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How Long Does Semi-Permanent Hair Last? | Longer Than You Think

Sometimes you want to change your look without commitment—that’s where semi-permanent hair color comes in. But how long does semi-permanent hair color last? Read on to learn the answer to this and more below.

What Is Semi-Permanent Hair Color?

Semi-permanent hair color has a gentler formula than most permanent dyes and usually lasts for 6-12 washes. However, the time varies based on your hair porosity, natural color, and dye used.

People use semi-permanent hair dye to try a new color without committing. It has no ammonia or hydrogen peroxide, meaning it won’t open your hair shaft. Semi-permanent hair dye features gloss that coats the hair with a darker color that’ll eventually wash out.

Here are some of the advantages of using semi-permanent hair color:

  • You don’t have to mix the solution and can reuse the excess
  • It darkens your hair color, usually in a natural way
  • You can retain your natural hair color
  • It damages the hair less than permanent dyes and adds a beautiful shine
  • People with sensitive scalps can use semi-permanent color
  • Depending on how often you wash your hair, it can last between one and two months

Types of Hair Color and Their Longevity

Graphic showing the types of hair dye and their average longevity

There are several types of hair color that you can use, each with different lifespans.


Permanent hair dye is the longest-lasting option. It has ammonia in the coloring agent that is then mixed with a developer to activate it. Developers feature hydrogen peroxide, meaning you can permanently dye your hair a lighter or darker color.

The ammonia opens your hair cuticles and works with the developer to penetrate the cortex. Since it alters your hair structure, it leads to a long-lasting change.

Depending on your hair’s resistance to chemical treatments, your natural hair color, and desired hair color, you can select a different volume (strength) of developer to achieve the results you want. For example, higher volumes remove more melanin for greater lift. This lends permanent color a great deal of customization, making it a favorite go-to of stylists.

As the name suggests, permanent hair dye lasts forever (or until your hair grows). It doesn’t fade overmuch or wash out. It can change hues in the sun, so you may need to reapply. However, it doesn’t change substantially once applied.

Depending on your speed of hair growth, you may need to reapply permanent hair dye every six to eight weeks to conceal your roots. This dye type works the best on gray hair, as it makes each strand look the same, regardless of its natural color.


Demi-permanent hair dye does not have ammonia, but the developer still has hydrogen peroxide in a smaller quantity. The alkaline agent used in place of ammonia could be sodium carbonate or ethanolamine.

These coloring agents remove less melanin than ammonia, so you can’t dye your hair a lighter color. However, they do penetrate the outer cuticle, making demi-permanent dye last longer. Demi-permanent dyes cause less damage than permanent ones because they wash out.

Using a demi-permanent dye results in a more natural-looking color because it coats your natural shade in a subtle way, resulting in multi-faceted color featuring lowlights and highlights. These dyes do come out, but it takes 20-28 shampoos.

You may want to use demi-permanent dye if you like to change your color frequently and know what looks good. You reapply the dye when you want to refresh your color.


Semi-permanent hair dye uses lightweight compounds that affect the hair shaft’s cuticle. Since it stays on the surface layers of the strand, it does not last long. As with demi-permanent dyes, the final color depends on your natural shade and hair porosity.

Semi-permanent color lasts up to 12 washes. Since it merely coats the surface of the hair, it cannot lighten your hair or cover grays. But its temporary nature has a great upside — it allows you to try out colors you may be unsure about with zero commitment.

With semi-permanent color, some colors may last longer than others, such as blue and black. The type of color you select also matters. A natural kind of semi-permanent dye is henna. It washes out in a few weeks and adds subtle color to your strands.


The fastest fading color is temporary hair dye. This coloring comes in shampoos, conditioners, sprays, rinses, foams, and gels. Usually, it has an unnatural look.

Temporary dye does not penetrate the cuticle and lies on the surface until you wash. Most of the time, a temporary dye will wash out in one shampoo. However, dry hair may hold onto the color longer.

How to Make Semi-Permanent Hair Color Last Longer

Graphic showing the 4 ways to make semi-permanent hair color last longer

If you want to extend the longevity of your semi-permanent hair color, try following these tips.

Optimize the Dyeing Process

You can increase your hair porosity by washing your hair and skipping the conditioner. It’ll trap more pigment from the semi-permanent dye. Make sure you dry it completely before coloring it.

Once you apply the color, add some heat with a blow dryer or go into the hot sun. This step helps with developing the color throughout your hair. When it’s time to wash out, use cold water to rinse out the dye.

Skip Washing and Use Dry Shampoo

We aren’t suggesting that you forgo shampoo entirely. However, you’ll want to shampoo your hair only one to two times a week to keep the color longer. To avoid greasiness, try using a dry shampoo to reduce oil and moisture on your scalp.

Some brands sell tinted dry shampoos that can help you add some color back as the dye fades. Keep up your conditioning routine to maintain the softness of your hair without stripping out the color.

Try a Color-Safe Shampoo and Conditioner

Color-depositing shampoos and conditioners will add more color back to your hair each time you wash it, helping you retain the dye. These products keep your hair vibrant and conceal the fading semi-permanent dye. 

If you have any leftover dye, you can add some to your regular shampoo and conditioner to deposit color back as you wash. Adding it to a moisturizing product will help reverse the drying effects.

Avoid Damaging Products and Situations

Color-depositing products can get costly, but you can readily find affordable color-safe shampoos and conditioners. Look for one without sulfates to maintain your natural oils. Also, try to use heated tools less frequently. Blow drying, flat ironing, and curling all fade your color. Make sure you use a heat protectant and try to find heatless styling methods.

A day at the pool sounds nice, but the chlorine and sunshine can strip out your dye. You can minimize damage by using a protecting hair serum, wearing a hat, or putting on a swim cap.

Things to Consider

If you want to change your hair color, keep a few things in mind:

  • If you wish to cover a large amount of gray hair, consider using a permanent dye
  • For a longer-lasting yet temporary change, you can use demi-permanent coloring
  • If you like to experiment with your color every few weeks, try a semi-permanent dye
  • For costume parties or cosplay, stick to a temporary dye that you wash out the next day

Frequently Asked Questions

How long semi-permanent hair color lasts put into a graphic

Here are some common questions concerning semi-permanent hair dye.

Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Wash Out Completely?

Since semi-permanent dye stays on the surface of your hair, it should wash out completely within a few weeks.

Is Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Damaging?

Semi-permanent dye does not have ammonia or hydrogen peroxide, making it less damaging. These dyes don’t open your hair shaft, leaving your natural pigmentation intact. However, some dyes still contain p-phenylenediamine (PPD), a suspected carcinogen. Potential side effects include:

  • Acute dermatitis
  • Allergic contact sensitization
  • Weight depression
  • Facial edema

Most people don’t have negative reactions to PPD, but you should stay aware of its potential effects.

Why Is My Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Not Washing Out?

Some brands and colors, such as Splat and Clairol Natural Instincts, are listed as semi-permanent but have a more demi-permanent effect. You may be stuck with that color for 28 washes.

Also, high porosity hair that is dry or damaged will absorb more pigment and retain the color longer. Try using a clarifying sulfate shampoo or a color remover like Color Oops to counteract the dye.

So, What Is Semi-Permanent Hair?

Semi-permanent hair dye is a way to change your hair color for a few weeks. So what’s stopping you? Try out a semi-permanent hair dye today. If you like the results, you can choose a permanent dye. If not, you can pretend it never happened after a few short shampoo sessions.

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