Can you apply permanent hair dye over a semi permanent?

Can you apply permanent hair dye over a semi permanent?

A lot of women are faced with the dilemma, “can you apply permanent hair dye over a semi permanent?” You may have heard that you can’t or that it will damage your hair. But is this true? What’s the answer? To find out, we put together some information on how to make sure what you’re doing does not ruin your locks.

Is it possible?

Yes you can – a small amount, but it will work. Semi-permanent dyes only last about 3-4 weeks. If you apply semi-perm to a section of your hair, and permanent dye over it before the semi has fully grown out, the permanent will not ‘take’ for as long as it would if there was no other colour underneath. So – say your hair is black now, and you want to do bleach blonde highlights – if you dyed all the hair that you intended to highlight using a semi-perm blond or similar first (the timing on these products is usually 3-5 minutes) and then applied the highlighter, the colour wouldn’t take well and would wash out very quickly! To make the colour last, you would need to bleach your hair and tone it first, before applying any permanent colour.

What are the best practices?

Semi-permanent dyes usually take on first try, but some can be stubborn to lift out. If you are on the slightly darker end of the spectrum, your semi-perm color will most likely not lift out and you’ll have a tinted scalp for a few days until it washes out. Permanents don’t lift colors very well, and if done too soon after a semi (or before it’s grown out) the permanent dye will only cling to the top surface and wash away very quickly in the shower/bath/whenever else you use water – giving you no real chance to rinse through properly and get an even tone. Because of this, if trying to apply permanent over semi, do it when you are not expecting to have to wash your hair for a while e.g over the weekend or something when you’ll be home all day.

Permanents can fade semi-permanent dye if applied too soon after coloring, even if still wet in some cases. Do not use permanets within 24 hours of using a ‘pigment’ type semi e.g reds, pinks etc because it will break down the color and give very patchy results – usually this is used with direct dyes that do NOT contain peroxide, but just in case check packing for warnings on fading! If applying semi before perm, wait until semi has grown out/fully lifted (again timing advice usually around 3 weeks) or there will be a noticeable line between the two colors. Below are some easy steps to do so.

Lighten a semi-permanent dye

You can lighten a semi with permanent dye by applying it to hair that was bleached before coloring, but you cannot go the other way around as permanents tend to shift colors and turn out very brassy when applied over dyes this way – use an ash base color if trying to recolor previously dyed dark hair.

Use clarifying shampoo

Use some clarifying Shampoo like Kenra Clarifying Shampoo on your hair for at least 5 days before recoloring to lift pigment level and open the cuticle so permanent dye can get in more easily – it will also prolong the life of your color!

Use semi-permanent color remover

Use semi permanent color remover or use One N Only Colorfix Hair Color Remover Kit to strip semi-perm dye from the hair before applying permanent color, but note that this will also fade your existing color.

Pro Tip

Use a level 3 Indigo to achieve dark brown hair with permanent dye, or use level 6 Mahogany for light brown/reddish color. A red color on it’s own does not lift enough to give a noticeable difference when applied over black/very dark brown hair, and blue based dyes only really work if the semi-perm underneath is either an ash or violet base – otherwise you just end up with blue tinted roots! Permanent dye onto previously colored black/dark brown hair.


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Sarah Jay
By Sarah Jay

Sarah Jay is a beautician that loves to write about the fashion and beauty industry. This love of writing led her to start her own blog, where she shares articles on everything from hair care tips to how-to guides. She's also passionate about gadgets, and has knowledge of the latest trends in her field. Sarah knows what people want when it comes to caring for their skin and hair.



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