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Does Permanent Hair Color Fade? | It Depends

There are many types of hair dyes, and some fade faster than others. Permanent hair dye is the longest-lasting hair dye.

What Is Permanent Hair Color?

Despite its name, permanent hair dye doesn’t hold its true color forever. Many things can cause permanent hair dye to fade or change. On average, permanent hair dye lasts six to eight weeks. Permanent hair color is one of the four most common types of hair dyes.

The others include:

  • Temporary hair color. Temporary hair color comes in forms like aerosol spray or hair chalk. Temporary hair color coats the outside of the hair shaft and then washes out when you shampoo your hair.
  • Semi-permanent hair color. Semi-permanent hair color lasts for about eight washes. They’re great to use for touch-ups between salon appointments, to do a test run of a new color, or to boost your hair before a special event.
  • Demi-permanent hair color. Demi-permanent hair color can last longer, up to 24 washes, because it includes a developer to penetrate the hair shaft. 

True to its name, permanent hair color will stay in your hair permanently unless it’s manually removed. However, it doesn’t stay the same shade due to interacting with chemicals around you.

Factors like the growth of new hair also mean that touch-ups will be necessary. On average, permanent hair color is good for about six to eight weeks.

How Permanent Hair Dye Works

Permanent hair dye works by penetrating the hair shaftHair strands are made up of three layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. The cuticle is the outer layer of hair and is made up of overlapping dead cells.

The cuticle protects the cortex, the part that contains most of the melanin, which gives the hair its color. Within the cortex is the medulla.

The first thing that needs to happen when using a permanent hair dye is that the hair cuticles need to be lifted so the dye can reach the cortex. Alkaline, or basic, hair products can do this, and often permanent hair dye will have a pH of 10.

If you’re lightening your hair before applying the dye, your stylist will open the cuticle with a product, often ammonia-based, first. After opening the cuticle, small molecules called dye precursors will bypass the open cuticle and soak into the cortex.

These molecules will react with products like hydrogen peroxide and ammonia to create large dye molecules that are too big to wash out. The final step is to close the cuticle, usually with the help of an acidic conditioner.

Why Does Permanent Hair Color Fade?

Woman looking at the end of her hair wondering why does permanent hair dye fade

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Hair dye depends on a series of chemical reactions occurring. As a result, exposure to other chemicals or to things that can cause chemical reactions may cause your hair color to fade or to change shades.

How quickly and how much your hair color will fade depends on several factors, including:

  • The colors you use. Different color dyes have different-sized molecules. The larger the molecules, the harder they are to wash out. Dark colors last longer than light colors.
  • How often you wash your hair. You risk losing some color with every wash. The more often you wash your hair, the faster the color will fade.
  • The type of shampoo you use. Color-safe shampoo is gentler on your hair. Shampoos with sulfates will strip your color faster. Color depositing shampoo will help put color back into your hair, making your color last longer.
  • Washing with hard water. Hard water contains minerals that can affect your hair color.
  • Washing with hot water versus cool water. Hot water opens the hair cuticles, and cool water keeps them sealed.
  • Sun exposure. UV rays can alter colors.
  • Frequent use of heat stylers. Hair dryers, straighteners, and curling irons can damage the hair follicle and expedite fading.
  • How damaged your hair is. Damaged hair has a harder time holding onto the color.
  • Your original hair color. Darker colors may show through sooner than lighter colors.

There are so many factors that may influence how quickly your hair fades, which is why it’s impossible to determine exactly how long your style will last. On average, scheduling a touch-up every six to eight weeks will keep your hair looking vibrant.

How to Prevent Permanent Hair Dye From Fading

There are many things you can do to extend the life of your hair color. Some of these include:

  • Reduce how often you wash your hair. Try to drop down to once or twice a week if possible, filling the gaps with dry shampoo. The less you wash your hair, the fewer chances your hair has to lose color.
  • Use a color-safe shampoo. These shampoos are formulated to be as gentle as possible on colored hair.
  • Use a color-depositing shampoo. This is a great way to touch up your hair or fill the gaps between your next appointment.
  • Avoid shampoos with sulfates. Sulfates are cleansers that don’t play well with hair dye.
  • Use cool water on your hair instead of hot. There’s a reason your stylist rinses your hair with cool water: cool water helps seal and smooth your hair cuticle, reducing color loss.
  • Get a water softener. The minerals in hard water can cause your hair to change color. You can even buy water softeners just for your showerhead!
  • Avoid sun exposure. Wear a hat outside or invest in a product that will protect your hair from UV rays.
  • Reduce heat styling. You may find yourself doing this already if you’re washing your hair less often. Skipping the blow dryer or straightener when possible will keep your hair cuticles from becoming damaged.
  • Avoid brushing your hair while it’s wet. This can lead to breakage and damage.
  • Avoid chlorine. Chlorine is a chemical that can interfere with your hair color. If you plan to go swimming, wear a swim cap or try to keep your head above the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Layflat image with orange dye in a yellow bowl for a piece on does permanent hair dye fade

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Let’s address some of the most commonly asked questions regarding permanent hair color.

Does coloring your hair cause damage?

Dying your hair requires a chemical reaction to take place inside the hair shaft. This may lead to damage, including changing the structure of the hair cuticle, breaking down the protein in the hair, and loss of hair lipids.

Is permanent hair color more damaging than semi-permanent hair color?

Permanent hair color penetrates the hair shaft, while semi-permanent hair color does not. As a result, permanent hair color is more likely to damage your hair than semi-permanent hair color.

What unnatural colors last longest?

Reds and greens tend to take the longest to fade. However, many things, including the brand of dye used, can affect how fast your hair fades.

Are there natural ways to dye my hair?

There are a lot of natural ingredients you can use to dye your hair, and many of them you may have in your kitchen cabinets already. Popular natural ingredients used to dye hair include beet juice, carrot juice, lemon juice, coffee, chamomile tea, sage, and henna.

How often can I dye my hair?

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t completely dye your entire head of hair more often than every eight weeks. However, there’s no hard and fast rule for things like touch-ups and highlights.

So, Does Permanent Hair Color Fade?

Permanent hair color will fade over time, but it lasts the longest of hair color options. Permanent hair color usually lasts six to eight weeks before needing a touch-up, although the exact amount of time depends on many factors such as how often you shampoo and what products you use. Happy coloring!