The Best Semi-Permanent Hair Color. An Objective Review.


Dec 01
best semi-permanent hair color

When it comes to hair colors, there is a huge choice out there. Not only in terms of the actual color you go for, but also the type of hair dye: Permanent, Demi-Permanent, Semi-Permanent, Highlighting and more. If you're coloring your own hair, most people go for a semi-permanent color. It lasts about 6 weeks, comes in a whole rainbow of colors and tends to fade progressively. Something for everybody! We've tried out some of the best semi-permanent hair colors, so take a look at our top 3! 

The Best 3 Semi-Permanent Hair Colors

There's something for everyone in our top 3. From glossy color for mostly grays, to vibrant and shocking. And everything in between. 


L'Oreal Paris Healthy Look Hair Color, 7G Dark Golden Blonde/Golden Latte

( 4.3 out of 5.0 )

  • Ammonia free
  • Infused with natural royal jelly and pomegranate to sell in glossy hair
  • One application lasts 28 washes
  • Softly blends away first grays
  • The creme rinse is kind of unpleasant smelling


Garnier Herbashine Haircolor, 565 Medium Auburn Brown

( 4.3 out of 5.0 )

  • Ammonia Free
  • Bamboo Extract to strengthen hair
  • One application lasts 28 washes
  • Natural gray coverage
  • Takes a long time to rinse hair until water runs clear


Jerome Russel Semi Permanent Punky Hair Colour Hair Cream 3.5oz Turquoise

(4.2 out of 5.0 )

  • Gives outrageous color on bleached hair or a highlight effect on darker hair
  • Cruelty free- does not test on animals
  • Color lasts from 5 - 40 washes depending on shade of hair
  • Cruelty free- does not test on animals
  • Fades quickly on dark hair

Why Buy a Semi-Permanent Hair Color? 

Semi-Permanent hair colors are great options for doing yourself at home. If all goes horribly wrong it won't last forever, whereas a permanent color, or a highlighting disaster will be a long-lived mistake to live with. But at the same time, you want it to last longer than one night. That's kind of the point of semi-permanent hair colors. You will live with the results for quite some time. Although the results will fade, most people would expect to still see evidence of their semi-permanent hair color a good month or two after dying. What's more? They tend to be kinder to your hair, containing no ammonia so you can feel more confident about coloring your locks yourself. 

  • Easy to Apply: manufacturers know that most of us do this ourselves at home, rather than at the hair salon. So they've made it really easy to do. No mixing, easy application, no risk of damaging your hair. 
  • It's not forever: Semi-permanent colors really can be fun. You can try something different, whether that's just a slightly darker shade of auburn, or something far more colorful than your usual color. If you don't like it, just wait for it to fade (or wash it a lot!)
  • It is kind to your hair so you don't need to worry about damaging your hair and making it dry and brittle. Semi-permanent colors will actually often add real gloss and shine to your locks as often they've got conditioning treatments within the color. 
  • Cost Effective: Far cheaper than a permanent hair color, and a bargain compared to going to the salon.  
  • Covers up gray: If you've got a few grays poking out, or even if you're totally gray, semi-permanent colors are great. They all offer great gray coverage, just find the color that gives you the best result.

So as long as you're not looking to lighten your hair (because this needs bleach, and semi-permanent colors will in effect stain your hair, they can't lighten it) semi-permanent hair colors are a great way to go. There's a whole array of colors available from the traditional blondes to brunettes as well as some more outrageous colours. Really something for everyone! 

What to Look Out for When Buying Hair Dye

Semi-permanent colors are available in pretty much every shade you can think of. So what else do you need to consider, other than just picking your favorite color? 

  • If you're going for a natural look aim for a colour most like you natural hair color. You'll find this will cover up gray and blend in really well. 
  • If you want to go lighter, you have to chemically lighten your hair first. Semi-permanent color can't do this. It's a stain, and contains no bleach. 
  • What's in the bottle? Some products come with just the hair color, others will include a conditioner and some will also need to be pre-mixed. Make sure you follow the instructions to the letter! 
  • Cover up! Not just your clothes with old towel, but your hair line too. Vaseline works great around your hair line; it's really easy to get spots of dye on your forehead....which is generally not a great look! Watch out too not to move around too much when you have the color setting on your hair. Little splashes of this stuff can stain your floor, walls and furniture! 

[ Youtube video explaining what to look out for when buying product ]

Whichever color you go for, and whichever product, semi-permanent colors are easy to apply as long as you follow the directions and be a little careful. 

Why does Semi-Permanent Hair Color last UP TO a number of washes? 

Well, it really does vary a lot from person to person. And until you use a hair color, you aren't going to know for sure exactly how long your new look will last. But there are some ways for you to get an idea. Certain things affect how long the color stays, and we've detailed them for you here: 

How Porous is your Hair? 

Very porous hair will soak up a lot of color and be a lot darker than you expected. Semi-permanent hair usually just stains the outside of the hair shaft, but in porous hair it will also dye beyond the surface of the hair, meaning the color will last for longer. Bleached hair is always more porous and as such will keep a semi-permanent color for longer. 

Hair Dryness

Much like with porous hair, dry hair will keep hair color for longer. This is because your hair is more likely to absorb more of the dye and it will penetrate deeper. Think of your dry hair as thirsty! It just keeps taking the color in. 

