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What Is Demi-Permanent Hair Color? | & When to Use It

Considering using demi-permanent hair color but not sure where to start? Don’t worry — you’re in the right place. We’ll show you what it is, when to use it, and how to maximize the results of your treatment.

Considering Demi-Permanent Hair Color?

What is demi-permanent hair color featured image with a box of this product

Time for a fresh color? You might be considering trying demi permanent hair color for the first time. Maybe you’re just curious about what makes demi permanent dye different from permanent and semi permanent. 

Demi permanent dye is the top choice for many women. It doesn’t last as long as permanent dye, but outlasts semi permanent and temporary color. It’s not as damaging or harsh on hair as stronger dyes but it still offers excellent coverage, dimension, and depth. 

We’re going to take a close-up look at demi permanent hair color to answer all your questions about this not-quite-permanent dye. In this guide, you’ll find out:

  • What demi permanent hair color is
  • How it’s different from permanent and semi permanent color
  • How long demi permanent color lasts
  • When to use demi permanent color
  • Benefits of using demi permanent dye
  • Answers to all your demi permanent FAQs

Is demi permanent hair color the right choice for your next dye job? Or are you better off opting for permanent, semi permanent, or temporary color instead? Let’s dive deep into demi permanent dye to find out! 

What Is Demi Permanent Hair Color?

Demi permanent hair color is a non-permanent type of hair dye. It doesn’t contain ammonia, but it still has some staying power because it’s mixed with a mild 10-volume developer.

This low-volume peroxide developer allows the dye to partially penetrate the hair for color that lasts anywhere from 20-24 shampoos before washing out completely. Demi permanent color is always used to deposit, not lift, hair color due to the gentler nature of this type of dye.

When you use demi permanent dye, you must choose a color that is either the same depth (color level) as your current hair color or one that is darker. You can’t go lighter with a demi permanent dye. 

That’s because a low-volume developer (10-volume) is used with the ammonia-free demi permanent dye. The developer’s job here is to help open the cuticle (the outside layer of hair) enough to let the hair dye actually penetrate the hair shaft and not just sit on top.

The gentle 10-volume developer used with demi permanent color opens the cuticle layer just enough to let the hair dye partially penetrate each strand.

It’s not enough to allow the dye to fully penetrate (which would make the hair color permanent). This is part of what makes demi permanent color less harsh and damaging on hair than other types of dye that contain ammonia and use higher-volume developers.

It’s also why demi permanent color is the top choice for women and men who want to experiment with different hair colors without committing to a new shade permanently! 

Demi permanent hair color is often confused with semi permanent and permanent dyes. Let’s take a look at how these different types of hair dye are different and what they have in common. 

Demi Permanent vs. Semi Permanent Color

  • Semi permanent doesn’t last as long as demi permanent dye
  • Both are ammonia-free and used to deposit color
  • Neither can lift hair color

They sound an awful lot alike, but what’s the difference between demi and semi permanent hair color? 

Semi permanent hair color (sometimes called a stain, gloss, or toner) is even less permanent than demi permanent dye. It sticks around longer than true temporary hair color, but not as long as demi permanent color.

Like demi permanent, it does not contain ammonia and can only be used to deposit – not lift – hair color. Semi permanent color is usually not mixed with a developer at all, while demi permanent color needs a 10-volume developer to attach securely to strands.

If developer is used with semi permanent color, experts recommend using a weaker developer like 5-volume (1.5% peroxide). Semi permanent dye is used to tone, add shine and depth to existing hair color, help blend grays, or touch up roots.

Demi permanent color can be used in the same way, but it lasts longer. Semi permanent color lasts through 8-10 shampoos before washing out completely. Demi permanent color lasts up to 24 shampoos before washing out completely. 

Demi Permanent vs. Permanent Color

  • Permanent color lasts indefinitely, but demi lasts 20-24 shampoos
  • Permanent color contains ammonia, while demi permanent is ammonia-free
  • Permanent color is much more damaging to hair than demi permanent

Demi permanent color is very different from permanent hair color. While demi permanent hair color contains no harsh ammonia, permanent color does.

