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If you like to change your hairstyle practically as often as you change your clothes, semi-permanent dye was practically made for you. It’s gentler than its more permanent cousin, and what you see is what you get: Meaning the dye is actually the same color in its container as it will be in your hair. It’s also perfect to use on damaged hair or a sensitive scalp, because it’s virtually chemical-free. If you’re ready to make the transition to a hairstyle with semi-permanent dye, it’s time to get familiar with the ins and outs of using this kinder, gentler type of dye.
If you’re a newbie to home hair dyeing, a semi-permanent color is a good fit. If you leave it in your hair a little too long, it won’t do the kind of damage to your hair that permanent color would. It’s also way easier to fix a semi-permanent dye mishap than to reverse a permanent dye disaster. Hot water and a strong clarifying shampoo can get most of the pigment out of your hair safely if you’ve just dyed it. And because your new color washes out after several shampoos anyway, you won’t be stuck with a funky color for nearly as long as you would be with a permanent dye.
It’s unfortunate that the very chemicals in hair dye that destroy your tresses are necessary for a truly long-lasting look. Because semi-permanent dye doesn’t contain ammonia and only has trace amounts of peroxide, it may wash out of your hair before you can really show off your new look. Also, semi-permanent dye won’t lighten dark strands — so if you apply rose-red dye to black hair, for example, you’ll probably only wind up with very subtle reddish lowlights.
Just because it’s gentle doesn’t mean semi-permanent dye can’t irritate your skin. Always test your dye on a hidden patch of skin before using it. Also, read your instructions thoroughly: Some semi-permanent dyes are safe to leave on your hair for hours, which may help the color really soak into your tresses and last longer. And some dyes are even safe to mix with other semi-permanent shades, meaning you can create your own personalized look.
If you want your semi-permanent color to shine to its full potential, you may want to bleach your hair first. Light, bright colors (think lilac and bubblegum pink) only look true to color if your hair is light blond or platinum before you dye. If you’re longing for streaky highlights, a multitoned look or a punky peekaboo style, be super careful when you’re rinsing out your dye — otherwise it’ll soak into the tresses you don’t want to color. To keep bright colors looking fresh, add a little semi-permanent dye to your conditioner for a color boost every time you shower.