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Semi- & Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Nov 10, 2021

What is a semi and demi-permanent hair color? When is it used? How long will it last on your hair? Find out all about these hair colors!

If you plan to color, there are generally two options: permanent color or semi and demi-permanent hair color. Do you just want to revive your hair color? Underline the natural hair color? Do you want to change your hair color every month? Do you like experimenting with color? Then semi and demi-permanent hair colors will be a clear choice for you!

What is a semi and demi-permanent hair color?

Semi and demi-permanent hair colors are among the colors with medium durability and opacity. These are semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair dyes. These colors are also known as tone-on-tone colors, and include hair toner. Coloring does not change the color significantly, but rather only tinting. The color pigments do not penetrate deep into the hair fiber, but coat the hair only on/or close to the surface and the color gradually washes away. For this reason, semi and demi-permanent colors are most often used to revive, unify and enhance the color or to increase the gloss or cover the first grays. On the contrary, they are not suitable for a permanent and significant change (eg from brown hair to blonde). Semi and demi-permanent colors will also be appreciated by those who have hair sensitive to coloring with a permanent color or lightening, because the overflow is much more gentle. Natural or lightened blondes will have the most fun with them, because they will have the widest selection of colors and shades, because most semi and demi-permanent colors (especially pastel and crazy shades) work best on a light basis.

With the help of an semi and demi-peermanent color, it is possible to achieve 4 possible changes:

  1. A darker result
  2. Coloring tone on tone
  3. More vivid (more red)
  4. Colder (less red, more ash/matte)

Due to the lower or no brightening ability of the semi and demi-permanent colors , some intensely colored shades may differ slightly from the presented result. For example, the shade red shade 6R from Goldwell Colorance will be brighter and more intense (louder) than darker hair on a lighter hair base.

When to choose an semi and demi-permanent color instead of a permanent color?

First of all, it is good to realize that there are three main differences between semi and demi-permanent color and permanent color:

  1. The permanent color is permanent while the semi and demi-permanent color will give you a new shade only temporarily and the color will gradually wash out.
  2. Permanent color changes and disrupts the structure of the hair, while the semi and demi-permanent color is much gentler on the hair and does not damage it.
  3. Permanent color allows a more significant change, in contrast, the semi and demi-permanent color usually can not lighten the hair.

For this reason, the semi and demi-permanent color is especially suitable for:

  • Short-term coloring, eg for special occasions.
  • Revitalizes the natural color of uncoloured hair or restores faded color from the salon.
  • Coloring in a more gentle way without significant interference with the hair structure.
  • Experimentation and frequent color changes.
  • To unify highlights with basic hair color.
  • Adding shine to dry, dull and damaged hair.
  • Natural change without the need to deal with regrowth.
  • Color correction, eg neutralization of warm tones.

Types of semi and demi-permanent colors

Based on the composition, we divide semi and demi-permanent colors into oxidative and non-oxidative (more about oxidative and non-oxidative paints can be found here). Simply put, the difference between oxidative and non-oxidative semi and demi-permanent colors is that the oxidative colors must be mixed with the developer to activate the paint, usually at a lower concentration of 1.5% -4%. The semi and demi-permanent colors can also be acidic or basic, with acid semi and demi-permanent colors (pH around 4.5-5.5) being more gentle than basic semi and demi-permanent colors (pH around 8.0 to 9.0). On the other hand, you can achieve a larger color change with an alkaline colors.

However, you will most often encounter the division of semi and demi-permanent colors into semi-permanent and demi-permanent, so in this article we will focus mainly on them. We also shine more light on them because most people confuse them, or mistakenly take them as one and the same, but even if they work in a similar way, they cannot be confused with each other.

1) Semi-permanent overflow

What it is: This is a non-oxidizing hair color with a temporary color effect. Does not contain ammonia or peroxide and does not require mixing with the generator. We classify it as a direct dye that is the most gentle on the hair and can even improve the condition of the hair (shine, softness, etc.). These colors most often include most "crazy colors". You can also often find semi-permanent colors in the form of conditioners, masks or coloring foams, etc.

How it works: It uses small molecules of color pigment to color or more precisely to tint the hair, which wraps the hair only on the surface, or under the cuticle. Unlike demi-permanent hair dye, it does not penetrate the hair treatment (cortex) and the natural hair color is restored after washing the overflow. In addition, it does not contain ammonia (necessary to penetrate the hair), so it does not disturb the structure of the hair. The color does not need to be mixed with the developer, but is applied directly to the hair without any complicated metering and mixing. By blending, you can only customize the resulting color by using multiple shades. The application is therefore very easy, which is why these types of paints are great for home use.

Color life: Short. It usually lasts 1-12 washes of hair with shampoo depending on the type of hair color and structure. Sometimes they can last longer, eg CHI Chromashine lasts up to 30 washes and Matrix SoColor Cult Semi up to 42 washes.

