The 14 Best Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes for a Temporary Pop of Color

Make commitment issues a non-issue.

women with semi permanent hair color on the street
(Image credit: Launchmetrics)

When it comes to beauty looks, I love to change it up. This applies not only to makeup, but also to new hair looks. While there are a variety of popular layered haircuts and easy hairstyles, I've found myself interested in the best semi-permanent hair dyes in trendy colors, so I don't have the long-term commitment.

What's more? Semi-permanent hair dyes are great for dry, damaged, or high-porosity hair. "Semi-permanent hair dye is less damaging, as it does not contain harsh chemicals like ammonia or peroxide, which are found in more permanent color," explains professional hairstylist Jennifer Korab. "Semi-permanent dye is also less damaging, as it uses a lower developer and less processing time."

But how do you find the right temporary hair dye for you—and how do you apply it? We asked Korab and fellow stylists Desirae Blais and Michelle Cleveland to school us on temporary hair color at home. Read on for your easiest, hair-healthiest dye experience yet.

What To Look for in a Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Considering the wide range of temporary hair colors on the market, it can be difficult to understand which one is the right one, and even more impossible to decipher the long lists of ingredients on the packaging. We had Blais and Korab break it down to ease this shopping process.

  • Certifications

"I always suggest vegan or cruelty free products for temporary hair colors since these are made from natural ingredients like shea butter and vegetable dyes," she advises. "This will cause no damage and help moisturize your hair."

  • Ingredients

Blais suggests "staying away from any temporary color that has hydrogen peroxide or ammonia, as these products will affect the cuticle and be a more permanent color, shifting your natural hair chemistry."

  • Vibrancy

Korab says to think about how vibrant you want your color. Some formulas offer bright, thick shades that completely transform your color and sit on top of your individual strands, while others offer "translucent color that will blend well with your natural color for a more subtle look."

Best Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes

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How to Apply Temporary Hair Color

Blais says that when it comes to temporary hair color, the safest way to proceed is on clean, damp hair. "This allows you a little leeway during application to make sure everything is fully saturated," she explains. "Always follow manufacturer instructions on processing time to make sure you maximize your results!"

How Long Does Temporary Hair Color Last?

Once the temporary hair color has successfully been applied, Blais says that it typically lasts "10 to 12 washes, depending upon how often you wash your hair or how light the canvas of hair they were applied to. Korab adds that if you take good care of your hair, the color can remain vibrant for four to six weeks.

Cleveland explains that's because "the color never goes much further than the outside of the hair shaft and merely acts as a glaze that sits on the surface of the hair. It gently evolves with each shampoo." On the other hand, she says, permanent hair dye often contains ammonia and "raises the cuticle and enters into the cortex of the hair, permanently altering the color."

How to Make Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Last Longer

To make your color last as long as possible, Cleveland says you should "always wash with cold water, using color-safe products." Low heat and heat protection while styling can also prolong color fading.

Meet the Experts

Sally Beauty expert, hair stylist and licensed cosmetologist Desirae Blais
Desirae Blais

Desirae Blais is a licensed cosmetologist and hair stylist based in Maine. In addition to working as a hair expert for Sally Beauty, she also works as a stylist at Blush Beauty Me and creates content on TikTok.

Michelle Cleveland cutting hair
Michelle Cleveland

Michelle Cleveland is a hairstylist, extensionist, and colorist. She has styled celebrities, including reality television stars from Mob Wives, Real Housewives, and Glam Fairy. She is currently based in Toms River, New Jersey.

Hairstylist Jennifer Korab
Jennifer Korab

Jennifer Korab is a hairstylist specializing in color and and extensions. She owns the Renaissance Salon and Revival Barber Shop, both of which are located in New Jersey. She also serves as a haircare educator for Pureology.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at