Be it a bad breakup or a literal global pandemic, there is something about overwhelming crisis that makes people want to dye their hair at home. Risky? Sure. But when you've run out of things to do, drastically want to change up your look, or both, it's important to remember one thing: your hair will always grow back.
Of course, that truth doesn't mean just go at your hair with bleach in one hand and reckless abandon in the other. According to Ulta Beauty Pro Team Member and Redken International Performing Artist Sean Godard, permanent color treatments should be left to a professional hairstylist — especially if you have a specific color your stylist uses on you that you can’t achieve at home. Still, he says there's room to experiment on your own with the right products.
"Temporary and semi-permanent hair dyes are the best options to try yourself because they cause little to no damage and are easier for your colorist to work with once you’re able to make it to the salon again," he tells NYLON. "Most semi-color solutions are user-friendly, and have a conditioning base that includes ingredients that nourish and protect the hair, leaving it feeling soft and silky."
But what's the difference between temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent? According to Paul Chatelle — North America Senior Education Design Manager for Wella and Clairol Professional — there are four color categories, and its important to know which you're getting into before shopping. Chatelle offers a simple breakdown, noting that temporary products offer color that deposits on the outside of the hair, and usually lasts 1-2 shampoos. Semi-Permanent is gentle color that "deposits without peroxide on the outside of the hair and slightly under the cuticle layer that washes out gradually," and will last anywhere from 5-20 shampoos.
The other two categories, which Godard recommends you leave to the professionals, include demi-permanent, a color that uses a gentle developer or activator, and permanent color, which needs a peroxide developer to oxidize and activate. "Permanent color has a permanent effect on the hair by changing the natural hair. It remains on the hair until the hair grows out," says Chatelle, noting that the only other way to remove permanent color is by using a lightening product.
When it comes to those temporary and semi-permanent colors, though, Godard says that you should be looking for solutions specifically tailored to your hair type and/or current color, as a lot of temporary and semi-permanent dyes are intended to be used by people with pre-lightened (or naturally light) hair, while others will be for darker hair. "You’ll also want to look for ingredients known to condition and hydrate the hair. Vitamin-rich, ammonia-free formulas are less damaging and will help keep your hair in a healthy state."
Ahead, check out seven of the best temporary and semi-permanent dyes and tints to try out at home, below.
We only include products that have been independently selected by NYLON's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
If you're fantasizing over a bold fashion moment, colorist Patti O'Gara of New York City's Blackstones Salon suggests Overtone, calling its hero product a nourishing color infused conditioner. "It also comes in varying levels of intensity, in addition to a full line for brunettes, and a brand new series for redheads! Again, always check with your colorist to gain their insight on what shade is best according to your hair goals/journey."
This full-coverage, semi-permanent vegan formula from Lime Crime was designed to be ultra-conditioning while delivering serious color. Those with pre-bleached platinum to medium blonde hair can expect intense full-coverage color, while those with dark blonde and light brown hair can expect a tint of color.
This 1-day temporary spray is perfect if you want to test out how a color might look before using a more comital product — or if you just want to switch things up long enough to take an Instagram photo, whichever. Each shade is formulated to be vibrant on all hair types and colors, so even folks with dark hair can play around with pinks and pastels.
Coming in 20 colors, this iconic, semi-permanent, and vegan formula is highly pigmented — meant for folks who are looking for a lot of vibrancy, and even longer lasting wear than other semi-permanent options on the market. Best part? It’s completely odorless.
According to Jay Kownacki, the Evo Head of Education, the Fabuloso Colour Boosting Treatments are designed for at-home use. "They’re super easy to apply and don’t require much of your time," he tells NYLON. Coming in eight shades, the conditioning formula adds a boost of color and shine. "Simply apply to towel dried hair after shampooing, comb through, wait three minutes and rinse," syas Kownacki.
Available in 18 colors, Wella Color Charm Paints come easy to DIY, designed to apply straight from the bottle. Once in, allow 30 minutes to develop, and rinse out to reveal your color. You can expect the colors to last up to 20 washes, depending on used shade and the intensity of your initial hair color.