When you’re looking to alter your hair color—whether that means making it lighter or darker, covering up grays or simply adding a little oomph to your current shade—there are several ways to go about it.
But somewhere in the middle lies the hair color sweet spot that many women crave. It’s called demi-permanent hair color.
“This type of product will stay in the hair for 28 shampoos,” explains Teca Lewellyn, a Procter & Gamble Beauty Scientist. “So, depending on how frequently you wash your hair, it will take about a month to a month and half to gently fade away.”
Here’s how it works: Demi-permanent hair color molecules get under the outer cuticle of the hair shaft but, unlike permanent dyes, they don’t penetrate the deeper cortex. “They basically get temporarily stuck just beneath the cuticle until they are washed out,” says Lewellyn. “The difference with permanent color is that the dye has to swell the cuticle to make it lift and allow the molecules to make their way into the cortex deep inside the hair shaft.”
Demi-permanent may not be the answer for everyone and every hair situation, but it does have several key advantages.
It can cover up to 70 percent of your grays.
“It’s a great solution for someone who’s just starting to go gray and wants to experiment with color,” says Lisa Evan, a colorist at Mario Russo Salon in Boston. “It gives a very natural result because the grays will take the color differently from the other strands, which means hair ends up with an almost highlighted look.”
You’ll never have obvious roots.
Permanent color invades the hair shaft and lodges itself there, well, permanently. So instead of fading away gradually, like demi-permanent color does, your hair stays whatever color you’ve dyed it, and as your hair grows, the new stuff at the roots will be the old color (or gray). With demi-permanent there’s no obvious line of demarcation so you don’t need to worry about touching up your roots every few weeks.
Your hair will look healthy and shiny.
“Demi-permanent is much gentler on the hair than permanent color,” say Evans. That’s because it doesn’t open up the cuticle as much or penetrate inside the cortex of the hair shaft. “The integrity of the hair is better when the cuticle stays intact.”