How Long you Leave it on your Hair

Whereas permanent colors will work after a set time and not continue to color your hair, semi-permanent colors just keep going. So the longer you keep the color on your hair, the more it stains your hair. Check the directions for the product you use, but often it's fine to leave your semi-permanent color on for as long as you want and the color will last longer as a result. 

You Control How Quickly it Washes Out

If you wash your hair every day, with two shampoos, and with a strong shampoo you will find your semi-permanent color will start to fade sooner rather than later. So if you can leave your hair for an extra day between washes, and use a shampoo designed to protect your color, it will last for longer. The top tip is to avoid anti-dandruff and clarifying shampoos. They really strip the hair of your new color.

Detailed Reviews of the Best Product Semi-Permanent Hair Colors

We've tried and tested a lot of the best semi-permanent colors on the market. There's a lot of choice and the best one will depend on the result that you're trying to achieve. Remember, you can't lighten your hair with semi-permanent color! Out top three all do a great job, give a color that is accurate to the picture on the box and are easy to apply. 

Garnier Herbashine Haircolor, 565 Medium Auburn Brown (other colors available)

A great semi-permanent color. It lasted really well, and definitely conditioned the hair brilliantly. So not only did the hair have a new color, but was also radiant, shiny and silky. Our testers found that it covered gray brilliantly too - even those with over half a head of gray hairs got 100% coverage. Lasted really well and loved the conditioner that was included in the packet. Only downside is you have to mix the activating creme with the color. But this is easy to do and gloves are included in the packet.  


  • Lasts up to 28 washes
  • Covers hair with up to 70% grays
  • Leaves hair in great condition thanks to Herbashine color and conditioner

What's Good About It?

This product will give you the color that it shows on the box. That may not sound like a big deal. But it is. You'll be able to cover grays and it's easy to apply with no drips to worry about thanks to the application nozzle on the color bottle. We all loved how it left our hair feeling - really really smooth and silky. Whether that's the herbashine in the color or the included conditioner I'm not sure. But whichever it was, it really did work. Brilliant color, easy to apply, great looking hair that lasts. Great results and it comes in a wide range of color options too. 

What Could Be Improved?

Our reviewers found that it took a really long time to rinse the color off their hair. On the plus side it lasted really well, but make sure you allow a long time in the shower rinsing it off. The water will run clear. Eventually. For ease of use some people prefer a product that's pre-mixed, but if you follow the instructions it is simple to use. 

L'Oreal Paris Healthy Look Hair Color, 7G Golden Blonde/Golden Latte (other colors available)

It was really hard to choose between this product and the 1st place Garnier color. There really is very little to choose between the two. Both offer a great color, glossy shine and work in the same way with a 3 step process with conditioner and gloves included. It's really easy to apply and gives great, long lasting color. The only reason this one came second is because it isn't quite so good at covering gray when you have more than 50% gray hair. So not a worry for everyone, but certainly if you are more gray than anything else, we'd recommend the Garnier product. 


  • Lasts up to 28 washes
  • Conditioning complex included in the hair color for great protection and shine
  • Blends away those first grays

What's Good About It?

A lovely semi-permanent hair color for anyone wanting an easy to apply, no drip, great lasting color which leaves your hair in lovely condition. If you've got the first signs of a few gray hairs, this is a fantastic product for you. 

What Could Be Improved?

Some of our reviewers mentioned that they weren't too keen on the smell of the creme rinse. And while this is a subjective thing, I would say that the product is definitely best for people with only a few (say 10-15%) gray hairs. More than that and you'll need to try another product. 

Jerome Russel Semi Permanent Punky Colour Hair Cream 3.5oz Turquoise (other colors available)

Something a little different with this one! And we did have fun trying it out! This product is very different to our first and second placed semi-permanent hair color products. For a start let's mention the color. We tried turquoise. But it comes in 20 colors, all of them definitely living up to the title of "punky". You need to remember though, this is a semi-permanent color. So if you're applying a color to hair that is darker it will be more subtle and won't last so long. There are two ways of using this product. Either as a highlight effect on darker hair (the less risky option!) Or get outrageous color on bleached hair.

The second thing to note is that this product is all that's included in the box. You'll need to buy a Jerome Russel tint brush and some petroleum jelly for around your hairline and on your ears (this stuff will stain!)


  • A rainbow of amazing colors
  • Color that lasts up to 40 washes on bleached hair, or less than 10 on darker hair
  • Total gray coverage

What's Good About It?

My favorite thing has to be the range of colors. It is just so much more fun to think about whether you want lagoon blue or flamingo pink than ash blonde or mahogany brown. This may not be for everyone. And may not be a permanent look. But if you want something a little different look no further. 

We all really loved that you can still use the product for more subtle highlights if you don't want to go for it and bleach your hair first. Some of our more mature testers with a lot of gray absolutely loved this. They had all the advantage of the fun punky colors working on their hair, without having to worry about damaging it with bleach. Great result! 

What Could Be Improved?

It isn't the easiest product to apply. You will need to buy yourself a tinting brush, some disposable gloves and a pot of petroleum jelly. If you've got the kit it's really easy to do. 

Final Verdict on Best Semi-Permanent Hair Color

For all round appeal, ease of use, gray coverage, condition and color we've gone for Garnier's Herbashine Haircolor. It lives up to its promises and won't disappoint.