Written By Harsha Khemlani, Hairstylist at Urban Betty

If you’ve ever gotten your hair colored, then you know that deciding on a color is not always easy. Choosing the type of hair color is a whole new ball game! “What are my options?” you ask? “Simple! Permanent, demi-permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary” comes the response. Hold up. What in the world is a demi-permanent? Is it not the same thing as a semi-permanent? Well, let’s break it down for you.



We’ll begin with permanent. If permanent hair color is used on the hair, a chemical reaction will take place to alter the hair cuticle. Ammonia, when mixed with hydrogen peroxide, oxidizes and opens up the hair cuticle. This is where the chemical reaction takes place. The structure of the melanin (the color) and keratin (the texture) in your hair change, in order for the dyes to deposit.

Permanent hair color can darken hair or lighten non-color-treated hair, and it can change both the color and the tone of your hair. It’s also what is usually selected when covering gray hair, as it is the strongest type of color. Permanent color is as the name suggests: permanent. Therefore, it will leave a line of demarcation where your roots grow in. But, the richness of the color will fade over the course of 6 to 8 weeks, depending on how often you wash your hair.



Okay, now let’s address demi-permanent. Demi-permanent hair color requires a low level of peroxide to open up the cuticle just enough to deposit the dye. Because this type of hair color does not contain ammonia, it does not have the ability to lighten hair, and focuses more on tonal change than color change. It can be used to blend grays, but not necessarily fully cover them, as it only penetrates through the finer, more porous grays on the head.

Demi-permanent hair color is not permanent and leaves no line of demarcation as the hair grows out. Demi-permanent color can last anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks, depending on how often you wash your hair.





Semi-permanent hair color, also known as toner, does not contain ammonia and does not require peroxide. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as direct dye. Semi-permanent color only has the ability to change the tone of the hair because it does not penetrate into the hair cuticle, it merely coats the outside.

Semi-permanent color is often used as a glaze to refresh existing hair color or to temporarily blend grays. It will completely fade with washing, and leaves no line of demarcation. Therefore, it requires a low commitment to the tone. You can think of semi-permanent color as dating a color, while permanent color is more like being married to it. Semi-permanent color can last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on how often you wash your hair.



Temporary color is just as the name suggests. It’s only temporary and will last only one wash. This is what you would use for a party or for a costume if you want fun colors in your hair, but don’t want to actually alter your hair color for more than a day. Temporary color comes in several different forms such as aerosol sprays, hair chalk, colored powder, etc. Beware however, these colors can get quite messy very quickly!



Another way of altering your hair color is through the use of lightener, also known as bleach. Lightener removes the melanin, or pigment from the hair strand, leaving it as an orange or a yellow color—depending on how much pigment has been removed. Lightener is typically followed by a toner, to alter the tonal value of the hair. Most stylists will use a bond builder when they use lightener, to prevent the hair from breakage.

A great way to maintain your hair color, whether you use bleach, permanent, demi, or semi-permanent hair color, is to use a high quality shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in conditioner. This will ensure your color looks richer and lasts until your next salon visit! Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you at Urban Betty Salon in the near future!