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How to use temporary hair color

Temporary hair color is one of the different kinds of dye that can be used to change the look of your hair. Unlike permanent dye, these dyes will wash out over time and thus can be used whenever you want a hair color that isn't going to last longer than a few days up to a few weeks.

What is temporary hair color?

Temporary hair color is any hair dye that is intentionally designed to wash out of your hair over time. As well as fading out, it is also completely non-damaging because it doesn't contain ammonia or peroxide.

Unlike permanent dye, which penetrates deep into the inner parts of the hair shaft and works through oxidation, temporary dyes merely stain the hair. It is this stain on the outside of the hair that gives it the dyed colour and shampoo will gradually remove it.

Types of temporary hair dyes

Temporary dyes can also be divided into two sub-categories:
  • Semi-permanent color
  • Rinse dyes
Semi-permanent color is longer lasting than a rinse and produces more intense results. A rinse on the other hand is the most temporary kind of dye and can be used to tone or darken hair slightly during washing.

Color rinse

A color rinse is the least permanent kind of hair color available because it will usually wash out completely in 1 - 3 shampoos. This kind of color is also easy to use and quick to apply. Application is as easy as massaging it into your hair after shampooing.

Your hair needs to be shampooed first for two reasons. Firstly, shampooing opens up the hair cuticles and strips off the layer of natural oils that normally coats your hair. All of this means that the dye will be able to better stick to your hair and give a more vibrant and reliable colour result.

More importantly however, if you were to shampoo your hair after applying a rinse, that would wash out most of your new colour and make the entire treatment pointless. Shampoo washes off stains and even fades permanent dye over time and will take your rinse out quickly.

After adequately shampooing your hair, take your desired shade of color rinse and apply to damp hair. Rinses are liquids and the bottle will allow you to easily squirt it where it's needed. You can use your hands to do the rest, massaging the rinse into your hair as you apply to ensure an even and consistent application.

Once it has been applied, it needs to be left for a short amount of time to stain your hair. This time frame varies based on brand, and you should use the recommended processing time for your particular brand for the best results and the most vibrant color.

When processing is complete, rinse it out with water and then condition your hair to seal the cuticles and protect your rinse color. Conditioner has the opposite effect to shampoo and will lock in color, helping it to last longer and softening your hair.

After dyeing, your color will last from 1 - 3 washes depending on how porous your hair is and how dark and intense the rinse was.

Semi-permanent color

Semi-permanent color is another kind of temporary hair color because given washing and time, it will completely rinse out of your hair, unlike a demi-permanent or permanent color.

Like a rinse, this dye is also applied to damp hair that has previously been shampooed. It can also be applied to washed, dried hair though. If you do this, it will give you a more intense result because the color isn't diluted down by the water in your hair.

To use this kind of dye, first decide whether you want to apply to damp or dry hair. Following this decision, wash your hair and either dry your hair or begin to apply your dye.

Like a color rinse, these dyes can also be in the form of a liquid, but they are most commonly a cream consistency, gel, or foam. This thicker formula helps the color grab better and also keeps it held in place in your hair as it needs to be left in for a longer processing time.

Depending on the particular product, you may find it easier to apply by hand, bottle applicator, or tinting brush. Thicker dyes are better applied with a brush, while thinner color is harder to pick up by brush and can be applied more reliably with a bottle or simply by using your hands. Massage the color in at the end and this will ensure an even result regardless of application method.

After application, the color should be left for 10 - 20 minutes depending on brand, but leaving it for longer can make it last longer and doesn't have any negative effects. This kind of dye can actually condition your hair as it has a conditioning base.

Once the color has finished processing, rinse it out and apply further conditioner if needed. If you have dry hair, the light conditioning of the color may not be enough, whilst those with naturally oily hair may find the color itself gives enough conditioning that you don't need to apply a conditioner afterwards.

More information:
  • How long can semi-permanent color last? - Find out how long this kind of dye lasts and some of the best ways to keep it vibrant for longer and prevent fading...
  • Types of dyes - Discover the different types of dyes available for coloring your hair...
  • Tips for coloring hair - Want better color results at home? Here are the most important tips for getting salon quality color at home...
    Have a question about temporary hair color, or wondering how to get a particular shade of color in your own hair using it? Leave a comment for tailored advice...

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    1. Hi!! I tried to leave a comment but I don't know if it got published. My name is Carla. I was wondering. If I dye my hair with semi permanent, and I go to the beach the following week, and I get my hair wet will it start to wash out like I'm in the shower?

    2. Hi Carla,

      Usually, just getting your hair wet won't cause much colour loss as it's mainly the shampoo that strips it out when washing hair. It can fade a little, but this shouldn't be too noticeable.


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