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The Beginner’s Guide To The Different Types of Hair Color

Let’s talk about the different types of hair color!

…because there are so many different types of dye and they’re each used for different things. For instance, do you know if you’re better off using semi-permanent or demi-permanent color? What about bleach?

Do you need to mix that color with developer… or no?

I know how overwhelming it can be to choose the perfect color when there are like a million different options to choose from.

But fortunately, this ultimate guide covers all the different types of hair color and shows you what they’re each used for. So pull up a seat and learn a thing or two about formulating the perfect hair color.

💡TIP: Pin this article to your Hair Color board on Pinterest so you can always come back to it when you need advice!

Should you use demi-permanent or semi-permanent hair dye for your hair type? Find out what the different types of hair color are and when to use each one...

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Temporary Hair Color

Woman with beautiful pink hair color.

Temporary hair color is all the color without the commitment.

This type of hair color rinses out in the shower and can be applied in many different ways, including:

You’ll often see these methods used around Halloween when people need a specific hair color… just for the night.

Temporary color works by coating the outside of the hair shaft. No peroxide is used, meaning that it can’t lift your hair. This also prevents molecules from entering the hair shaft.

But do keep in mind that if you have porous bleached hair, some molecules may get deeper in the hair shaft. In this case, it can take up to 8 weeks to wash out entirely.

Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Hidden rainbow hair color.

Semi-permanent color lasts much longer than temporary color but still washes out over time.

They have smaller molecules than temporary colors… meaning that they can partially penetrate into the hair shaft.

Because of this, semi-permanent colors typically last a few weeks… or up to 6 washes.

Manic Panic, Splat, and Arctic Fox are examples of popular semi-permanent colors.

These types of color are typically applied with a bowl and brush.

Semi-permanent color doesn’t usually use peroxide, but sometimes you’ll see small amounts of low-volume peroxide used. Because they don’t use peroxide, they don’t lift the cuticle and are safe to use on damaged hair.

To help the color penetrate deeper into the hair shaft, apply heat with a blow dryer while processing. You can also let the color sit on your hair for longer than required.

Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Woman having hair colored.

Demi-permanent color is right in between semi-permanent and permanent hair color. These hair color types last a pretty long time, but will still completely fade out before you have noticeable outgrowth.

It’s typical for a demi-permanent color to last about six weeks before fading out.

Demi-permanent color is formulated with an alkaline agent other than ammonia (which is used with permanent dye). They generally don’t damage your hair, and they’re used with a low volume peroxide.

They won’t lift your hair and provide less coverage, but they’re also a lot safer on your hair than permanent color.

Permanent Hair Color

Beautiful woman with brown, wavy hair.

Permanent color generally lasts until it grows out or you lighten/color over it.

This color type can take virgin hair lighter or can darken any kind of hair. Remember, the golden rule of color is that COLOR DOESN’T LIFT COLOR… meaning that you have to bleach previously colored hair if you want to lighten it. Just read the article if you’re confused.

You’ll need to mix a permanent hair color with a developer (peroxide). Developer opens the cuticle and allows the color molecules to get up in the hair shaft.

Different volumes of developers are used to do different things with color.

  • 10V deposits with no lift
  • 20V developer lifts up to 2 levels and deposits
  • 30V lifts up to 3 levels
  • 40V lifts to 4 levels, but you usually only use it with high-lift blonde colors.

For instance, if you want to lift your hair 2 levels higher (on virgin hair), you’ll want to mix the color with 20v developer. To read more about color formulation, check out my definitive guide to DIY hair color.


Young woman with long blonde hair.

You might low-key freak out a little when I say “bleach,” but just know that it’s used a lot more than you think. It’s not a recipe for disaster… unless you let it be.

In fact, you’ll likely need to use it if you want to lift color out of your hair or go lighter. But don’t fret… when used correctly and cautiously, it shouldn’t cause much damage.

💡TIP: Using Olaplex No. 3 is the absolute best way to repair bleach damage!

Bleach comes in cream or powder form, and it must be mixed with a developer to work.

Any developer volume will work, but remember that the higher the level, the more damaging it is. I recommend using 20V-30V unless lifting a really dark color.

