A fun way to express yourself is to change your hair color. You can go for a subtle color just to mix things up, or for something edgy and drastic with relative ease.
However, using a permanent dye can be a challenging process to get the right color, and you need to be ready to make the commitment not only to the color, but also the upkeep of it.
If you want to try a new color, but the thought of something so permanent sends you into panic, don’t write off dyeing your hair just yet!
An option for you is semi-permanent hair dye, which will give you gorgeous color without the long-term responsibility.
Semi-permanent hair dye is a gift from the hair color gods. It allows you to play around with cute fashion colors or experiment with a deep, bold new shade all without damaging your hair as much as permanent dye.
But using semi-permanent color is a double-edged sword.
While it’s gentler on your hair’s health and easy to apply without the help of a professional, it also fades much faster than permanent hair color.
Just weeks after coloring your hair, you’ll find your once brilliant hue fading into a dull, brassy tone.
You’ll need to find out how to make semi-permanent hair dye last longer.
Let me take you through these precautions one by one.
Table of Contents
What Is Semi-Permanent Dye?
Semi-permanent hair dye is a deposit-only dye, so it is a more gentle and user-friendly alternative to traditional permanent dyes.
Semi-permanent color usually only lasts about 6 to 8 washes, so most of it will be out of your hair within a few weeks, depending on your hair care routine.
This makes these dyes perfect for experimenting with hair colors and trying out different looks.
How Semi-Permanent Dye Differs From Permanent Dye
Permanent hair dyes use developer which usually contains ammonia or peroxide.
These chemicals oxidize and cause the pores on your hair follicles to open, so that the dye can be absorbed, or if you’re lightening; the pigment in your hair can also be dissolved.
This can lead to dry, brittle, rough strands.
Meanwhile, semi-permanent dyes are a lot less damaging to the hair.
Instead of forcing its way into your hair shaft, it merely coats and sits in the cuticle of your hair.
That way, the smoothness and hydration of your locks are preserved, leaving you with vividly colored hair that is still healthy, glossy, and nourished.
It does not use developer – meaning that it is more gentle on your hair, and it doesn’t have the ability to lighten your hair.
Instead, the color basically just sits on the outside of your hair follicles.
How Easily Does Semi-Permanent Dye Fade?
Because semi-permanent dye only deposits color molecules to the outermost layer of your hair, it’s super easy to wash off.
Sure, it’ll leave your hair in better condition compared to permanent dye, but the lifespan of your color won’t be as impressive.
As mentioned above, after washing your hair with shampoo 8-10 times, your color will start to fade.
Pastel colors like lilac or powder blue will fade the fastest because lighter colors don’t contain many pigments.
Darker colors, like black or deep violet, might not fade as quickly.
But at the end of the day, there’s no stopping semi-permanent color from fading over time – that’s just the way the colors were designed.
How To Choose The Right Dye And Color
Personally, I have used both professional hair dye and box dyes.
While box dyes are a less expensive option, I have found that the results are not consistent, it is harder to apply, and you just don’t get as nice of a color, as you would with professional dye.
You also have much more control when it comes to the results with professional dye because you are personally choosing and mixing the developer and color(s).
Since the semi-permanent dye is only depositing the color onto your hair, it will just cover your current hair color.
You will not be able to make your hair any lighter.
This means you will need to pick a color that is at your current lightness or go darker.
Without the oxidizing agents which cause permanent change, there is no way to make your hair lighter and have it wash out.
When it comes to choosing a color to try, a good place to start is identifying your skin tone.
The best way to do this is to stand in natural light.
Look at the veins on your inner wrist.
Blue-purple veins mean a cool skin tone.
Green-blue veins mean a warm skin tone, and if you have a mix or you cannot tell, then that signifies a neutral skin tone which is complimented by both warm and cool colors.
Application Of Semi-Permanent Hair Dye
Whether you choose to go with a box dye or decide on a professional semi-dye, you should follow the directions on the product.
This will ensure that you get the expected results and that the dye colors your hair consistently.
Start With Clean, Dry Hair
Unless your instructions state otherwise, you want to start with dry, washed hair that has not been conditioned.
Your head produces natural oils that help to protect your hair.
These oils can block the dye from fully covering the hair follicle.
So, unlike with processes that lighten your hair and you want that extra protection, your hair should be clean and dry before you apply the color so that it takes better.
Section Your Hair
To make it easier to work, it is a good idea to divide your hair into four sections.
Part down the middle of your head so you have one section on each side.
Then, for each side, start at the uppermost part of your head and part the section into two smaller sections and use clips to hold them in place.
From there, you can make smaller sections about ¼ of an inch to work with.
Please note that the dye will not lather, so you may need another box depending on your hair length and thickness.
I always find it easiest to start with the very back and bottom of your head.
That way you can just layer the dyed strands on top of each other.
If you decide to use a box dye, they usually come with everything you need.
Be sure to use gloves, as you really do not want hair dye to get all over your skin.
Usually, there is an application bottle included, and you just follow the directions, pour the dye in the bottle, and shake it to mix it.
