Different types of Hair Color, What is the Difference Between Them?

by Brianna Thompson
If you're thinking about coloring your hair, it's important to know the differences between the three main types of hair color: semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent. Each type of hair color has its own advantages and drawbacks, and understanding the differences between them can help you make the right decision.


Semi- Permanent Hair Color

Semi-Permanent Hair Color is a type of hair color that does not penetrate the hair shaft but instead coats the hair with color that will gradually fade over time. This color is simply a deposit only. It's often used to enhance the natural color of your hair or to add shine and a subtle tint to cancel unwanted brass or create an enhanced rich tone.  I always recommend semi-permanent color mostly because it is less damaging to the hair than other types of color as it does not contain harsh chemicals like ammonia or peroxide. It typically lasts for about 6-8 washes, depending on the brand and how often you wash your hair. 


Demi- Permanent Hair Color

Demi-Permanent Hair Color contains small amounts of peroxide, which allows the color to penetrate the hair shaft, but it does not contain ammonia. It can be used to darken hair, coverer blend gray hair, and add subtle brightness. This means that demi color can deposit and slightly shift the base of the color. It's a good option if you're looking for a longer-lasting color than semi-permanent hair color but don't want to commit to permanent hair color. It typically lasts for about 12-24 washes, depending on the brand and how often you wash your hair.

Permanent Hair Color

Permanent hair color uses a combination of ammonia and peroxide to lift the cuticle of the hair and deposit color into the hair shaft. Permanent hair color is meant to lift and deposit, which means the natural base color is shifted in base and tone completely. It's often used to completely change the color of the hair or cover gray hair. It's the longest-lasting type of hair color but also can be damaging to the hair, as it can cause dryness, breakage, and split ends. It can last for several months, depending on how often you wash your hair.

What Stylists Consider When Choosing Your Color

When choosing a type of hair color, it's important to consider the hair type, the condition of the hair, and the desired outcome. If the goal is to make a subtle change or add some shine to the hair, semi-permanent hair color might be the best option. If the end result is a longer-lasting color or to blend or cover gray hair, demi-permanent hair color could be a better choice. If the desire is to make a significant change to the hair color, permanent hair color may be the way to go, but keep in mind that it can completely alters the base of the hair.

When it comes to highlighting hair, I recommend semi-permanent toners to all of my clients. This is because it gives a beautiful subtle shift in the hair, without altering the base of the hair completely. We are already changing the canvas by applying highlights, so unless you are serious about a really big change, I always veer my guests to semi-permanent color. It has conditioning agents and also gives a lot more shine than a permanent color. 

Also, when science works in the hair and the body heat from the scalp plays a role, there is a chance that certain colors, primarily permanent color, may cause "hot roots." Hot roots are a way for stylists to say that your roots are significantly lighter than the rest of the hair, which is a big no no. 


Each type of hair color has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the type of hair color you choose will depend on your desired outcome, the condition of your hair, and how long you want the color to last. Understanding the differences between semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent hair color can help you make an informed decision and achieve the look you want for your hair.

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Brianna Thompson

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