Semi-Permanent & Demi-Permanent Hair Color: What’s the Difference?

Lots of people think that semi- and demi-permanent hair color are the same thing, but they’re not. Read on to find out exactly what they are and if one of them is right for you.

We know the hair color terminology you’ve heard at the salon like hair cuticle and porosity often sounds like another language. So we’re here to translate. Up next: Breaking down semi-vs-demi-permanent hair color. The most significant difference between semi and demi is permanency. Though both are temporary, demi lasts about 24 to 28 shampoos, and semi can last through about 3 to 6 washes. In this article, we’ll go through exactly what each type is, and why you would use them, with tips from our colorists to help you get the best results from your new shade. Read on to find out more about the differences between these two popular types of hair color.


Image of eSalon's Custom Color Set contents on bathroom shelf including box of non-latex gloves, developer, custom hair color, and the Kit including all the accessories to dye hair at home



Demi-permanent hair color is ammonia-free and mixed with a low-volume developer, so it washes out after about 24 to 28 shampoos. Applied to dry hair before you shampoo, it works by depositing pigment on the surface of the hair. It doesn’t actually penetrate your strands or lighten your color, but it does last much longer than the more-temporary hair color options out there.

Who is it for?

Demi-permanent color is great for anyone who wants a temporary color change, or for folks looking to enhance their current shade with a new tone. Plus, it’s also great for people with less than 25% gray hair. Why only 25%? Because demi-permanent hair color only lives on the surface of your hair follicle and outer cuticle, not allowing for any color to really get in there and cover grays all the way. It will, however, give your grays a translucent “highlighted” look, which might help them blend in a bit more with your overall shade.


Demi-permanent hair color lessens the appearance of regrowth.

Demi-permanent creates a “diffused” finish, meaning a softer transition between your current color and your growth: AKA, no blatantly obvious roots. However, while this is true for folks without grays, demi will not fully lessen the appearance of gray regrowth. For total gray coverage, you’ll need something a little stronger—like permanent hair color. Or for a quick fix, try our root touch-up spray.



Semi-permanent is a deposit-only, temporary hair color that stains the hair for about 3 to 6 washes. Unlike demi, semi-permanent color does not need to be mixed with a developer and is typically applied to freshly shampooed hair for the best result. In addition to coloring your hair, a semi-permanent hair dye can even temporarily enhance the tone of your hair, adding a little extra vibrancy in between color applications or balancing out brassy tones. Fair warning: Semi tends to show up a bit darker on your hair than it does in the bottle. We recommend choosing one shade lighter to get the color you want. It may sound funny, but trust us on this, and you’ll love your new hair color.

Image of semi-permanent examples


Semi-permanent hair color is for people who want an even more temporary hair color change than demi, since it fades almost 5X as fast. And with its super-quick fade, semi is a great choice for anyone who wants to experiment outside of their natural hair color for the weekend. Want your semi to wash out much faster? Use a clarifying shampoo or add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to your shampoo for a quick DIY option. You can also see a hair stylist if you’d like to get their guidance on how to best address your hair color.


Kool-Aid is considered a semi-permanent hair color.

Kool-Aid is not a semi-permanent hair color simply because it's just too weak and does not bond to the hair shaft. The classic summer juice may be able to tint light blonde hair red or blue, but "just add water" and the color will wash right out. Real semi-permanent colors have stronger pigments that may last up to 6 washes. Sorry, giant-smiling-punchbowl man.

Now you have everything you need to decide whether demi- or semi-permanent hair color is the right type of hair dye for you. To ask our colorists more hair care, color, and style questions click here, scroll down, and submit your questions at the blue bar. And while you’re at it, join the conversation on social via Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.