Hair Colouring

From Temporary Hair Color to Semi-Permanent, a Guide to At-Home Dye

Craving a change just to feel something? Let one fleetingly peachy-haired Vogue editor attest: Temporary hair color can help.

“If you feel like you want a change at the start of the new year, but you don’t want to commit to permanent color, using a temporary or semi-permanent dye is a great way to experiment,” says Alex Brownsell, co- founder and creative director of British salon Bleach London. What’s more: A wash of more vivid or fantasy color will not only remix your look, but make you feel like a wayward 17-year-old all over again. “During lockdown, people began bleaching and coloring their hair on their own like a desperate teenager with a box in a bathroom,” explains Douglas Cornwall, also known as Discolourist, master colorist at Treehouse Social Club. “The Zoom-based realities that replaced many work and school realms no longer hold restrictions on appearance. That sense of freedom has ushered in the desire to be colorful while the rest of the world is murky.”

Whether you’re looking for a subtle tweak or, as Cornwall puts it, are in “one-day fantasy seeker” mode, here’s an expert’s guide to at-home temporary color.

Begin With the Type of Temporary Dye You Want

Generally speaking, there are two primary categories: Temporary hair color, which comes in many forms, from gels to conditioning masks, and semi-permanent hair dyes. “Temporary colors are your quick wash-in, wash-out colors that fade after a couple of shampoos,” explains Brownsell. “Semi-permanent dyes are less high maintenance, lasting around 6-8 weeks depending on the vibrancy of the color you choose, how frequently you wash your hair, as well as the condition and porosity of your hair.” For beginners, direct dyes are easier to comprehend because typically “what is in your bowl will look like what’s going to be in your hair,” says Cornwall, adding that another advantage is that they are often formulated with conditioning and shine agents built in, as well as a base color that adds a “smokey or dusty element” to give it a more lived-in feel.

If you want to take a more low-risk approach, consider henna hair dyes or softer, pre-diluted tones and color kits. You can also spike your conditioner. “Adding a drop of whatever direct dye you choose into a bowl of plain conditioner is a great way to put a toe in the water,” says Cornwall. “It will dilute the intensity and will give a soft hint of the tone.” For those who are a little gun-shy, Brownsell recommends trying a pastel semi-permanent dye (Bleach London’s Rosé and Awkward Peach are the most popular) or a color-toning shampoo for more subtle results.

dpHUE Gloss+ Semi-permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner

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Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Semi-Permanent Hair Color Full Coverage

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Consider What’s Realistic Given Your Base Color

As a rule of thumb, typically the lighter your hair, the brighter and more vivid a color will be, ie achieving bolder color is easier for blondes versus those who are brunette, redhead, or raven-haired. “For semi-permanent bright and pastel shades, you’ll need to apply to a light, bleached blonde,” explains Brownsell. “If you have dark or virgin hair, these colors won’t develop true to color or show at all. First you need to lift the hair with bleach, and follow with a toner to create the perfect canvas for color.”

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