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Hair Dye

Hair Color: Semi-Permanent vs. Permanent Hair Dyes

After turning 27, I decided to finally color my hair pink. It’s something I really wanted to do but was stalling for a long time until I realize, “Oh wait, I’m almost 30”.  So finally…

pink hair

Finally: my Pink (Ombre) Hair

I used semi-permanent hair dye to color my hair. I did the application myself, at home. However, to achieve such pink, bleaching was necessary. I had my hair bleached by a professional, in a salon.

bleached Hair

This is how my hair looks like after bleaching

What is the difference between Semi Permanent and Permanent Hair Dye?

If you want to pull off a new look, a change in hair color can give a very flattering result.  Hair dyes come in different types.  You probably have heard about permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes: What is the difference? To start with the very obvious, permanent hair dyes last longer than semi-permanent types. Semi permanent hair dyes washes out after a few shampoos while permanent hair dyes lasts long and can leave permanent demarcation on hair. The easiest way to identify the type of hair dye is the need for a developer. Semi-permanent hair dyes does not come with a developer. For Permanent hair dyes, there should be a specific concentration of developer, depending on natural hair color and the desired output. This is usually done by a professional.

Permanent Hair Dyes

Permanent hair dyes are also called oxidation dyes. They always come in set: the hair dye and the developer. The chemical reaction (also called oxidation) of hair dye with developer (peroxides) produces the color to your hair. Permanent hair dyes usually contain ammonia. Ammonia is added to bust in to your hair cuticle which results to swelling. This increases the absorption capacity of your hair and helps the hair dye penetrate better in to the hair cuticle. Ammonia in hair color also lightens the hair as it reacts with melanin (the dark pigments in your hair).

Hair Dye

Reaction of Dye with the Developer


Trivia: Ammonia molecules are very small – which makes them evaporate much more quickly. This property of ammonia is responsible for the strong smell you notice when applying permanent hair dye.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Permanent Hair Dye

Advantages & Disadvantages of Permanent Hair Dyes

Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Semi-permanent hair dyes, unlike the permanent type, does not come with a developer and usually does not contain ammonia. Without ammonia, it will have minimal smell during application. Semi-permanent dyes have completely different structures.  They do not need developers during application. However, it does not penetrate deeply in to the hair cuticle and only sticks on hair surface.

Hair Dye

Chemical Structures of Semi Permanent Hair Dye

Unlike permanent hair colors that deposits and at the same time lift the natural hair color, semi-permanent dyes only deposit hair color. For darker natural hair color, bleaching is required to achieve a final hair color of lighter shade.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Semi Permanent Hair Dye

Advantages & Disadvantages of Semi Permanent Hair Dyes

Here are Some Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes you can apply DIY (Note that bleaching is necessary to achieve vibrant colors from a natural dark hair color. It is strongly recommended that hair bleaching is done by hair professionals as it can be very damaging)



Manic Panic
Price: PHP 900.00
Where to Buy: Lazada



Lunar Tides Semi Permanent Hair Dye
Price: 600.00
Where to Buy: Shopee


hair dye

Ready to use Hair color by Technicolor Manila
Price: PHP 180.00 / 100 mL Tub
Where to buy: Shopee

Take away:

To decide which is best for you,  you have to consider your desired hair color, your current hair condition, your budget, and your willingness to commit in a permanent change of color. If you do not want frequent salon visits for hair appointment, then permanent hair color is best for you. If you cannot commit to a specific color for a long time, or want to color your hair at home, then you might want to consider semi-permanent hair color.



IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risk to Humans. Some Aromatic Amines, Organic Dyes, and Related Exposures. Lyon (FR): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, No. 99.) GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE CHEMISTRY OF DYES. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK385442/


Article written by:

Anne Porter

Hi! I’m Anne. I am a chemical engineer from Cebu, Philippines. I created Zarins Beautylab because of my love for cosmetics, skin care products and all other stuff that makes me (and you) look and feel beautiful. My semesters of chemistry courses come in handy as I explain the science behind different beauty products: which works and how it works. Well, Sometimes its science and sometimes its just good ol’ common sense.

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