To apply, take your first section in the back of your head and separate the first ¼” section at the very bottom.
Start at the root and squeeze a little dye right on the scalp and rub it into the roots.
Work the dye down toward the end.
Add a bit more dye to the section if needed to ensure all of it is thoroughly covered.
Keep sectioning off the first section and applying the dye.
Do the same thing for the other three sections.
For professional hair color, you will start at the bottom of the back section as well.
Take your first ¼” section.
You can either use a dye brush to apply the dye or use a gloved hand starting at the root and working your way down to the ends.
Work your way up your head until all of your hair is covered.
If you would like, you can also use foil to apply the dye.
The instructions will tell you how long to leave in the dye.
Usually around 35 minutes or so.
When rinsing out your dye use lukewarm water.
Hot water will loosen the dye’s bond.
Use a color care shampoo and gently wash and rinse until the water runs clear.
Condition and rinse.
It is recommended that you allow your hair to air dry, as heat can make the color fade faster.
How To Make Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Last Longer
Although the semi-permanent color is designed to fade out over time, there are things you can do to make it last a little longer.
Prep Your Hair The Right Way Before Coloring
Long-lasting color starts even before the dye touches your hair.
When you prep your hair the right way before you color it with semi-permanent dye, the higher your chances of getting it to last.
There are three key things to remember when prepping for your coloring day:
First, make sure to use a clarifying shampoo on your strands a day or two before coloring.
That way, all the product build-up, oil, and gunk in your strands are eliminated.
These can become barriers blocking the dye from being thoroughly deposited into your hair, so they need to be washed away.
The next thing to remember is to wash your hair with your usual shampoo right before the coloring process.
This final wash gets rid of the remaining dirt and grime in your strands and leaves them damp – the perfect state for semi-permanent color.
Lastly, skip the conditioner after washing your hair that last time.
Conditioner can create another barrier on your strands.
Make sure you do without it so that the color absorbs properly onto your locks.
Avoid Shampooing For Three Days After Coloring
After coloring and styling your hair, you should wait at least 72 hours before shampooing your hair.
That means no washing (or even wetting) your hair for the next three days.
This will give your hair cuticles enough time to close, allowing your color to settle within them.
If you shampoo your hair before the three-day mark, your cuticles will just expand and let the dye seep out.
Skipping shampoo helps “trap” the color in your strands.
The longer you go without your first hair wash after coloring with semi-permanent dye, the greater the longevity of your color’s vibrancy.
Hate the feeling of not using shampoo?
Try out dry shampoo to refresh your scalp between wash days!
Don’t Wash Hair Often Or With Sulfates
Semi-permanent hair dye washes out with each shampooing session.
You should refrain from washing your hair too often, to once or twice a week (or less) to maintain your color for longer.
When you wash your hair, use the pads of your fingers, and gently massage your head.
Too much scrubbing will make the color wash out sooner.
You should also be gentle when you towel dry your hair.
Being too rough can actually scrub out the color.
Washing your hair frequently is the biggest reason your color fades quickly.
That’s why some hair color companies measure how long their dye lasts in the number of “washes” instead of a timespan.
To prevent your hair color from fading prematurely, it would be wise to space out your wash days.
Don’t shampoo every single day.
Not only will this scrub away your color, but it can also strip the healthy moisture in your strands, leaving them dehydrated and straw-like in texture.
Washing your hair fewer times a week can be really hard if you have a naturally oily or greasy scalp.
However, you can always use dry shampoo to keep your hair looking clean until your next wash day.
And when you finally do shampoo your hair, always go for sulfate-free products.
Sulfates are harsh surfactants that strip your hair of color very quickly.
So, look for ones that are gentle in formulation and don’t contain sulfates.
Anything labeled “color-safe” shouldn’t have them on the ingredient list.
Don’t forget to follow up with a highly moisturizing conditioner!
Use A Color-Depositing Shampoo Or Conditioner
Another way to preserve your hair’s new color while in the shower is by adding even more color to it.
Don’t worry, I don’t mean you should dye your hair again.
You can use something a little more convenient, like a color-depositing shampoo or conditioner.
A color-depositing product adds a little more color to your hair at a time.
People usually use these shampoos and conditioners to try out a fun and light new color, but you can also use them to enhance the color you already have.
It makes your shade more brilliant and vibrant.
Just be sure to wear gloves when shampooing.
Try to use a color-depositing shampoo every other wash, as it can be a little drying.
Recommended Post: How To Use Color Depositing Conditioner
What’s great about color-depositing products is that they don’t damage the hair – like is the case with quite a number of products.
In fact, they nourish it even more when infused with moisturizing oils.
If you don’t want to splurge on a color-depositing conditioner, you can simply add a bit of your semi-permanent dye to your regular conditioner.
This puts back the color you may have lost when washing your hair with shampoo.
You can also use color-protecting dry shampoo – it will keep you from washing your hair frequently.
It also helps to control excess oil between washes.
You can also try out a color-depositing product like a temporary root concealer such as a touch-up spray.
