix it with a gentle developer to deposit the color and shade of your choice. It can be used to blend out grays, deepen or refresh your color, and get glossier hair that’s up to 43% shinier. Users noted how silky and soft their hair felt after using Color Charm!
2. Clairol Natural Instincts Demi-Permanent Dye
Clairol Natural Instincts Demi-Permanent Hair Dye is a fan favorite with 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and works so well on damaged hair. Gentle, vibrant, and natural-looking, this demi-permanent box dye lasts up to 28 washes and deeply conditions your hair.
It’s available in a range of shades so you can choose your perfect color. Use it all-over to achieve a dimensional or highlighted look that’s not dull or flat. We love that botanicals like coconut oil, aloe, and hair-boosting vitamins are in the formula to give damaged hair a fresh, soft, and shiny new start.
3. Schwarzkopf Igora Vibrance Demi-Permanent Color
Schwarzkopf makes great products and their Igora Vibrance Demi-Permanent Color is no exception with 4.6 out of 5 stars! This liquid formula can be mixed into a gel or creme developer for ease of use.
It’s ammonia-free so it’s gentle on damaged hair while providing vibrant, healthy color that lasts up to 25 shampoos. Use this color to freshen up an old permanent color, deliver amazing shine and gloss, blend out grays, tone a brassy shade, or try a new color without long-term commitment.
There are a stunning 68 shades to choose from – just choose one slightly lighter than you want to get the ideal results on damaged hair.
4. Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Vivid Hair Color
Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color is a great semi-permanent option if you like to play around with bright, vivid shades. This conditioning color is ideal for damaged hair because it doesn’t use any developer and washes out within 8-12 shampoos.
There are tons of eye-catching colors available in this line and customers really love it, giving it 4.4 out of 5 stars with almost 80K reviews! If you’re not a fan of super-bold colors, you can try options like their Ritual (a deep plum burgundy) or Transylvania (black).
5. Kiss Express Semi-Permanent Hair Color
Kiss Express Semi-Permanent Hair Color gets great reviews from customers with 4.3 stars on average and won’t damage your hair in the dye process. This semi-permanent color comes in a range of colors from natural cinnamon and dark brown to vivid emerald and the super-popular black cherry.
It won’t last very long – most reviews said a week, maybe a little more with minimal washing and plenty of moisture – but it provides a great color payoff. The gel-like, thick creamy consistency makes it simple to apply.
6. Godrej Nupur Natural Henna Mehandi Dye
Godrej Nupur Natural Henna Mehandi Hair Color is the best option for natural, gentle henna hair color on damaged hair. It gets 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
This formula contains a few botanicals in addition to henna to create a deep brown shade with a beautiful red tint. Henna has a naturally red tint, so darkening amla and herbs like brahmi and bhringraj are in the mix to deliver a deeper, dimensional color that won’t damage your hair.
In fact, you’ll notice your strands are stronger and shinier after using it! Add powdered indigo for a darker tone with reduced red tint.
Things to Consider
From demi- and semi-permanent color to all-natural henna dye, you have lots of options for coloring damaged hair. As long as you steer clear of permanent color and bleaching for a while, you’ll be on the right track to restoring your hair’s health, shine, and vibrance!
Here are a few more things to consider when you’re thinking of dyeing damaged hair.
- Mind the pH. Demi- and semi-permanent dyes have a pH anywhere from 6.0-8.0, which is close to that of human hair (around 5.5). Permanent color hangs around 9.0-11.0, which is much more alkaline and harmful for hair. Keeping pH in mind, you can also choose gentle low pH shampoos to help extend your color and minimize damage to your hair.
- Find out how porous your hair is. Your hair’s level of porosity has a lot to do with how it’ll take and hold onto color. If you’re not sure if your hair is low, medium, or high porosity, take a quick quiz to find out! Our Hair Porosity Quiz will show you how porous your strands are and help you determine whether or not you need gentle demi-, semi-permanent, or henna color for your hair.
- Peep the darkest color on the box. Most box dyes have 3 photos on the back to show how your results will look with progressively darker base colors. In general, if your hair is damaged, you’ll get results closer to the bottom or darkest of the 3 photos. If it’s a little too dark, use the next-highest level of the color and tone you want to get ideal results.
- Side-step staining. Use a protective moisturizer to create a barrier around your scalp and avoid staining your skin. Hair dye will not only stain and color your hair – it’ll also leave your forehead, neck, and hands stained for a few days if you’re not careful during application. Gloves will protect your hands and smearing Vaseline around your hairline will help prevent stains on your skin.
- Prep damaged hair before dyeing. Damaged hair that’s porous and weak needs proper prep before you color it. Deeply moisturizing with a hot oil treatment and deep conditioning treatment a day or two before you dye it will make a big difference. If you don’t prep with moisture, you may end up with patchy or uneven color that absorbs deeper in some areas.
So, What’s the Best Hair Color Kit for Damaged Hair?
If you thought you couldn’t safely color damaged hair, we hope you’ve found some great options that won’t harm or weaken your strands here!
From demi-permanent color that lasts up to 28 washes (we see you, Clairol Natural Instincts!) to bold semi-permanent color that washes out in a week or two, there are lots of ways to safely dye your hair when you’re dealing with some damage.
For those who prefer all-natural products or just want to stay away from harsh developers and chemicals, pure henna hair dye is an awesome option.
We love that you can tweak and customize your color using other botanical extracts, or just buy a pre-mixed powder in the shade of your choice. You don’t have to hide your growing roots or deal with fast-fading color just because your hair is damaged.
The box dyes and colors in this guide will help you achieve gorgeous, healthy color even when your strands aren’t looking and feeling their best. But all things considered, there’s just no substitute for healthy, moisturized, strong hair.
Rely on the gentle color options here while you get to work repairing your damaged hair and see how beautiful your mane can be! Learn how to fix damaged hair with our quick guide next.