Different Types of Hair Dyes: The Guide To Hair Color

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From embracing the gray milestones to exploring the world of rainbow hair, the internet is filled with men and women expressing themselves and showing off their individuality through different hair colors.

Their purposes and formulas may look the same, but there’s so much more to hair dyeing than just bleaching, toning, and tinting.

A woman's hands with black gloves is mixing a bowl of hair dye on a wooden table

Before stunning the world with a hair flip that feels good on the inside as much as it looks on the outside, let’s better understand the different types of hair dyes and what lies behind these colorful transitions. 

Why Do We Dye?

No matter how simple or how drastic you’ve dyed your hair, joining this colorful bandwagon is a huge change, and we’re proud of you for taking the courage to do so. 

But to some who need a bit more push, here are some benefits of dyeing your hair:

  • It gives you a signature look.
  • It can be an outlet for creativity.
  • It covers or enhances gray hair.
  • It enhances volume and gives the illusion of fuller hair.
  • The outcome can complement and boost your physical features.
  • As much as it can improve your mental health and self-esteem, some dyes can surprisingly enhance hair health.

What to Consider When Choosing a Hair Dye


Not everyone lives a lavish lifestyle to afford steep salon color treatment prices, which is why most people settle on doing the dye job at home. 

The average cost of a DIY hair dye kit ranges from $5 to $20. Compared to salon prices, it’s relatively cheaper.

But to maximize cost efficiency, estimate the amount of product you need depending on the volume and length of your hair.


Buying cheap products doesn’t always mean you’ll get the most out of your money. Some manufacturers cut off the price by using cheap but harmful ingredients, which include the following:

  • Resorcinol
  • Sulfates
  • PPD

The market is filled with different hair dyes formulated with natural and organic ingredients and milder percentages of or alternatives to those chemicals.

Also, note that common ingredients like ammonia and peroxide could potentially be harmful if used improperly or if you have a sensitivity to them.

But they can also be necessary to color your hair if you want to use a permanent hair color or bleach your hair. So you should use hair color products that contain these ingredients with caution.

Of course, you can always go see a stylist for best results.

All in all, don’t forget to take allergens and possible irritants into consideration. Choose and use the type of hair dye that’s safe for you.

Never forget to do skin tests before hopping right into different hair color dyes. 


In line with the formula that you should be cautious and selective of, look for the special features or the added goodness. 

The world of dyes has evolved so much that there are now products made free of ammonia and parabens and are organic, natural, and cruelty-free. 

Also, check out the freebies they come with.

Some packs come with protective gear such as capes and gloves, extra nozzles, and bottle tips for more convenient application, and some even have pre and post-procedure treatments like shampoos, conditioners, and serums. 

Longevity, Pigment, and Shade Range

This determining factor will have one of the most significant impacts on which type of dye you’ll use. 

The different hair dyes come with varying longevity. Not everything is meant to last, and upkeep is vital. Some types only last for a day, while some withstand months. 

Each type of dye also has a range of colors that they work best on; sometimes this factor also determines the fade rate. 

Current Hair Condition

Most hair dyes work on all hair types, but that doesn’t mean they work on all hair conditions.

When choosing the most suitable dye, assess and reflect on your past treatments. Prior dyes, bleaching, and other chemical procedures can adversely affect hair coloring.

Likewise, depending on the ingredients, hair dyes may also cause further damage to hair that’s already dry and frizzy.

A close up photo of a woman brushing her black straight hair with her fingers

Most Common Types of Hair Dyes

Hair color influences confidence, self-expression, and self-esteem. 

As you explore different hair colors, you may be confused by the different formulas, dye placements, and types, so we’re here to guide you on the different kinds of hair dyes.

Permanent Hair Dye

Processing Time: 30 to 45 minutes

If you’re not the type who likes to switch colors from time to time and want natural-looking colored locks, this is the perfect type of hair dye for you. 

Permanent dyes alter the structure of the hair as they lighten, darken, or change natural tones so that they don’t get washed off easily. 

The formulation of this dye has gone through a complex process to achieve this intended effect on each strand.

