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Home / Blog/ Permanent, demi-permanent hair, semi-permanent color - What's the difference?
Home Blog Permanent, demi-permanent hair, semi-permanent color - What's the difference?

Permanent, demi-permanent hair, semi-permanent color - What's the difference?


What is the Difference Between Demi-Permanent Hair Color & Permanent Hair Color?

The differences between the different types of color out there can be rather confusing to someone just starting out in the world of color. In this blog tutorial, we will try to make these differences clear. We will also guide you as to which type of color you should be using.

What is Permanent Color?

Permanent color typically comes is a color that contains ammonia. It can be either in cream or liquid form. You mix it with developer (hydrogen peroxide) and apply.

It works by creating a very alkali mix. This mix then opens up the hair cuticle, takes out the hair's natural color, or melanin, and replaces it with new color pigments. When you rinse with water and ideally with an acid based shampoo or treatment product, the cuticles are closed once again, returning the hair cuticles to their natural position.

This is known as permanent color because once this process has been done and the color molecules deposited into the hair cortex, those color molecules stay there essentially forever.

Which is why it is called "permanent color".

Then what is Demi-Permanent Color? 

The only chemical difference between a permanent color and a demi-permanent color is this:

In a demi, the ammonia is replaced with another substance, a chemical called ethanolamine.

This ethanolamine does essentially the exact same thing as the ammonia.

It creates an alkali base when mixed with hydrogen peroxide, allowing the hair cuticle to get opened up, the natural melanin to get taken out and to get replaced with new color pigments.

So what is the difference exactly between the two?

Typically a demi will lift hair less well than a permanent hair color.

Also, because it does not contain ammonia, it smells a lot nicer. 

Other than that it is essentially the same thing.

Both create an alkali base, both open up the cuticle, and both deposit color pigments into the hair cortex. 

Permanent color opens up the cuticle more, and a demi-permanent opens up the cuticle a little less.

Stylists are sometimes told in cosmetology school that because demis smell better and contain no ammonia, that as a result "they are not harmful" to the hair.

However, in reality, there is nothing particularly wrong with the ammonia - apart from the bad smell, of course!

Ammonia is indeed a very useful tool when it comes to hair color formulation because nothing lifts as well as ammonia does.

Note incidentally, that not all permanent hair colors contain the same amount of ammonia.

The more lifting a permanent color is, typically the more ammonia it will contain.

So a high lift color would contain 2 or maybe 3 times as much ammonia as a level 3 hair grey hair coverage color.

When Should I Use a Demi and When Should I Use a Permanent Color?

Demis typically lift less well than permanent hair color, and achieve less color vibrancy.

This is because ethanolamine typically opens the hair cuticle less than ammonia.

Our advice is to use permanent color when you have a big color change to do and when you want to go lighter and blonder.

So if you want truly vibrant color, if you want to go blonde, if you want rich reflects, you will need to use an ammonia-based product - permanent color, in other words.

But when you want to tone down, then demis are the natural choice.

Let's take a very common example.

Let's say, for example, that you have bleached and blonded hair all the way up to level 10 now and you want a change and you want to go down to a level 3 or a level 4.

In this case, a demi would make for a great choice.

Is Ugly Duckling Hair Color Permanent or Demi-Permanent?

Our regular cream color, which comes in tubes, is permanent color.

It is very vibrant and very good at lifting, and indeed Ugly Duckling permanent colors range is well-known for its pigmentation and its lift.

For getting vibrant color results you can't do any better.

Our cream-based toners, including our high-lifting toners (the intense toners) are inside this range.


Covering Dark Roots & Toning Hair White Ash Blonde

Hair by Elona Taki

We do also have demi-permanent toners, however. They are known as Blondify, and they contain no ammonia whatsoever.

Being demi-permanent, they do not lift. So you do need to pre-lighten.

But after pre-lightening, they function excellently as blond glazing toners.

They only take 10 minutes to process and they can be used with low-strength developers - 10 Vol and even 5 or 7 Vol.


Isn’t Demi-Permanent Supposed to be Better for the Hair than Permanent Hair Color?

Demi-permanent dyes open up the cuticle a little less than permanent dyes. To that extent they are better.

However, the flip side is that demi-permanent colors tend to be less vibrant and may cover grey less well. 

Also, it is important to note that permanent dyes, when formulated the way that we formulate them at Ugly Duckling, deliver Argan

Oil and other essential conditioning agents right into the cortex during the coloring process.

So, we color and condition at the same time.

What Are the Advantages of Permanent Hair Color? 

The advantages of permanent hair color from a stylist’s point of view are the following: 

  • Great range and choice of color.
  • Ability to go much lighter.
  • Ability to mix colors to produce creative and innovative effects.
  • Ease of Color Matching 
  • Perfect Grey Hair Coverage.Colors that last a long time

What Are the Advantages of Demi-Permanent Hair Color?

The advantages of demi-permanent hair color:

  • You open the cuticle less.
  • Decent grey hair coverage.
  • Gradual Fade-out only after 6-8 weeks.

What About Semi-Permanent Dyes? How do They Work?

Semi-permanent Dyes, otherwise known as Direct Dyes deposit pigments directly onto the surface of the hair.

Anything which just colors the surface of the hairby staining the hair is a semi-permanent hair color.

You do not need to mix these dyes with developer.

They can produce vibrant color results.

Generally you would need to pre-lighten hair before using semis.

Be aware that when you use Ugly Duckling purple shampoos to tone your hair after coloring, you are basically using a semi-permanent hair color technology.

The shampoo contains purple pigments which act counteract yellowness in hair.

As a result, the hair gets whitened after being shampooed with Purple Shampoo.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.



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