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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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Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

I also noticed you don’t say, Haircolor you say dye. But the power points all say semi permanent hair color it doesn’t say semi permanent hair dye. Pay attention to the words you use always pick the most attractive word when it comes to the beauty industry Have a blessed night

Hollee Wood

Thursday 4th of May 2023

I am actually retired from the hair industry, but was a professional stylist for 9 years. This blog is focused on helping the readers, who may or may not know the professional lingo - I research the keywords that readers search for when writing a post, which is why I may use different terminology. Hope that helps!


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

We say violet u say purple so I’m just curious


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

Are you a professional? U just use terms we were taught not to use in the beauty industry. Like “bleach”. We say “lighten” where I’m from.


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

Just for men*


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

Splat is a different type of semi permanent. Because it flattens the hair cuticle. Making it next to impossible to remove or add color to until hair grows out. It’s horrible for hair. Same with any 10 minute hair color systems. Like just for me. Worse than using lighter and bleaching your hair. So semi permanent is a stretch. Respectfully