How It Works

Permanent hair dye works through oxidation and usually has these four main components that make this process possible:

  • Couplers — chemical compounds that define the color of the hair dye
  • Ammonia — an alkaline chemical that raises the pH level of the hair once mixed with the developer to open up the hair’s cuticles
  • Oxidizing agents (such as hydrogen peroxide) — often referred to as developers; these agents oxidize the hair melanin to remove its natural color
  • Colorless dye precursors (or PPD) — gives dark-colored dyes a more natural effect

Typically, two of these components are vital in making this chemical reaction work: ammonia and hydrogen peroxide (preferably a 20- to 30-volume developer).

Once the mixture touches the hair, the ammonia swells and lifts each strand’s cuticles, allowing the dye to penetrate each hair shaft; due to oxidation, the pigment gets locked into the hair cortex, resulting in permanent color. 

Quick Tip

While most permanent hair dyes use ammonia, some are now made ammonia-free.

These may be better options for those with sensitivities to ammonia or individuals who want to ensure minimal damage to the hair and maintain its strength and elasticity.

How Long It Lasts

To maintain the vibrance and to eliminate the boundary between the regrowths, it’s best to have it retouched every 6 to 8 weeks


  • Uniformly colors the hair
  • Lightens the hair by 1 to 3 shades
  • Provides 100% complete coverage of gray hair
  • Most colors show vividly without bleaching
  • It has a wide selection of natural-looking shades


  • Longer process time
  • Can trigger allergic reactions 
  • Can’t be rinsed off and changed instantly
  • It contains a high amount of ammonia
  • Harsh chemical content can be more damaging than the other types

Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

Process Time: 15 to 30 minutes

If you already have an excellent canvas to fill, aka bleach blonde hair, and you want to play with different colors from time to time, then semi-permanent hair dyes are the answer to your prayer. 

Most of the time, semi-permanent dyes are vibrant hair colors.

These dyes can be used straight from the box, don’t have ammonia, and will not require developers. That’s why they are also referred to as direct dyes.

How It Works

“Without PDD, ammonia, and developers, how is this supposed to color my hair?”

In place of these chemicals, semi-permanent hair dyes use smaller color molecules already formed in the tube it comes in. This dye cannot work inside the shaft and instead deposits color on the surface.

Since it doesn’t alter the hair’s structure, it sits right outside the hair shaft, and each wash easily unlatches the pigment’s grasp until it fades.


  • Natural — most common type of semi-permanent dye; includes henna and indigo dyes
  • Synthetic — pre-formed dyes that contain nitroamines or nitrobenzenes


  • Rinses
  • Sprays
  • Mousses
  • Gels and creams

How Long It Lasts

Depending on how porous your hair is and how often you style and wash it, semi-permanent colors can last up to 8 to 12 washes or up to 6 weeks before it begins to fade.


  • Refreshes faded colors
  • Neutralizes warm tones
  • It comes in fun, vibrant shades


  • Color tends to fade quicker
  • It does not always guarantee gray hair coverage
  • It would also leave you with darker roots and lighter ends

Demi-Permanent Hair Dye

Process Time: 10 to 45 minutes

Is it your first time dyeing your hair? Why not try something between a permanent and a semi-permanent dye? Try demi-permanent dyes!

Despite the different hair dye types, some just have characteristics that overlap with one another. 

Comparing it to a semi-permanent dye, the pigment in demi-permanent colors is sheerer.

So you can only use it to darken or change the tone of an already lightened hair tone, which can only work effectively if you have at least bleached or 50% of gray hair. 

How It Works

Demi-permanent dyes are non-permanent, but they last longer than semi-permanent ones. Why?

Because although this kind of hair dye has little to no ammonia, it still has to be mixed with a low-volume developer. 

Like permanent dyes, demi-permanent dyes facilitate oxidation.

Because it has a low hydrogen peroxide content (at 10 volume developer), it still stimulates the hair shaft to open and allows the dye to penetrate it slightly instead of just coating the cuticles.

Comparing it to semi-permanent dyes, it has larger pigment molecules, improving the color grip.

How Long It Lasts

Depending on how you take care of your locks and how porous and healthy your hair remains after the procedure, it can take up to 12 to 24 shampoos before it slowly fades.


  • Refreshes faded color
  • It can add shine and restore luster
  • Enhances the natural color of the hair
  • Efficiently covers up to 70% of gray hairs


  • It can still induce damage
A hands holding a brush on top of a black bowl of hair dye on a pink backkground

Temporary Hair Dye

If the situation calls for a short-lived and immediate hair color change, then temporary hair dyes are your safest option.