Demi permanent dye is mixed with a mild 10-volume developer (3% peroxide), but permanent color must be mixed with harsher 20-, 30-, or 40-volume developers to allow the dye to deeply penetrate the hair. 

Permanent hair color is a lot more damaging on hair than demi permanent thanks to the ammonia in the dye and the higher-volume developers used with it. 

The alkaline ammonia in permanent hair dye raises the hair’s pH so high that it forces the outside layer (the cuticle) to swell up and open. This is helpful if you want long-lasting dye, but it’s undeniably hard on strands. 

The developers used with permanent color – 20, 30, or 40-volume – contain a lot more peroxide than the 10-volume developer used with demi permanent dye.

Higher-volume developers force the cuticle layer to open up and allow the dye molecules to penetrate deep into the hair. The permanent color process is damaging, even for healthy, virgin hair.

But it does ensure that the dye doesn’t wash out with shampoo or fade as much over time. That’s why demi permanent only lasts 20-24 shampoos, while permanent color lasts indefinitely. This doesn’t mean permanent color is maintenance-free, though.

Root touch ups become necessary after 6-8 weeks and the color is prone to fading in intensity over time. This means regular touch ups are needed to keep permanent hair color looking fresh.  

When to Use Demi Permanent Hair Color

For a piece on what is Demi-Permanent Hair Color, a woman smiling as she gets her hair dyed by a stylist

Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Now that you know the differences between demi permanent, semi permanent, and permanent hair color, let’s talk about when demi permanent is the best option to use. 

You can use demi permanent color for dimensional all-over color, to enhance or refresh existing color, blend grays, tone highlights, touch-up roots, or tint your hair temporarily.

When in doubt, reach for demi permanent color over permanent or semi permanent because it’s the least damaging option with enough staying power to make it worth your time. 

All-Over Color

Demi permanent dye is great for all-over color as long as you want to stay at the same color level or go a little darker. Since demi permanent dye is milder and less damaging on hair than permanent dye, even damaged hair can handle being processed with demi permanent color. 

Opt for a color that is the same level or slightly darker than your current color for the best results. For example, if you currently have level 6 (dark blonde) hair, you’d need to choose another level 6 color or a color that’s slightly darker (level 5 or level 4). 

You don’t want to go too dark with a demi permanent color because it doesn’t offer great coverage. If you’re planning to go 3 or more shades darker, you’ll need to use permanent hair color. 

Gray Blending

Demi permanent color provides moderate coverage, so it’s great for blending – not covering – gray hair. Gray blending is used to help camouflage and blend sporadic gray color into the rest of your hair.

Demi permanent color works best to blend grays if you have 25% or less gray hair. 

Just enough dye attaches to gray strands to make them look like blended highlights, but it won’t fully cover grays. If you want full gray coverage, you’ll need to opt for permanent hair color instead.

Read Next: How to Cover Gray Hair Between Salon Visits

Enhancing Natural Color

Nervous about undergoing a major color change? Your natural color can get a quick update with the help of demi permanent color. The liquid form of demi permanent color can be custom-mixed to meet your needs.

So you can make it as sheer or opaque as you’d like. For enhancing natural color, demi permanent color acts as a sheer color gloss that makes your natural color look richer, more dimensional, and extra pigmented. 

Refreshing Permanent Color

If you have permanent color on your hair that’s faded over time, demi permanent color is the perfect solution to help refresh it and give it that fresh-from-the-salon look again.

Permanent color lasts for a long time – until you cut the colored portions out of your hair, really – and it’s definitely prone to fading considerably over time. 

With demi permanent color, you can keep your permanent hair color looking fresh and bold without putting your hair through the damaging permanent color process again. 

Toning Highlights and Bleached Hair

Highlights and bleach-lightened hair often need to be toned with a semi or demi permanent color to achieve the shade you want after lifting the hair.

Bleaching often exposes underlying warm tones in the hair (read: brassiness) and may leave your hair or highlights looking a little yellow or orange until you tone. Demi permanent is great for toning highlights.

