Demi-Permanent vs. Permanent Hair Color: Which is Best for Me?

Not all hair color is created equal… and that’s a good thing. Case in point: Demi-Permanent vs. permanent hair color. Read on for the inside scoop of which to choose to get the gorgeous hair hue you’ve always wanted.

When it comes to why we color our hair, the list is different for everyone: from covering grays to changing up your tone and everything in between. But while we don’t all have the same checklist of needs, we do know the one thing we ultimately want is a gorgeous new hair color. And getting it at home is as simple as determining which hair color formula—permanent or demi-permanent—is right for you. Read on to learn the differences and similarities between these types of hair dye and how to get the look you want.

“We all have different expectations, lifestyle and styling habits, maintenance requirements, and hair issues to address with color.”

What is permanent hair color?

Permanent hair color is exactly that—permanent. When you apply it to your hair, it adds to the natural hair pigment so that the color you’ve chosen can replace it. It does this by opening the cuticle to let color molecules into the hair in order to deposit the permanent color. So how long does permanent hair color last? Technically, it never truly leaves but the color does fade over time and can certainly be dyed over with a new shade whenever you’re in the mood for a change.

Why you’ll love permanent hair color

Getting rid of grays.

Because permanent hair color actually alters the color of your hair, it’s the gold standard for covering grays. This is because it’s not just glossing over or blending them, it’s actually transforming them from gray to another color. Most hair colorists will tell you that if your locks are more than 25% gray, permanent hair color is for you.

Lightening locks.

Permanent hair color is actually able to lighten virgin hair (i.e. natural hair color that has never been colored) up to two shades without the need for additional steps like bleach. So, you can save yourself time, effort, and an extra step of complexity at home by reaching for a permanent home hair color.

Intense color payoff.

Unlike demi-permanent hair dye, permanent dye is in it for the long haul, providing rich, longer-lasting color that doesn’t fade as quickly as the alternative.

What is demi-permanent hair color?

Demi-permanent hair color is ammonia-free, so its color molecules get under the outer cuticle of the hair shaft but, unlike permanent dye, doesn’t penetrate the strand. Instead, they wrap around the hair’s cuticle, creating a coating of color that’s gradually washed away. Think of demi-permanent hair dye as a lip stain. You know it will gradually wear off and you’re free to try another shade. So how long does demi-permanent color last? Approximately 24 shampoos.

Why you’ll love demi-permanent hair color

Less commitment.

Whether you want to try out a new hue that you’re just not that sure about or you’re the adventurous type who falls in love with a different hair color trend each season, demi-permanent hair dye gives you the option of going for whatever look you want with less commitment. Remember, this home hair color option coats your hair rather than permanently altering it.

No obvious roots.

Since demi-permanent hair color is translucent and washes out gradually, there’s no tell-tale line showing where dye has been deposited as it grows out. Are you super low-maintenance and prefer quick-and-easy beauty solutions? Struggle keeping track of laundry day much less than keeping up with your roots? Does all of this sound oddly relatable? Then we say demi-permanent dye is probably the way to go.

Can you transition from demi to permanent hair color and vice versa?

Absolutely! If you’re starting off with demi-permanent color, switching to permanent is definitely an option for you. Making the move from permanent to demi-permanent dye is a bit trickier because you’re going from full coverage to one that looks more translucent. You’ll especially see the difference on gray hair, where demi-permanent hair color provides less coverage. But, over time, the white strands will look like glittery highlights under the wash of color.