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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 we never accept free products from manufacturers. 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 
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Why trust BestReviews?
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 we never accept free products from manufacturers. 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 we never accept free products from manufacturers. 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 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best semi-permanent hair color

Last Updated April 2020

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.

Regardless of what you’re searching for, our buying guide has everything you need to know when shopping for semi-permanent hair color. You’ll find our picks for the five best semi-permanent dyes on the market in the matrix above.

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.

Long-lasting and bold

DPHUE’s semi-permanent hair color leaves bold results with a glossy finish. DPHUE stays brighter than lots of other dyes on the market. The pump-top bottle means it’s easy to apply with less mess or use for regular touch-ups. Buyers say this semi-permanent hair color lasts even longer than advertised, making DPHUE a solid choice for those with long, thick 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.

Accessories

Color-safe shampoos: Biolage Colorlast Shampoo for Color-Treated HairColor-treated hair requires shampoo that won’t strip its color. Biolage’s Colorlast Shampoo is a top choice. The low pH will keep your hair color vibrant. Its scent is subtle, and the formula is gentle enough to use regularly without drying hair. Buyers love the bounce and shine they notice after using this shampoo.


Color-safe conditioners: Biolage Colorlast Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair
Lock in moisture with a color-safe conditioner. Luckily, Biolage sells a Colorlast Conditioner to pair with the shampoo. Buyers say this conditioner works wonderfully on dyed hair as well as dry or damaged hair. It also has a pleasant, lingering scent.

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
EXPERT TIP

To ensure even distribution of semi-permanent hair color, part your hair in four parts: two in front of the ears and two in the back.


Staff  | BestReviews

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.

Tried-and-true color

There’s a reason why Clairol is a trusted name in haircare. Clairol has a long history of making reliable hair dyes, and this one is no exception. The bottle itself has a handy applicator tip, though you’ll still want to supply your own gloves and towels to minimize any mess. This semi-permanent dye is gentle on hair and suitable for delicate strands. It’s the first choice of many buyers for blending grays.

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.

Other products we considered

The IROIRO Premium Natural Semi-Permanent Hair Color is 100% cruelty-free and includes organic coconut oil, yuzu berry fragrance, and natural preservatives. As a bonus, its accompanying pouch is eco-friendly. The natural ingredients, lack of harsh chemicals, and fun color range means this semi-permanent hair color is a favorite among teens. Note that the color is pretty bright for a semi-permanent dye. Some buyers say the color remains vibrant even after 10 washes.

The Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color is another cruelty-free product. This semi-permanent dye includes extra conditioning agents to leave hair soft and manageable. Though the smell is somewhat strong, sensitive buyers don’t report any allergic reactions. The color is long-lasting and won’t bleed during the application and rinsing process. Unfortunately, results aren’t as visible on dark hair.

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.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Ola
    Ola
    Writer

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