In fact, we like it better than semi permanent toner because the effects last longer. Since demi permanent color won’t lift your hair color, it’s safe to use after a harsh process like bleaching. 

Applying demi permanent color to bleached or highlighted hair will help you achieve the specific shade you want without the brassy warmth. And the results last through 20-24 shampoos, while traditional toners (semi permanent) only last 8-10 shampoos.  

Root Touch-Ups

Demi permanent color is perfect for root touch-ups when you’re growing out permanent hair color. Permanent hair color sticks around indefinitely, but your natural root color will grow in over time. 

As your natural roots start peeking through, a quick application of demi-permanent dye in a similar shade will help you hide those overgrown roots and keep your color looking fresh. 

We love using demi permanent dye to touch up roots instead of reaching for permanent color. The roots are the most recent growth on your scalp and they are the least damaged part of your hair.

By using demi instead of permanent, you protect this fragile new hair growth and get the root camouflage you want without the damage of permanent hair dye.  

Tinting Hair

Blonde, but thinking about experimenting with a fun, vivid tint? Do it without committing to the new color when you use demi permanent dye. Demi permanent color is perfect for tinting hair to give your existing color a new look. 

Lighter hair colors can be tinted with just about any color or shade – the lighter your hair is, the better the demi permanent tint will show up.

You can tint darker hair, but the results won’t be as obvious. It’s great for creating a subtle tint in dark strands that appears more vibrant when the light hits it! 

If you’ve always wondered how you’d look with vivid, quirky purple hair or seductive red hair, tinting with demi permanent dye is the best, no-commitment way to find out. 

Less Damaging Color Alternative

Use demi permanent color anytime you want to color, tint, or tone your hair without causing permanent damage. Demi permanent color is ammonia-free and mixed with a mild, 10-volume developer that won’t harm your hair on a cellular level.

It partially penetrates your strands to help color stick around for 1-2 months (20-24 washes). If you were to choose permanent hair color instead, you’d need a root touch-up every 6-8 weeks and the process would be damaging to your hair every single time.

If you choose demi permanent color instead, those harsh root touch-up visits transform into bi-monthly color refresh sessions that are much less damaging on hair.

Another bonus if you have curly hair: Demi permanent dye won’t mess up your curl pattern by damaging your hair like permanent hair color can. When you get your hair dyed (or do it yourself), you will need to choose from a few different types of dye.

The length of time you’d like to have the new color should be your main deciding factor. But make sure to also consider the overall health and integrity of your hair. If you’re unsure which type of hair dye to use, ask for your stylist’s recommendation. 

Demi Permanent Hair Color FAQs

Woman using demi-permanent hair color on her roots


We’ve covered the basics about demi permanent hair color. Now, let’s dive a little deeper by answering some of your most burning questions about this type of hair dye. 

Will demi permanent color wash out completely?

Demi permanent color should completely wash out without staining because it doesn’t fully penetrate the hair. The ammonia-free formula and mild 10-volume developer used with demi dyes means the color can’t physically stay put for more than 20-24 shampoos. 

If you have very light blonde hair that is porous and use a darker demi permanent dye, there is a chance you may experience some light staining on your hair after the dye washes out.

Clarifying with alkaline or acidic shampoos or ingredients (like baking soda, lemon juice, or vinegar) can help bust any remaining staining from your strands. 

Will my hair go back to normal after demi permanent dye?

Demi permanent hair color won’t permanently color or change the structure of your hair, so your hair will go back to its normal color after 20-24 washes.

The demi permanent dye doesn’t remove or change your natural color (base) at all, so everything will go back to normal after the dye washes out.  

Is demi permanent better than permanent color?

It depends on what you’re using it for. If you want a less damaging, gentler option for coloring, tinting, toning, or blending grays in your hair, demi permanent color is better than permanent color.

It won’t harm or damage your hair like permanent color does and the results last a month or two (or however long it takes you to get through 24 shampoos). 

If you want long-lasting color (with the tradeoff of more damage to your hair), permanent is better than demi permanent color because it lasts indefinitely. You will still need to get your roots touched up every 6-8 weeks, but the color won’t wash out like demi permanent color. 

