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Permanent Colour vs Semi Permanent Colour vs Demi Permanent Colour - Everything You Need To Know

Permanent Colour vs Semi Permanent Colour vs Demi Permanent Colour - Everything You Need To Know

As professional stylists we often talk about "hair colour" but rarely talk about the three core types; Permanent, Semi Permanent and Demi Permanent, and when we do there can be some confusion between the three. Even the most experienced hairdresser may need to brush up on the scientific differences between them from time to time.

In this guide we'll provide you with a clear view on the specific roles of permanent, semi and demi colours, and when you should look to use each one in your colour services.

Permanent vs Semi vs Demi; What do they have in common?

All of the above colour types are designed with one primary objective - to alter the appearance of the hairs' colour either by enhancing it with a different shade or tone or by changing it. Each one will work on a different part of the hair structure.

All are available in the variety of shades, allowing for customisation and selection based on personal preference and desired outcome.

Despite these commonalities, there are significant differences between the three types of hair colour in terms of longevity, intensity, and the degree to which they penetrate the hair shaft.

What is Permanent Hair Colour?

Permanent hair colour is a type of hair dye that, as the name suggests, permanently alters the colour of the hair using a process called oxidation. In this process an alkalising agent (such as ammonia) is combined with an oxidising agent (hydrogen peroxide) to swell and open-up the cuticle to let the dye in to deposit the permanent colour molecules.

When to use Permanent Colour?

  • Grey coverage - permanent colour penetrates deeply into the hair shaft, deposits colour and changes the actual colour of the hair rather than "glossing" or "blending" the grey
  • Vibrant and vivid results
  • Colour correction - due to its intensity, permanent colour is perfect for maximum neutralisation and colour corrections
  • Lightening and lifting - Permanent colour can be used to deposit colour whilst lifting the hair by several shades (subject to using the right peroxides). Neal & Wolf Permanent Colour can lift between 3-4 levels.

What's the best Permanent Hair Colour?

Our go-to permanent hair colour brands are Neal & Wolf and Silky.

Neal & Wolf - the best Permanent Hair Colour?

What is Demi Permanent Colour?

Demi-permanent hair colour is a type of hair dye that offers a less permanent change compared to permanent hair colour, whilst providing a low-commitment alternative. Demi–permanent colour is typically ammonia-free, and uses an alkalising agent such as MEA. MEA doesn't lift the cuticle as much as ammonia, and is also naturally a liquid, therefore not encouraging as much lift and exposure of the undertone, offering a deposit-only colour.

When to use Demi Permanent Colour?

  • Glossing or toning - Demi-permanent colours are perfect for glossing and toning treatments to add shine, depth, or tone to the hair without lifting
  • Grey blending - for clients with grey hair who want a blended coverage without committing to permanent colour, demi-permanent colour can be an ideal choice. It helps camouflage grey hairs while allowing some of the natural grey to shine through, creating a more natural-looking result
  • Lived-in colour - Demi Permanent colour is ideal for low-commitment, lived-in styles such as root melts, root tapping, adding dimension to blondes, pre-filling
  • Colour correction - Demi-permanent colour is perfect for pre-filling or pre-pigmenting the hair prior to taking the hair darker
  • Virgin hair - Demi-permanent is a great introduction for clients with no previous colour, looking to experiment, think 'dating' before 'marrying'.

What's the best Demi Permanent Hair Colour?

Our go-to demi permanent hair colour brands are Neal & Wolf GLAZE; a liquid demi permanent colour, and Nouvelle Touch Tone-on-Tone; a cream based colour. Both of these options are ammonia free.

Neal & Wolf Glaze - Best Demi Permanent Colour

What is Semi Permanent Colour?

Semi-permanent hair colour is a non-oxidative hair dye that provides temporary colour change without penetrating the hair shaft. It utilises a direct pigment and sits on the cuticle layer. 

When to use Semi Permanent Colour?

  • Low commitment colour - Semi-permanent hair colours give clients the option of a temporary colour, refreshing their current colour, or experiment with new shades without any long-term commitment. Lasts up to 10 washes
  • Colour masks - help clients keep their colour looking fresher for longer by adding a semi permanent colour to a hair mask. Apply once per week at home.
  • Pre-pigmenting - semi-permanent colours are ideal for pre-pigmenting the hair when the condition is over-compromised or over-processed.
  • Severely damaged hair - semi permanent colours are very gentle on hair and can even help to improve condition and shine. Salons may choose semi-permanent colour for clients with delicate or damaged hair who want to add colour while minimizing further damage. Most semi-permanent colours are composed of treatment-based ingredients such as Aloe Vera or Soy Proteins, which help to strengthen and moisture the hair, whilst enhancing the colour.
  • Sensitive Scalp - Some clients may have sensitive scalps or allergies to certain hair colour ingredients such as PPD or PTD. Semi-permanent colour is less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions making it a safer option for clients with sensitive skin or allergies, or for people who are looking for chemical-free alternatives to hair colouring.
  • Fashion colours & vivids: Semi-permanent hair colour comes in a wide range of vibrant fashion shades, and can also often be intermixed for ultimate creative freedom, making it perfect for clients who want to experiment with bold or unconventional colours without the commitment of permanent colour. It's a popular choice for creating temporary pastel hues, vivid fantasy colours, or trendy ombre effects.

What's the best Semi Permanent Hair Colour?

Our go-to semi permanent hair colour brands are Neal & Wolf REBOOST and Nouvelle Paint Bang

Neal & Wolf Reboost - best Semi Permanent Hair Colour

Understanding the distinct use cases for each of the colour types is essential for achieving your clients desired results while maintaining the health and integrity of their hair. 

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