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Semi-permanent Vs. Permanent Hair Color

Buzzle Staff
With the growing variety in hair colors, choosing the right type can be a confusing task. The two most popular choices - semi-permanent and permanent hair colors battle it out in this story.
If you want the shine and nourishment of a semi-permanent color and the long-lasting effect of a permanent one, opt for a demi-permanent hair color. It washes off after 24 - 28 washes, and gives a rich glossy color to the hair.
With changing hair color needs and trends, different types of hair colors are becoming available. To someone who is new to the world of hair coloring, picking the right type can be difficult. This story will guide you on making the right choice.
First things first. Hair colors are mainly classified as permanent, semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and temporary. This classification, as their names suggest, is on the basis of the duration for which these colors last. Here, we will look at the differences between semi-permanent and permanent hair colors.
Apart from how long they last, the factors distinguishing these two hair color types include the presence/absence of harmful chemicals, the frequency of using the colors, the effects they have of the hair, and the purpose of using them.


Semi-permanent hair colors do not penetrate the hair shaft; they cover the outer surface of the hair. Thus the color washes off after some time. They are gentle hair colors as are free of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.


Permanent hair color penetrates deep inside the hair shaft to color your hair. The hair is first lightened and then the new color enters the cortex from where it cannot be washed off.
How long does it last?

♦ Semi-permanent hair color lasts for 8 - 12 washes on an average. The exact time will depend on the texture of your hair, and the products that you use.
♦ It fades slowly, so the roots are not instantly visible.
♦ It permanently colors the hair. It does not wash off or fade away, but goes away as the hair grows.
♦ This makes it a very long-lasting color. Root touch-ups may be required as the hair grows.


♦ Use semi-permanent color when coloring hair for the first time or when experimenting with a totally different shade.
♦ If you just want to enhance your color or add subtle tints, semi-permanent color is a better choice.
♦ The roots won't be distinctly visible as the color starts to fade away soon in case of a semi-permanent hair color.
♦ If you don't want to commit to a single color, and color your hair very often, a semi-permanent color should be your pick.
♦ If you want to change your hair color by two or more shades, permanent color can be used.
♦ If lightening the hair is the concern, a permanent color is a better choice. It is also used for highlighting or tip-dyeing the hair.
♦ It gives 100% gray coverage.
♦ It saves time and effort as you don't have to color your hair every month


♦ Semi-permanent hair color can neither drastically change your hair color nor can it cover your grays entirely. 
♦ It is not effective in lightening the hair.
♦ You can use it at home. However, as it washes off in a short duration, you may end up using too much color.
♦ Since the color does not fade easily, roots of the newly grown hair are distinctly visible after a few weeks.
♦ The ammonia and peroxide present in permanent hair color damage the hair.
♦ Since the color lasts longer, frequent coloring is not required. But it needs to be done by a professional and the process is costly.

Which is Better?

The decision will depend on your requirements. While semi-permanent color is not as lasting as permanent color, it is definitely less damaging to the hair. Using a semi-permanent hair color, you can color your hair at home and save on the costly salon visits.
Also, it is a gentle color which can be used on relaxed, permed, or excessively damaged hair. But if you want to lighten your hair, a permanent hair color should be your choice.