there are lots of options for coloring conditioners
There are many color options for semi-permanent hair dyes. (Illustration by Alicia Paauwe, Oakland University)

Semi-Permanent Coloring Conditioners Offer Adventure for Those Social Distancing

Many people tried new things during the pandemic — one, in particular, was dying one’s hair a fun, new color.

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there are lots of options for coloring conditioners
There are many color options for semi-permanent hair dyes. (Illustration by Alicia Paauwe, Oakland University)

Many people tried new things during the pandemic — one, in particular, was dying one’s hair a fun, new color.

The COVID-19 pandemic has crept into so many facets of life that it’s no surprise that it’s had an impact on fashion and style — and haircare is no exception. With fewer people going to hair salons, some long-time hair-dyers have let their hair grow out and return to its natural color. At the same time, the demand for hair dye rose by 23%. This isn’t as dramatic as the demand for toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but it was enough that some store-bought hair colorants sold out completely. Some of this was because some customers simply wanted to maintain their hair color and since most salons were out of commission, they had to take a DIY approach.

However, quarantine conditions also inspired a more dramatic approach to hair color. As more and more people were stuck at home in 2020, Google searches for fashion hair colors, like blue, green and pink, increased by a dramatic 117%. With fewer constraints to “look professional,” more people felt emboldened to dye their hair bright, unconventional colors. I was one of them. I had wanted to dye my hair a fashion color for years, but I felt like I needed a reason. Just like many others, I used my quarantine time to search for DIY ways to dye my hair and in the process, I discovered the world of semi-permanent coloring conditioners.

What is a Semi-Permanent Coloring Conditioner?

These DIY hair dyes are semi-permanent, meaning that they last longer than temporary hair dyes, which are usually sprays or chalks that wash out after a single use. However, they don’t last as long as permanent hair dyes. Permanent hair dyes are applied by removing the original hair color and binding the foreign color directly into the hair shaft itself. These dyes can last for a long time and require expensive color correction if the result is unsatisfactory. Semi-permanent dyes, on the other hand, deposit color on the outside of each hair strand. These dyes can last for a few months, but they wash out eventually, leaving the original hair color unchanged. It’s the perfect way to try out a new color for a few months, but without having to commit to it long term.

Coloring conditioners also have a simple application process. All anyone needs to do is apply the thick colored paste to dry hair, wait 15 minutes and wash it out in the shower. Another facet of coloring conditioners is the “conditioner” part. Unlike many permanent DIY hair dyes, a true coloring conditioner leaves hair soft and moisturized.

When I first used a coloring conditioner, I was nervous. I had never colored my hair before and I was worried that it would leave me with a dull color and dry hair. However, the conditioner didn’t damage my hair at all and I came away with a beautiful shade of pink hair, no bleach required.

Pros and Cons of Semi-Permanent Coloring Conditioners

There are plenty of great reasons to try a semi-permanent coloring conditioner. Although there’s always some risk for hair damage or allergies when trying out new products, coloring conditioners have a good track record for keeping hair healthy and they’re incredibly easy to apply. The relatively moderate level of commitment is also part of the appeal. Even if someone doesn’t like the way the color turned out, they’re only stuck with it for a few months, or else they can purchase a fader shampoo that will wash the color out even faster. The conditioners can also be easily applied on virgin hair, and although results vary, many colors can be applied to darker hair that hasn’t been bleached or lightened.

However, coloring conditioners may not be for everyone. For a vibrant color, the conditioner must be reapplied every week and it can become expensive for anyone who wants to commit to a long-term hair color. A permanent dye might be better for anyone who wants to keep a bright color for more than a month or two. Since these are DIY dyes, it’s also impossible to predict exactly how the color will turn out after it’s been applied. The color will vary depending on the original hair color, texture and thickness. For anyone who wants a very specific hair color, it’s probably best to work with a professional who will have a better chance of successfully dying the hair a particular shade. And, of course, coloring conditioners still have limitations. Some colors, especially pastel shades, will only show up on light hair.

Leading Brands

There are many different brands that carry coloring conditioners, but these are some of the most popular. As always, it’s important for customers to conduct their own research before making a purchase.

Overtone: I’ve tried Overtone personally and I have nothing but good things to say. I’ve tried both pink and purple and I was delighted with both colors. One of Overtone’s claims to fame is that it has coloring conditioners made specifically for brown hair.

Arctic Fox: Arctic Fox carries a variety of hair products, from hair perfumes to dry conditioners, but it also has a great collection of coloring conditioners. Arctic Fox also carries a wonderful selection for people with brown hair and it’s one of the more economical coloring conditioners on this list.

Manic Panic: Manic Panic specializes in vibrant and pastel hair colors. They also offer demi-permanent coloring conditioners, which last longer than the semi-permanent ones, but it still doesn’t last as long as permanent dyes.

Keracolor: Keracolor has a wide variety of colors to choose from and they even provide a chart on how to mix different conditioners to create unique shades. It’s also one of the most accessible, as Keracolor can be purchased directly from Amazon.


I’m a happy customer of coloring conditioners and I don’t plan on stopping until I’ve dyed my hair every color of the rainbow. I’ve also learned a few things; even though a global pandemic was the catalyst for me and so many others to try out hair dye, I learned that I never needed to hold back in the first place. I never needed an excuse to try something new and coloring conditioners were a great place to start.

Writer Profile

Amy Harris

Utah State University
Technical Communication & Rhetoric

Amy draws her content ideas from observing the world around her. She is a student with aspirations to create clear, accessible content for many different audiences.

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