Bleach causes the hair to turn some shade of color between red and pale yellow, depending on how dark the hair was, how long the bleach was left on, etc. I always recommend using a toner with bleach… which brings me to the final hair color type…


Beautiful woman with platinum blonde hair.

Hair toners are used to change the tonal level of bleached hair… meaning that they make that pale yellow color (from the bleach) into a different shade of blonde.

For instance, if you want platinum blonde hair, you’ll want to tone bleached hair with a purple based toner. Likewise, you should use a blue-based toner for ash blonde hair color.

There are several other shades to choose from, including strawberry blonde, beige, and neutral blonde colors.

If you bleach your hair, you should probably use a toner. It’ll get rid of the golden undertones and will make your hair look more polished.

👉🏼RELATED: How To Use a Hair Toner For Brassiness


FAQ Icon

What are the different types of hair color?

The most common hair color types are temporary, semi-permanent, demi-permanent, permanent, bleach, and toner.

Which type of hair dye is the best?

It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to lighten your hair, you’ll need to use permanent color or bleach. If you want to try a hair color without fully committing, it’s best to use semi-permanent or demi-permanent colors. For color that washes out, temporary is the way to go.

Which hair color stays the longest?

Permanent hair colors will last the longest, especially if they are darker shades.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

It’s essential to choose the perfect type of hair color for your personal needs and hair goals.

If you want to try a hair color without any commitment, temporary, semi-permanent, or demi-permanent colors are the way to go. If you want to go much lighter, a high-lift permanent blonde color or bleach is your best bet.

Or maybe you want a color that you can keep forever… in that case, you’ll want to go with a permanent shade.

No matter what you choose, I’m confident that it’ll be perfect for you!

Until next time,


Your Turn: Do you have any other questions about the different types of hair color? What type of color do you use? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

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Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Sorry for type error I didn't leave long inaf and at back still uncolur yellow can put same coulor Nast on yellow tons at front it's fine as I start from from from but I just leave it 15 mn?

Hollee Wood

Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Hi Katy, thanks for the question. This is hard because I don't know what your hair looks like or what color you are going for, but I would think that you should just reapply the permanent color to the areas that still need to process and let it process for the full time. Hope it helps :)


Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Hi pls help me I've coulor my hair with permanent coulor pre bleach hair but I find leave long inaf and Sam parts at back still yellow at front it's fine what can I do now?


Sunday 30th of June 2013

I'm struggling so much with my hair it's been bleached loads but so patchy, majority of it is a yellow and the rest bright orange. I've heard about blue base purple base etc but I'm in England. No beauty supply stores where I live just body care, boots and asda. And no toners!!!! And their blonde dye says it tones and highlights when I used the light ash blonde it worked but my hair was left dark n I hated it, there are light blond, ultra light blonde medium blonde etc etc and they all say they have toners in them. And ash is the only one for orange. And the others say best for medium to light blonde But can't I use one of those? Or does it HAVE to be ash, I can't buy wella only on the Internet at £11 a pop! I've heard so many 'try silver lady' 'try white lady' and at £11 I can't afford to make a mistake. Help please


Saturday 1st of June 2013

how do you know which toner to choose? what volume of developer? how do you know how long the toner should be in your har? also i'd love a tutorial of root touch ups and how to pull the colour through? thank you so much, i love your information it's so helpful!

Hollee Wood

Saturday 1st of June 2013

Hi Sam! I am glad you like our blog! I need to touch up my roots soon, so I think a tutorial just might work! :) Thanks for the suggestion!

As far as the toner goes, you will want to use a toner with a complementary color to the color you are trying to tone. For example, if your hair is really yellow, you will want to use a violet/platinum based toner, which will cancel the yellow. If your hair is orange, you will want to use a blue/ash based toner. It is important that you be careful, because if you put an ash toner on white hair, your hair will turn grey. If your hair is already a light level, you can tone it however you want (examples are strawberry blonde, platinum blonde, ash blonde, golden blonde, beige blonde, etc.) That part is up to you.

Most toners use a 10V developer because they are strictly depositing pigment. However, I have seen some use a 20. All color lines and toners are different, so you will have to follow the directions for that specific toner. They will tell you how long to leave it in, and what developer to use!

Good luck Sam! Thanks again! :)