Suggested Read: How To Dilute Semi-Permanent Hair Dye
Rinse With Cold Water Only
When you’re all done using your color-safe shampoo and conditioning products, you obviously need to rinse it all off.
But you can’t just use any kind of water – you must use the coldest water you can bear.
Hot showers feel amazing after an exhausting day, especially in the winter.
But if you expose your beautifully colored locks to high temperatures, it could force your cuticles open, speeding up the fading of your color.
On the flip side, cold water does the opposite.
It seals your cuticles, keeping them closed so that they lock in the color.
Showering with chilly water isn’t ideal for most people, but it’s an effective way to keep your bright, rich color intact.
Whether or not the sacrifice is worth it is up to you.
Protect Your Hair From The Sun
Aside from washing your hair, the sun is another huge culprit for fading semi-permanent hair color.
UV rays can damage your hair gradually, resulting in a faster fading process for your colored locks.
Try to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight and tanning beds.
Use a hair serum with UV ray protection.
So, when you plan on going outdoors during the day, make sure to protect your hair from the sun’s bright rays.
If you can, wear a hat, or scarf, or carry a parasol to shield your tresses from direct sunlight.
You can also use a leave-in conditioner to act as a protective barrier between the sun and your hair.
Just make sure whatever leave-in you use is formulated safe for color-treated hair.
Keep Heat-Styling To A Minimum
There’s nothing more exciting for a hair lover than waking up each day to style their hair with a flat iron or curling wand.
But if you have dyed locks, this might not be the best idea.
Heat can open up your cuticles and allow the color pigments to escape, making your hair duller in color.
Instead of blow-drying your hair with the highest temperature possible, see how you feel doing it with the cool-shot button instead.
This will dry your hair in a safe, less damaging way while also closing your cuticles to preserve your color.
Maybe it’s high time you try out some heatless hairstyles, such as trendy space buns or crimped hair care or overnight braids.
But if you really need to heat-style your hair – say, for a formal event – make sure you use a heat protectant beforehand.
Avoid Chlorinated Water
It would also be wise to avoid swimming in chlorinated water as this can affect your hair color.
Your color should last around 6-10 weeks or so, therefore, the dye will look the best during the first two weeks since the semi-permanent color is designed to fade out over time.
Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Wash Out Completely?
As the name suggests, semi-permanent hair dye is made to fade out after several shampooing sessions.
You may be wondering if you will go back to your completely natural hair – like it was before dyeing.
How close you get back to your natural color depends on a number of factors:
How Healthy Your Hair Is
Healthy hair is less porous, so the color will more easily wash out, than from damaged hair that is more porous and could have more breakage.
The dye will take to hair differently depending on whether the hair has been previously processed or not.
Your Hair Texture And Brand Of Hair Dye
Some brands are made to last as long as possible.
Others make it easier to fade out the color.
Decide what your goal is with your hair and do your research.
Certain brands and products work better with certain hair types.
Thicker hair will generally fade faster than fine hair.
How Close The Dye Is To Your Natural Hair Color
I used a semi-permanent dye to change my hair from its natural, unprocessed strawberry blonde color to blue-black with the naive expectation that it would eventually fade out to my natural color.
It didn’t. At all.
Fortunately, I really liked the color, and I ended up keeping it for a year and a half, and I only had to touch up my roots every so often.
Getting my hair back to my natural color was a long, drawn-out, and damaging process that left my hair a watermelon pink for three days so that we could let my hair rest and minimize the damage.
I still internally cringe when I pass boxed black hair dye in the store.
So, if you are a natural blonde and you decide on a dark brown or black semi-permanent dye, the chances of it fading out completely are significantly less than if you go for a color that is a lighter level and closer to your natural hair.
The Dye Color
The color you choose will have an impact on how well the color will fade.
For example, red hues are notorious for losing their vibrance and fading quickly, while black is notorious for being difficult to remove.
Again, the condition and health of your hair, type, thickness, and texture are all dependent on this as well.
If you’ve been wondering how to make semi-permanent hair dye last longer, the best thing you can do is to wash your hair less often, and when you do, to be gentle and use color-preserving shampoo and conditioner that are sulfate-free.
Also, never use hot water as it loosens the bonds between the dye and your hair.
Remember to also keep away from direct UV light.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of things on this checklist.
It may look like a lot, but all of these rules are fairly easy to follow once you get the hang of it.
As long as you incorporate them into your routine, you’re bound to see the effect on your hair.
Always keep in mind that not everyone will have the same exact results when it comes to color treatments and hair processes.
Understanding how different processes and treatments impact your hair, and what changes occur in regard to the follicles and cuticles, can help you make the best decisions when it comes to caring for your hair.
It is always a good thing to know your hair type, how thick it is, and what your hair texture is like before picking a color and dyeing your hair.
You should always keep track of what processes you have done to your hair and when they took place.
If you see a professional hairdresser, it is important that you are open and honest with them about what has been done to your hair.
More information will help them to better care for your hair health and make sure they get as close to your desired results as possible.
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