Demi-Permanent vs Permanent Hair Color: Which One To Opt For?

The world of hair color is versatile and dynamic with a lot of techniques, approaches, and theories to begin with.

Engulfed in bright, popping colors, we would not just call it art but a whole science through and through. This is why we hear so many terms related to dyes and color that get us confused.

Whether it is semi-permanent, demi-permanent, temporary, or permanent hair color, it all boils down to one thing – proper professional guidance before you begin putting your hair through a new coloring experience. And we are here for the same thing.

Recently, we have been asked questions like demi-permanent vs permanent hair color – which one is better? Who should get them?

Therefore, we thought to shed some light on the two different types of hair color. So demi-permanent vs permanent hair color – what is the real difference? Let us explore!

Demi-permanent and permanent hair colors both create an alkali base, open up the cuticles and drop artificial pigments inside but are still very different in terms of longevity.
Demi-permanent and permanent hair colors both create an alkali base, open up the cuticles and drop artificial pigments inside but are still very different in terms of longevity.

Demi-Permanent Hair Color

What is it?

Demi-permanent hair color is basically free of ammonia, which means it does not penetrate deep inside the cuticle and does not lift or lighten the hair.

Instead, demi-permanent hair color works as a “deposit only” formula. It has a little bit of peroxide which helps to make the hue or color go till the outer cuticle of the hair shaft only. 

Shampoos Hub
Shampoos Hub

The demi-permanent hair color wraps itself around the cuticle forming a coat of the target color and depositing it there i.e. just outside the cuticle.

In this sense, it is a sweet spot between semi-permanent and permanent hair color lying between the two types in terms of intensity and longevity of the color. 

In demi-permanent, ammonia is replaced by ethanolamine which deposits the pigment  but only at the surface of the cuticle.
In demi-permanent, ammonia is replaced by ethanolamine which deposits the pigment  but only at the surface of the cuticle.

Who should get a demi-permanent hair color?

Demi-permanent hair color does not require any specific type or texture of hair to work best. But it is best for those who:

Who wants to add a subtle color enhancement

For a slight change of look, demi-permanent hair color is the best choice to go for. While it does not completely change your look, it is good if you want to add richness, shine, and depth to your already existent natural color.

Who want to go several shades darker

Because of no ammonia, it does not lift or lighten your hair but it can make your shade darker, transforming your tones from cool to warm.

In this regard, it is an ideal and super fun option for blondes to try since through demi-permanent hair color, they will be able to flaunt a much more noticeable darker shade than those with an already natural dark shade.

Who want to create gray highlights

Highlights and with demi-permanent hair color? Yes, you heard it right!

Demi-permanent hair color does not cover gray hair (so if you are looking for gray hair coverage, this one is not for you), but it blends around 50% of gray hair strands flawlessly with your natural hair color which leads to amazing gray highlights. A low-maintenance yet a great option indeed! 

We have also seen how the dynamics within the hair care industry have changed.

Where once people dreaded dyeing their hair in not-so-common colors like red, purple, green, or gray, now more and more people are embracing these bold colors and carrying the gray strands gracefully.

If you are one of those people who do not want to let go of such colors, then go for a demi-permanent hair color.

Who like to change their color more often

If you are a color freak like us who loves experimenting with several shades and colors to avoid monotonous looks, then the vote definitely goes to demi-permanent in this rebuttal of demi-permanent vs permanent hair color.

Of course, you can not alter your hair color every other month once you have got a permanent hair color and you will have to prove your long-term commitment to it. 

Demi-permanent hair color is easier for those who wish to switch to different colors frequently and can not stick to only one hair color for long.

Who are beginners

If you are the one with virgin hair (hair that has not been dyed ever before), demi-permanent hair color is a safer option to try first.

This is because those who are inexperienced in coloring hair may not like an entirely changed or drastic hair look with permanent hair color all of a sudden and they may want to begin with something subtle. 

Once you have got a demi-permanent target color, you can then choose to either continue with the same color or have it replaced if you somehow do not develop a liking for it since switching back is always easier.

Also, the roots do not show the dyed color distinctly because as it grows out, it tends to take the color away and blend it with your natural color. So, this one is not risky!

How long does a demi-permanent hair color last?

Since demi-permanent hair color is not long-lasting and tends to fade with each wash, it can last up to 24-28 shampoo washes; after which your natural color will be back.

If you want to retain your demi-permanent hair color, then washing your hair less would help.

Permanent Hair Color

What is it?

As the name directly suggests, permanent hair color imparts a permanent pigment to your hair. Unlike demi-permanent hair color, permanent hair color has ammonia in it. And how does it alter your color to a permanent new tinge?

Because of having a large molecular structure, it lifts or opens up the cuticle completely and lets the target dye or color inside the hair shaft create a chemical bond with the hair structure and then seals the cuticle back. This ensures a permanent deposit of your chosen color while replacing the existing color with a new set of color molecules.

Mixed with a proper developer and activator before use, it promises long-lasting results.

Permanent hair color usually comes as cream in a tube which is then mixed with a developer (hydrogen peroxide) to form a dye.

Who should get a permanent hair color?

Who wants to commit to one color entirely

Many of us have already chosen an ideal color for us, that color is the ultimate favorite and irreplaceable. If you are the one who has finally found what suits you the best and you have decided to stick by it totally then get your hair colored permanently.

Permanent hair color goes deep inside the cuticle and grows with the roots so you would not have to see your color being slipped away so soon and even with new hair growing out, you will have the same uniform look! How amazing is that!

Who wish to cover their gray hair 

Permanent hair color is an ideal (and probably the only amazing) option for people who do not want those gray strands peeking out from the hair.