How long does it take for demi permanent color to fade?

Demi permanent hair color should look vibrant and fresh for the first few weeks. It will fade after about a month if you’re washing your hair daily. It will fade after about 2 months if you wash your hair less often, or about 3 times per week. 

If you want your demi permanent color to stick around longer, wash your hair less often and use a sulfate-free shampoo.

The great thing about demi permanent color as it fades? It blends into your natural color and doesn’t look as obvious as faded or grown-out permanent color. 

Does demi permanent color cover gray hair?

Demi permanent hair color offers moderate gray coverage, but you can only get full gray coverage from permanent hair color. Demi permanent color is used for gray blending – helping sporadic (25% or less) gray hair blend into the rest of your color.

Demi dyes coat gray hairs to give them a highlighted look that camouflages the iridescent gray tint. 

If you have very fine or damaged, porous hair, demi permanent color may be able to fully cover your grays. The effects last 20-24 shampoos, so it won’t be permanent. 

How much does a demi-permanent color cost?

Demi permanent hair color generally costs the same as permanent or semi permanent hair color. The average, mid-range salon charges $50 to $70 for demi permanent color. But the amount you’ll pay depends on a few factors. 

Will you choose to DIY or get it done by a salon professional? It’s cheaper at home (anywhere from $7 to as much as $40), but it’s also more challenging and easy to mess up. How much coverage do you need?

Toning a few highlights or touching up your roots uses less product than an all-over color, so you’ll be charged differently based on the type of service you’re getting. Generally, touch-ups and toning are much cheaper than full single-process colors. 

How often will you need to recolor? If you’re toning or doing an all-over color, this type of dye lasts up to 24 shampoos so it isn’t permanent. Consider how often you’ll need to recolor for maintenance and work that into your cost, too. 

Things to Consider

Let’s recap. Demi permanent hair color is one of the least-damaging ways to change your hair color, try a new tint, blend grays, or just enhance your natural or faded permanent color.

This type of hair dye is much gentler on hair than permanent dye because it is ammonia-free and mixed with a mild 10-volume developer to deposit color onto your strands. 

It’s ideal for many uses, but there are better options out there if you’re looking for long-lasting hair color. Take a look at a few final things to consider before you decide on demi permanent dye. 

  • Moderate coverage: Demi dyes provide moderate, not full coverage of your existing hair color base. If you’re hoping to use it to completely cover grays or for a dramatic color change, permanent hair color is a better option. 
  • The gentler, less-damaging option: If damage is your main concern, demi permanent color is your best bet. This type of dye lasts long enough to give you up to 2 months of color without messing with your hair’s pH, curl pattern, or porosity like permanent color does. 
  • Know the difference between different types of dyes: Demi permanent, semi permanent, and permanent dyes are all quite different and it’s essential to know the difference. You don’t want to ask for or buy the wrong one! Remember: Semi is the most temporary (8-10 shampoos), demi lasts longer (20-24 shampoos), and permanent lasts indefinitely. 
  • Consider the maintenance: Since demi permanent color lasts 20-24 shampoos, if you like the results, you’ll be booking appointments every 2 months or so to keep it up. If you’re just experimenting with new colors, toners, or tints, it’s great that demi dyes fade almost imperceptibly. They blend in with your natural hair color as they fade to make maintenance less of a pressing matter. 
  • Make it last longer: If you want your demi permanent hair color to last as long as possible, there are a few things you can do. Wash your hair less often (2-3 times a week is a good plan) and use a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid stripping the dye off too quickly. Avoid chlorine, excessive UV exposure, and scalding hot showers (heat strips dye faster). Baby your hair as much as you can to preserve your demi permanent color! 

Demi permanent hair color is ideal if you’re looking for a less-damaging way to color, tone, or tint your hair. It’s gentle enough to use on damaged or porous hair that you don’t want to subject to a harsh permanent hair color.

And it offers the flexibility you need if you’re worried about committing to a new color. So – is demi permanent is the right choice for your next mini-makeover? We think you’ll love how this mild dye transforms the color of your strands without harming your hair! 

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