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Temporary, semi, demi & permanent hair color: What's the difference?

All you need to know about Clairol different hair colors.

getting started

When it comes to choosing at-home hair color, it’s not just about the shade. You need to find the perfect formula to match up with your hair goals too. That means the coverage, how long the color lasts and how it cares for your hair are all important things to think about. But when you’re faced with temporary, permanent, demi-permanent and semi-permanent hair color, we know things can get a little bit confusing.

Let's be honest: these universally used terms are actually quite misleading. So, we’re breaking down the differences for you.

Discover what sets temporary, semi-permanent, demi-permanent and permanent hair color apart with this quick-to-follow guide. You’ll be working your perfect product in no time!

Quick take: the differences between temporary, permanent and semi-permanent color</h2>

The color:


How long it lasts:

Care benefits:

Gray coverage:

Color results:

Temporary Color

Clairol Root Touch-Up Spray or Root Touch-Up Concealing Powder.

Until your next shampoo.

No hair damage – think of these temporary touch-ups as 'makeup for hair'.

Yes, if you're using a root concealer like the Root Touch-Up Spray or

Low-commitment gray coverage that stays flawless until you shampoo it out. Ultra-natural finish that's easy to blend for a seamless effect.

Semi-Permanent Color

Clairol Color Gloss Up

Up to 10 washes.

Packed with conditioning ingredients like shea butter and argan oil to boost smoothness.

Sheer and translucent. Semi-permanent color will subtly blend grays but won't cover completely.

Zero-damage, high-shine, conditioning formula that enhances your natural hair color and dimension. Perfect for dull hair in need of a quick refresh.

Demi-Permanent Color

Clairol Natural Instincts

Up to 28 washes.

Ammonia-free formula is ultra gentle. A boost of coconut oil and aloe vera makes it ideal for dry hair types.

Gray blending – perfect for those first silver strays.

Radiant, healthy-looking hair. Plus, it comes in a range of beautiful shades for every hair type. 

Permanent Color

Clairol Nice 'n Easy, Textures & Tones, Perfect 10or Natural Instincts Bold

Permanent transformation

Nice'n Easy has conditioners built into every step, Textures & Tones is specially formulated to nourish relaxed or natural hair, and Perfect 10 moisturizes with a blend of jojoba oil and aloe vera.

Natural Instincts Bold is ammonia-free and has no animal derived ingredients. Get bold color with argan oil, açaí and guarana extracts.

Full 100% gray hair coverage, even on stubborn silver strands.

Natural Instincts Bold is not recommended for over 25% gray hair due to the intensity of the dyes in each of the shades.

Vibrant color results, with complete coverage of grays. A great choice for the longest-lasting finish and bolder transformations.

Now for a closer look...

You've seen the basics on the different types of hair color; now let's look closer at their individual benefits so that you can choose your ultimate color...

Temporary hair color: to touch up grays and grown-out roots on the go

Temporary hair dye is your go-to when you want a one-wash wonder shade. It gives you an instant pop of color that you can simply shampoo out when you're ready. In the Clairol collection, our temporary Root Touch-Up Spray and Concealing Powder each make disguising grays ultra easy; just apply the Spray into roots or sweep the Powder through regrowth for cover-up you can top up on the go.

And, because they each feature micro-fine powders, they feel completely weightless on hair, blending seamlessly with your current color. You'll find a range of shades to choose from, whether you're working a blonde shade, a red mane or brown hair. Covering up grays has never been so easy.

Semi-permanent hair color: for sheer pops of color to enhance your current shade

Semi-permanent hair dye lasts longer than temporary color, but requires less commitment than a permanent or even a demi-permanent color. Case in point? Clairol Color Gloss Up hair gloss, which lasts for up to 15 washes when used on pre-lightened hair, so you can rock your dream hue for a couple of weeks as it gently fades.

Think of it like a tinted topcoat for locks, delivering a sheer wash of color and megawatt shine, along with a dose of argan oil and shea butter for extra smoothness. Choose from a wide array of Color Gloss Up shade options, including soft naturals like Warm Caramel Brownie and Toasted Almond Blonde. You'll also discover fashion colors such as Out Of The Blue and pastel shades like Rose All Day.

Plus, you can use this semi-permanent dye to correct orange tones in already colored hair, with Play It Cool Blonde bringing balance to blonde hair when strands start to steer too warm. And there's no mixing; simply apply your go-to hue directly onto damp hair, leave it on for between two minutes and 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Demi-permanent hair color: for long-lasting, bold color with no ammonia

Demi-permanent hair colors are like the midway point between semi and permanent shades. They last longer than a semi-permanent hair dye but not as long as a permanent hue. Unlike many permanent shades, they also boast an ammonia-free formula. This means they don't use ammonia to completely open up the hair cuticle – something that most permanent hues do so that pigment can be deposited inside the hair shaft.

Instead, demi-permanent dyes wrap around and just under the outer cuticle of the hair, veiling strands in vivid color that gradually fades away. So, if you want something longer-lasting than temporary or semi-permanent dye, reach for a demi-permanent hair dye like Natural Instincts. With coconut oil and aloe vera, it keeps hair soft and hydrated, it's gentle, effective, and gives you vibrant flawlessness for up to 28 washes.

Permanent hair color: for the ultimate in long wear with intense vibrancy

This is your longest-lasting color option. If you want salon-grade color (without the time-consuming salon visits!), reach for a permanent color. Not only will you achieve up to 100% gray coverage, but you'll also get show-stopping vibrancy from your chosen shade. Seriously, the results are TikTok-worthy. Our most popular permanent product is Nice'n Easy, which develops in just 25 minutes and comes a variety of incredible shades.

To go high on shine when you're tight on time, you can also try Perfect 10, which delivers the glossiest hues in just 10 minutes. From 10 Lightest Blonde, to 2 Black for ultra dark hair looks, each shade is packed with shine-activating Micropearls for bumped-up luminosity.

Then there's Textures & Tones, a conditioning color that's specially formulated to enrich relaxed and natural textured hair. The brightest blondes, most radiant red and richest brunettes make up this nourishing collection, each packed with shea butter and aloe vera.

And, finally, if it's just root coverage you crave, try permanent Root Touch-Up By Nice’n Easy; a sweep-on formula that makes grays vanish in 10 minutes. The easy-to-use applicator brush lets you zero in on silvery strays for no roots, no grays and no trips to the salon. Plus, it lasts for up to three weeks, so you can brush on your perfect shade and wear with confidence.

Want more tips on the different color types? Discover everything there is to know about doing a root touch-up at home.

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