Since it totally changes the existing color, it has the potential to cover 100% of your gray hair. In this way, permanent hair color does not merely gloss over (like semi-permanent hair color) or blend the grays (like its demi-permanent counterpart), rather it transforms the gray to a different new color all over.

Note: If your hair is more than 30% gray, we would definitely recommend going for a permanent hair color of your choice.

Who want to go a few shades lighter

Where demi-permanent hair color does not work at all to lighten the hair, permanent hair color does this job pretty well. It can even lighten your virgin hair directly up to two shades so you do not have to begin by applying bleach and other things before prepping up for a proper hair dye. 

Permanent hair color is thus an ultimate favorite for bright redheads, brunettes, and sunny blondes, who wish to go a few shades lighter than their current color. 

Note: It can also be effectively used to darken hair thus serveing both the functions since it does not only change the tone but the overall color composition of the hair.

Who love to see promising results

Because permanent hair color is there for a long time, it gives 100% in terms of richness and long-lasting color.

The color is intense and does not fade easily so you will experience durable and reliable long-term results.

How long does a permanent hair color last?

You got it! Technically, it is meant to stay permanently onto your hair so of course, it will last forever.

But, frequent washes and shampoos may strip and fade the color gradually to some extent (if not easily and completely). But it happens very gradually and if it happens anyway, you can always try a new shade. 

In a nutshell, if your hair cuticle is in a good condition, it will last forever or until you plan to try a new shade yourself.

Pro tip: As mentioned above, the new color will grow with the roots but for the sake of a good touch-up, it is best to retouch your permanent hair color after every 4-6 weeks so the roots look fresh and immersed in new color as ever.


Can I switch from demi-permanent to permanent hair color and vice versa?

Yes. Transitioning from demi-permanent hair color to permanent hair color is much easier. But first, you need to use a clarifying shampoo at least for a week to strip the color off from the hair. Then, you can proceed to apply permanent hair color.

We recommend waiting for at least 2-4 weeks before you make the decision to redye your hair entirely so the potential damage is minimized. 

However, switching from permanent hair color to demi-permanent hair color is not a very good idea.

It is possible but because you are making a major switch from a permanent color to a translucent shade, your gray strands may be in trouble in this case i.e. they would distinctly show themselves as demi-permanent does not give good gray coverage.

The good news is, after a lot of washes, those white or gray strands would look like glittery highlights. 

How can I maintain a demi-permanent or permanent hair color?

Because a demi-permanent hair color sits only on the surface of the hair, making it short-lived, you already know it would not last that long.

But, you, of course, want it to at least complete its promised time period which comes with good maintenance, just like you would maintain permanent hair color.

  • For that, it is good if you minimize washing your hair more often. 
  • Use color protective and color-safe shampoos, conditioners, and moisturizing masks that are also gentle to your scalp. 
  • If you have dyed your hair with bold colors that are comparatively more short-lived than others like red, then be focused on protecting it more. Good color protective products that promise moisture and shine will surely maintain that vibrancy for a longer period of time.

The same goes for permanent hair color. 

  • Fewer shampoo washes
  • Using shampoos with color-safe formula, coupling with a good conditioner, and masks 
  • Avoiding direct heat such as from flat ironing, straighteners, hot water, sunlight, and even from blow drys would help maintain it longer. Of course, you can blow dry occasionally but do not do it unnecessarily. Instead, prefer air drying your hair if not in a rush. Moreover, avoid direct exposure to chlorine such as from swimming pools.

How to remove demi-permanent hair color?

“I have not got the desired color I was looking for with my demi-permanent color and I can not wait for more than a week for it to leave. What should I do to remove this demi-permanent hair color?”

Demi-permanent hair color is not long-lasting but if you still can not wait for 2-3 weeks, then use a good clarifying shampoo to remove the color. Remember, the more frequent washes with the clarifying shampoo, the earlier your unwanted color will fade. 

However, clarifying shampoo can be quite stripping and drying to your hair so it is essential to use a good conditioner afterward. Even better is to additionally use hydrating and moisturizing masks at least twice a week to protect your hair from damage.

Is there a more subtle look I can go for than a demi-permanent color?

Yes, there is. In our colorist term, we call it semi-permanent hair color. It is similar to demi-permanent in the process of altering the color composition of the hair i.e. it just sits on the surface of the hair but penetrates less than its demi-permanent cousin. 

So, semi-permanent hair color does not lighten or darken hair color at all. It is also not designed to cover gray hair. It is instead ideal for those who are just looking for a tint of gloss and shine to their hair and want to refresh their tone for a nice, subtle look that would last for about 6-8 shampoo washes.

Is demi-permanent hair color safe for all hair types?

Yes. Demi-permanent hair color works regardless of any hair type. It is in fact great for textured, curly, and relaxed hair because it does not damage the curls in any way.

Final Thoughts

By now, we know that demi-permanent hair is translucent, the color washes out and fades quickly and permanent hair color is for a long haul, promising intense color pay off.

Some people believe that containing ammonia means a lot of damage to the hair hence demi-permanent is better for your hair but let us burst this bubble for you. There is nothing wrong with ammonia except if you put an excess of it of course. It just has an unpleasant smell which is a turn off.

If you love changing dyes, want a light look, or wish to take baby steps in coloring your hair then go for a demi-permanent hair color. 

But if you have made up your mind about one color, want to cover your entire gray strands, and wish for a rich, intense and long-lasting color then permanent hair color is the one for you. 

So, no one color type is better than the other. The best and most suitable hair color type is the one that works according to your requirements. 

Wish lots of vibrancy, shine and gloss to your hair. Happy hair coloring!

Edna Feber

I’m Edna. I'm here to guide you about hair products and maintenance tips. You'll fine here product reviews regarding hair tools, hair color, hair care and more along with tips to keep your hair healthy!

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