Demi-permanent hair color is an ammonia-free, deposit-only hair color choice that lasts about 24 washes. “Deposit-only” means that it only adds color and does not “lift” or lighten the hair. This coloring option uses a low-volume developer to open up the cuticle to deposit color. It lasts longer than semi-permanent hair color but shorter than permanent hair color.

It does take some science know-how to grasp how hair color works. Understanding the basics makes it easier to narrow down your options and helps you communicate what you want with your colorist. We’ll go over common questions so you can understand what demi-permanent hair color is and if it’s the right hair coloring option for you.

What Are the Differences Between Demi-Permanent and Semi-Permanent Hair Color?

The main differences between demi-permanent and semi-permanent hair color are how they color the hair and how long they last. We’ll go into the differences below.

Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Demi-permanent hair color coats and partially penetrates the hair cuticle, allowing it to last longer than semi-permanent hair color. This is the hair color option for you if you want to try out new hair colors for about a month at a time. Although demi-permanent color doesn’t lighten your hair, it’s great for refreshing and correcting color. 

Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Semi-permanent hair color is also a deposit-only hair color option. However, this type of hair color doesn’t use a developer. This means that semi-permanent hair color doesn’t penetrate your strands at all. Instead, it adds a coat of color on the outside of your hair strands. This makes it easier to wash out semi-permanent hair color out of your hair than demi-permanent.

Semi-permanent hair color is sometimes called a toner or a gloss. It’s great at enhancing or altering the tone of your hair. This is a great option if you want to try out new colors in your hair, but don’t want to commit to a hair color for a long time. It’s also great if you need a touch up in between color appointments. 

how hair color affects the hair shaft diagram

How Long Does Demi-Permanent Color Last?

Demi-permanent hair color lasts about 24 washes. You may be able to squeeze out a few more washes depending on how well you care for your hair. 

By comparison, semi-permanent hair color only lasts between four and 12 washes. The range varies a lot based on things like how often you wash your hair, how often you expose your hair to the sun, and how well you care for your hair.

Permanent hair color stays in your hair until it starts to grow out. You’ll need to go in about every four weeks to touch up your roots and to refresh your hair. Unlike demi- and semi-permanent color, permanent hair color penetrates your strands and alters your natural hair color. It won’t wash out, but can fade a bit over time.

Does Demi-Permanent Hair Color Work For All Hair Types?

Demi-permanent hair color works on all hair types, but the best result depends on the look you want for your hair.

For example, permanent hair color is the best choice for completely covering gray hair. Demi-permanent hair color is the better alternative if you want to temporarily blend grays in your hair. Demi-permanent hair color also works best if you don’t want to introduce chemicals like ammonia to your hair. However, the low amount of developer in it makes it difficult to lighten hair.

How Can I Maintain Demi-Permanent Color?

You can maintain demi-permanent hair color by waiting a few days before your first wash, using color-safe hair care products, limiting heat products and hot showers, protecting your hair from heat and sun damage, and keeping up with your appointments. Below are a few tips to maintain your hair color and keep it looking fresh.

  • Wait a few days before your first wash: Most Pros recommend waiting a few days before washing your hair. Ask your colorist for their recommendation. Delaying your first wash gives your cuticle time to close and for the color to set.
  • Use color-safe hair care products: Color-safe products are specifically made to minimize fading. Your colorist will probably have a few product recommendations. This can include shampoos, conditioners, glosses, and bond-building treatments.
  • Protect your hair from the sun: The sun can fade your hair over time. Limit your time under direct sunlight when possible and opt for hair products with SPF. You can also wear hats or head wraps to protect your hair.
  • Limit heat styling: Straighteners, curling irons, and blow dryers can both damage your hair health and strip your hair color over time. Go with heatless styling options as much as possible. Use heat protectant on your hair when you need to break out your hot styling tools.
  • Hold off on hot showers: We all love a hot shower after a long day, but hot water is not good for colored hair. Keep your hot showers short or turn the temperature down a couple notches.
  • Wash your hair less: The less you wash your hair, the longer your color will last. Dry shampoo is a great alternative to ensure your hair stays clean while you’re skipping a few washes.
  • Schedule touch-up appointments: Demi-permanent hair color won’t last forever. Regular appointments with your colorist help you maintain your current color and give you the opportunity to change colors. If you really like your current color, ask your colorist about getting permanent color done.
woman spraying hair

How Can I Remove Demi-Permanent Color?

You can use clarifying shampoo, dandruff shampoos, or hair color remover at home to remove hair color. You can also go see a Pro to get demi-permanent hair color removed. We’ll go over the pros and cons of all of these methods below.

  • Clarifying or dandruff shampoo: These products help wash away color and fade your hair color over time. Follow up with a hydrating hair conditioner. We don’t recommend using these shampoos all the time. They can quickly dry your hair and strip its natural oils.
  • Hair color remover: Beauty supply stores carry hair color removers that are typically used for permanent hair color. They can work on demi- and semi-permanent hair color, but they use chemicals and can damage your hair, so use sparingly.
  • Professional removal: Going to a Pro is the safest way to strip color from your hair. DIY hair color removal or attempting to use hair color remover by yourself can damage your hair. 

Understanding what demi-permanent hair color is can get a little technical and scientific. Luckily, you don’t need to be a hair scientist to refresh your hair with some color. A professional colorist can help you understand what you need to know about the different types of color. They can also help you pick out colors and products that work best for your hair. Look through our community of stylists to find a colorist near you.