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Best Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Updated November 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Clairol Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Color
Clairol
Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Color
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Gentle Color
Bottom Line

A product that provides shiny, radiant color with a gentle formula that won’t strip your hair.

Pros

Leaves hair looking healthy and shiny with color that lasts 28 washes. 80 percent naturally derived ingredients and no ammonia or added parabens. Available in a variety of lovely, natural-looking shades.

Cons

Many longtime users are disappointed with the new formula.

Best Bang for the Buck
WELLA Color Charm Demi-Permanent Hair Color
WELLA
Color Charm Demi-Permanent Hair Color
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Tones & Brightens
Bottom Line

This versatile hair color works to cover up grey hairs, tone, and add an enhanced color and shine to your locks.

Pros

Earns rave reviews from repeat customers for adding richness to faded color and leaving hair feeling silky soft. Comes in vivid neutral, ash, gold, warm, and red shades. Easy-to-use bottle applicator with instructions. Each tube contains enough product for two applications.

Cons

Users report some colors turn out much darker than expected.

John Frieda Luminous Colour Glaze
John Frieda
Luminous Colour Glaze
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Boosts Color
Bottom Line

An in-between color enhancer that delivers a natural-looking result. Also conditions hair, and leaves it with a high-shine finish.

Pros

Works by improving your natural or color-treated hair by adding versatile, temporary color. Great for touching up hair in between hair coloring. Easy to use, and makes hair look glossy. Produces results in as few as 3 minutes, and can be used daily.

Cons

Color doesn't last as long as some other products we considered, yet it can stain bathroom fixtures. Scent is strong and not very appealing.

Keracolor Color + Clenditioner
Keracolor
Color + Clenditioner
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Triple Action
Bottom Line

This unique product cleanses, conditions, and infuses hair with color all at once.

Pros

Non-lather formula cleanses and conditions while instantly infusing color into hair each wash. Many colorful, vibrant tones available. Great way to boost color and maintain vibrancy between salon visits.

Cons

Effects are much more subtle on dark hair.

Clairol Professional Beautiful Semi-Perm Hair Color
Clairol
Professional Beautiful Semi-Perm Hair Color
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Intense Coverage
Bottom Line

This special formula made with advanced O2 technology delivers twice the gray coverage for twice as long.

Pros

Does a great job of covering up grey hairs and creating natural-looking highlights. Is free from ammonia and peroxide. Leaves hair feeling moisturized. Available in 9 shades. Fades evenly after 8 to 12 washes, and leaves no visible roots.

Cons

Some shades may not turn out exactly as depicted.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best semi-permanent hair color

Whether you’re hoping to update your appearance, cover up gray hair, or just want to experiment with a fun hue, semi-permanent hair color is a great place to start. First-time hair colorists may find a permanent dye daunting, but semi-permanent hair color offers a happy medium. Semi-permanent hair color lasts between eight and 12 shampoos and is easy to apply at home.

Before you go ahead and add a product to your cart, you should consider a few factors. What is your hair texture? Certain dyes are more drying for some hair types. You’ll also want to think about the longevity of the color and the fidelity of the results, meaning how well the end result will match what’s on the box. All the dyes we recommend are meant to be used at home, though some have a messier application process than others.

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Semi-permanent hair color is a safer bet for previously permed or brittle hair since it doesn’t include the harsh chemicals of permanent hair color. If your hair is extremely damaged, consult a hair professional before using an at-home kit.

Key considerations

Hair color and texture

Lighter-haired folks who want to go darker are great candidates for semi-permanent hair color. You won’t achieve lighter locks with semi-permanent dye. What semi-permanent hair color does is add a gentle tint to your natural hair color, like a subtle brown or red tinge. Consider the undertones of your natural hair color and your skin to find a complementary shade of semi-permanent dye.

Hair that’s coarse, thick, or curly is extremely porous, meaning it will absorb color quickly, giving hair a cooler undertone. The opposite is true for thin, straight hair, which absorbs dye slowly, developing warmer undertones in the process. If your hair is curly, opt for a color that’s somewhat warmer than your natural tresses. Fine-haired folks should opt for a shade that’s slightly cooler than their natural hair.