What it can do: Refresh faded hair color, neutralize unwanted warm tones, unify highlights, add crazy color (applied to natural light or lightened blonde hair) or tint gray hair (but not overlay). It can also be used to increase the brightness of the color or restore the shine of dull and damaged hair.

What it can't do: Does not lighten hair, cover grays or change hair color.

Semi-permanent colors: Goldwell Elumen, Matrix SoColor Cult Semi, Wella Color Fresh, Sebastian Cellophanes, Chroma ID, Goldwell Colorance Styling Mousse, Goldwell Colorance Soft Color and Igora Expert Mousse.

2) Demipermanent overflow

What it is: It forms an intermediate stage between permanent and semi-permanent colors. They contain a mixture of direct pigments and pigments for the activation of which it is necessary to use a developer. However, very low developer concentrations (usually 1.5% -4%) allow for more gentle dyeing than permanent dyes. It is therefore an oxidizing hair color with a temporary color effect. Like the semi-permanent dye, it gradually washes out and does not contain ammonia (so-called does not serve as a bleach) or only a small amount of ammonia and peroxide (to penetrate the hair). Nowadays, you will only find demi-permanent colors without ammonia.

How it works: Demipermanent hair dye gently opens the surface cuticle of the hair and allows the dye to penetrate the hair bark / cortex (in contrast, the permanent dye penetrates into the hair core). Due to the larger size of the pigment molecules, the color holds better and is not as prone to leaching as it is for semi-permanent color with a smaller pigment molecule size. A developer must be used to activate the color, the stronger the developer, the greater the opacity and lightening ability and the brighter the shades. In contrast, a weaker developer will provide less coverage and shine (especially in trendy tones such as red, gold and ash).

Color endurance: Medium. It usually lasts 12 to 30 washes of hair with shampoo, depending on the type of hair color and structure. Depending on the frequency of washing, they can last up to 8 weeks.

What it can do: Darken and change the tone. Slightly lighten hair, about 1.5 levels (DIA Richesse). Refresh faded hair color, neutralize unwanted warm tones, unify highlights, add crazy color (applied to natural light or lightened blonde hair) or toning gray hair (but not overlay). Some colors cover up to 70% of gray hair (Igora Vibrance). It also adds shine.

What they can't do: They don't have the ability to lighten their hair significantly, they can't change the color from brown to blonde or cover 100% gray.

Demi-permanent colors: DIA Richesse & DIA Litght, Goldwell Colorance, Igora Vibrance, Matrix SoColor Sync, Matrix SoColor Cult Demi, Redken Shades EQ, Wella Color Touch.

Lighten the semi and demi-permanent hair colors?

Yes and no. It depends on the specific type of color. With a semi-permanent color you will not lighten your hair. Semi-permanent dyes mainly use direct dyes that do not mix with the developer, so the cuticle is not opened and the dye only wraps the hair from the outside. With demi-permanent color it is different and with some the hair can be slightly lightened, maximum by 1.5 tones (DIA Richesse, Matrix SoColor Sync). Usually, demi-permanent colors are mixed with a 1.5-4% generator. If we want to lighten it slightly, it will be necessary to use a stronger developer around 3-4%. The same is true if you want to provide a higher gray coverage.

How long will the semi and demi-permanent color last?

How long will the semi and demi-permanent color in my hair last? This is the most common question that everyone is interested in. However, it cannot be answered unequivocally. It depends on whether you choose a semi-permanent or demi-permanent formula, but also on the structure and porosity of your hair. Although both formulas are temporary, the demi-permanent color lasts longer, averaging around 20 washes, while the semi-permanent color lasts only around 8 washes on average. There are also certain shades, such as blue, green, which usually last longer than other shades.

Color fastness is also affected by hair washing frequency. If you want to maintain long color life, avoid shampoos for oily hair, dandruff and deep cleansing, use color protection shampooinstead. Also thermal protection and sprays with UV protection can significantly affect the life of the paint.

Will my color return?

Will semi and demi-permanent color wash out completely and return to my original color? With semi-permanent color, it's clear, the color washes out completely, and because the semi-permanent color doesn't fundamentally change the color or texture of your hair, you'll have its original color after washing the color.

As for demi-permanent color, it's a bit more complicated. The color will wash completely, but your original color will not return completely. This is because whenever you use a generator (hydrogen peroxide), even at a very low concentration, your natural hair color will change. This is true even if you dye dark, because peroxide helps remove some of the natural pigment to make room for colored molecules, so after washing the dye, your hair will be lighter than it was before dyeing. However, it will not be as significant a change as if you used a permanent color, your hair will be only slightly lighter. You may not even notice it. It all depends on the specific color. It also means that demi-permanent color can leave growth, but don't worry, you probably won't see any visible growths. It is also true that the closer the selected shade is to your natural shade and your hair is healthy and less porous, the greater the chance that the color will wash out to a natural color.


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