Think of it as a trial phase for the color you desire.

Temporary hair colors are wash-out dyes that don’t alter nor interfere with your hair’s natural and existing tone. It’s the least damaging option when switching your color since it has no ammonia and doesn’t require developers. 

Think of it as makeup for hair. Depending on your mood or the occasion, you can customize it, but it’s never meant to last longer than a day or two. 

Its formula has molecules larger than those found in semi-permanent dyes, so they have no way of clinging to those locks; plus, they are water-soluble.

Wild, vibrant shades aren’t new when it comes to hair dyes, but this type is unique because it also comes in different finishes! You can have it metallic or with sparkly glitter!

How It Works

Temporary dyes have larger color molecules that only coat the hair’s outer layer. It has no component penetrating through the hair shaft and into the hair cortex.

But in line with this, it also can’t darken, lighten, or change the color of your natural locks. After the dye’s washed out, your hair goes back to its natural state.


  • Hair glaze
  • Hair chalk
  • Colored wax
  • Color mousse
  • Colored hair gel
  • Hair color spray
  • Colored mascara wand
  • Color-infused conditioner

How Long It Lasts

It is designed to be gone in just one wash. But sometimes, hair with low porosity retains the color a bit longer. 


  • Faster and easier application
  • Commitment-free hair transformation
  • No damage
  • No color maintenance needed
  • No foul-smelling scent lingers even after the formula has been flushed.


  • Sometimes won’t show on dark hair
  • It can be messy depending on which type you use
  • It needs frequent application if you want the same result every day
  • Not water resistant and can transfer onto clothes or skin

Gradual Hair Dyes

Process Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Gradual hair dyes, or progressive hair dyes, have more unusual components than typical color dyes. It is composed of an aqueous metal solution that replaces the hair melanin through time. 

This one is commonly marketed to men users and is ideal for those who want a lasting color and those who wish to blend gray hair without the drastic change and the risk of damage and allergies. 

How It Works

Progressive hair dyes do not carry ammonia or peroxide in their mixtures. Instead, they use lead acetate and metal oxides, which can also be toxic and damaging if not used properly.

This chemical reacts with the sulfur compounds in the hair and naturally oxidizes once it contacts air. It coats and somehow penetrates the strands inside, leaving a tint of synthetic pigment as it dries. 

After repeated usage, the tint gets stacked and forms a dark pigment that hardens and converts the actual color of the hair over time. 

How Long It Lasts

It fades quickly with shampoo, and consistent and repeated application is necessary to keep the darkening progress.


  • Covers up unwanted hair color
  • Provides good gray hair coverage
  • Doesn’t require gloves during application


  • Requires repeated process
  • Consulting a professional would be better
  • Lead acetate has been linked to irritation and more serious medical cases like lead poisoning and cancer.


Process Time: 30 minutes to 6 hours

Do you want to ditch the chemicals and take an all-natural route to color your hair?

Henna was used in ancient traditions way before box dyes existed. And over time, the formulation has evolved to cater to modern-day dyeing. 

Henna is also considered a good conditioner and helps restore the hair and scalp’s natural pH balance.

It can be used on every hair type and color, but the end color may vary depending on the natural tone it begins with. Often, it leaves orange to red tones.

If you find henna in other colors such as blonde, black, or brown, then that henna already has chemicals or metallic salts that alter henna’s natural color.

How It Works

What comes to your mind when you see or hear “henna”?

Most of us would say temporary, and some would say natural. Both are correct, but what exactly is it made of?

Henna is a plant with leaves that produces orange or red coloring components called lawsone.

Once dried and powdered, the leaves are dissolved in essential oils or brewed teas, and the mixture is widely known for leaving a tint on the hair, skin, and even on clothes. 

Yes, it’s also the same ingredient on temporary tattoos.

But on the hair, it serves like a varnish. No, it doesn’t penetrate the hair.

Instead, the henna paste coats each strand, and lawsone is dispersed and gradually sticks to the hair shaft, filling the gaps in the cuticles.

Henna dyes can also strengthen the hair thanks to your keratin that bonds and seals the pigments. 