Longevity

The average semi-permanent hair color lasts six weeks or more, depending on how often you shampoo. Because semi-permanent dyes don’t contain bleach or ammonia, they only temporarily change hair color. They’re quite useful for those with color-damaged hair, but you’ll need to reapply the product frequently. Avoid any semi-permanent hair color that lasts less than six weeks as frequent reapplication can damage hair.

Features

Ease of application

All semi-permanent hair color is packaged with instructions. Ideally, a box kit should include gloves, dye, and an applicator brush. Unlike permanent hair color, semi-permanent dye does not need to be mixed. A tube of hair color with a pointed applicator tip makes the process less messy. Some semi-permanent dyes are packaged in simple pump-top bottles, so you’ll need to supply your own gloves and brush.

Paraben- and sulfate-free

Sulfates have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Sulfates are used in haircare products to create suds, which can give the impression of cleaner hair. But this has its drawbacks as the extra suds can dry and irritate skin and hair, especially color-treated hair. There aren’t any studies that directly link sulfates to cancer or other health conditions. If you choose to avoid parabens and sulfates in your haircare products, look for semi-permanent hair color that is paraben- and sulfate-free.

"Miss your natural color? Just wash your hair more frequently to fade the semi-permanent hair color."
STAFF
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Semi-permanent hair color prices

At-home hair colorists have quite a range to choose from. Expect to pay anywhere from $8 to $40 for semi-permanent hair color. As with most beauty products, price does tend to dictate quality.

Inexpensive

Semi-permanent dyes under $10 usually have no guarantee of being paraben- and sulfate-free. You may also have to worry about how true the color will be compared to what’s on the box. While cost-effective, these dyes usually fade faster than more expensive semi-permanent hair color.

Mid-range

The sweet spot for semi-permanent hair color is $10 to $25. A number of products in this price range are salon-quality. You’ll find paraben- and sulfate-free products, too. Some semi-permanent dyes in this price range include ingredients like essential oils, herbs, and vitamins for extra hydration.

Expensive

Semi-permanent hair color that is above $25 is largely manufactured by salon brands. Many of these products include deep-conditioning components to combat the dye’s tendency to dry out hair.

Expert Tip
If your hair is damaged, follow the shorter leave-in time that’s indicated on the semi-permanent hair color’s packaging.
STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Can’t decide between two shades of semi-permanent hair color? When in doubt, go with the lighter color. It’ll be much easier to color-correct if necessary.
  • After applying semi-permanent hair dye, wait 48 hours before you shampoo so that the pigment can soak in. Once it’s time to shower, avoid hot water, which opens hair cuticles and can release the dye, and use lukewarm water instead.
  • Another way to lengthen the staying power of your semi-permanent hair color is to air dry. Excessive heat will damage hair and fade the color quicker.
  • When styling color-treated hair with a curling wand or flat iron, always use a heat protectant.
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If you don’t have a brush, you can apply semi-permanent hair color with your gloved fingers instead. Be sure not to neglect your roots, though.

FAQ

Q. What’s the difference between permanent and semi-permanent hair color?

A. Permanent hair color provides full coverage and will change the structure of your hair. It requires an extra mixing step prior to use. Permanent dye lasts eight weeks or longer. Semi-permanent hair color, on the other hand, won’t change your hair structure and washes out after several shampoos.

Q. Will semi-permanent hair color bleed?

A. Color bleeding can happen with both permanent and semi-permanent hair color. You can combat this by giving your hair a final rinse with cold water when showering. Let the water run through the hair for several seconds before running your hands through, which can cause more color bleeding.

Q. Does semi-permanent hair dye stain clothing?

A. Yes, semi-permanent hair color will stain clothes. That’s why it’s important to use old towels and wear old clothes when coloring your hair. If you do stain fabric, soak the stain in detergent for 15 minutes and rinse. Then soak the garment or towel in diluted detergent overnight. You can also add a few spoons of hydrogen peroxide for extra stain-lifting power.

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