How Long It Lasts

It takes a good 4 to 6 weeks before henna starts to fade. But when using this, be clear with your intention. It lasts longer, and the stain it leaves can be hard to remove.

Those with more porous hair hold on to the tint even longer and establish a better-looking fade. 


  • Helps prevent dandruff
  • All-natural hair dye alternative
  • It lasts longer than chemical dyes
  • May avert hair loss and premature graying
  • It can be left on longer to deepen the color
  • Reduces oiliness of the scalp
  • Boosts shine and strength


  • It can take a long time to set
  • May induce allergies and other health concerns
  • Improper application may lead to hair loss and dry scalp
  • Messy application and may bleed and transfer initially
  • Difficult to remove and may give you a hard time changing colors
A woman with pink hair smiling on a peach background

The Aftercare Checklist

Keeping your newly dyed locks healthy means accepting that you’re stepping into a restructured and stricter hair care maintenance.

In that case, here are the 10 aftercare commandments that you should abide by:

  1. Wait 72 hours before washing the newly dyed hair to ensure that all the artificial pigments are sealed in, and the cuticles are fully closed.
  2. Ditch your ordinary shampoos and conditioners and switch to color-safe variants. Using sulfate-free hair products will maintain the color and ensure it won’t fade quickly. 
  3. Use toning shampoos (e.g., purple shampoo, blue shampoo, pink shampoo, etc.) or color-depositing shampoos to maintain colors on bleach-blonde hair.
  4. Always condition your hair, as dyed hair is more prone to drying.
  5. Wash your hair less often. This prolongs the vibrancy of your dye and prevents the draining of natural oils and moisture.
  6. Keep it fresh and clean using color-safe dry shampoos instead.
  7. Minimize heat exposure by protecting your hair from the sun and by minimizing heat styling.
  8. But if you need to heat-style, never skip heat-protectant oils, sprays, or treatments.
  9. Avoid too much exposure to chlorine, hot water, and saltwater, or at least wear a shower cap when doing so.
  10. Consult a professional before another chemical treatment, or let your hair rest for at least three weeks.
A woman is getting her hair dyed in a salon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which color fades the fastest and the slowest?

Regardless of the type of dye, red pigments usually fade the fastest because this shade comes in larger molecules that cannot penetrate the cortex deep enough.

Opposite to this, dark colors such as brown and black remain vibrant longer due to smaller color particles. 

How often should you color your hair?

Regrowth is your wake-up call for touch-ups, but generally, it’s safe to redo your dye every 6 to 8 weeks. 

What makes demi and semi-permanent hair dyes fade faster?

It’s in the pH, which is from ammonia. Unlike permanent hair dyes, a demi-permanent hair dye contains less to no ammonia, and a semi-permanent hair dye contains no ammonia at all.

A little recap, ammonia is a chemical used in some types of dye that increases the pH levels of hair to open up hair cuticles. This allows the dye to penetrate each strand and stay there.

If you want to speed up the fading process or completely remove the demi-permanent dye, here are some methods to help you:

  1. Use clarifying or anti-dandruff shampoo.
    Due to the high pH level in clarifying shampoos and the chemical components of anti-dandruff shampoos, they can strip and break the grip of demi-permanent pigment on hair. 

    Although frequent use of shampoo can cause dryness to the hair, this is one of the safer methods to remove unwanted dye from the hair. Just remember to add in your conditioners or treatments afterward. 
  1. Have it removed by a professional.
    If you want the safest method, there’s no better way than to leave it to the hands of hair professionals. This way, they can assess your hair situation better and give you the proper procedure. 

So You Think Dyeing Is Fun?

Actually, it is! And now that you know the basics, the search for the best hair dye for your dream hair begins. 

But remember, there’s no need to compromise your hair just to look good. Hair health matters!

We’d love to hear about your hair color transformation! Let us know in the comments.

Need Guidance in Finding the Best Hair Color? 

Read these guides:


  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

  • Madeline Hall

    With ten years in hairstyling, Madeline Hall has trained with elite colorists Naomi Knight and Lupe Voss and assisted celebrity stylist Alex Chases. From building a solid clientele at San Francisco's Code Salon to impressing Nashville's finest, Madeline is a force in the industry. Passionate about educating clients and staying updated on trends.

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