WHICH AT HOME HAIR DYE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

How to score perfect color every time.

BY GRACE GOLD

1If you’ve ever stood in front of the at-home hair color display at the drugstore, you know how dizzying all the options can be. What exactly do semi-permanent and demi-permanent mean, anyway? We asked top New York City hairstylist Mark Garrison, of Mark Garrison Salon, to clear up the confusion. Here’s how to pick the right formula to deliver the color of your dreams.

Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Semi-permanent formulas are ammonia-free and designed to deposit color only, which means you can only go about the same shade or darker since they can’t lighten up your strands. It will also not cover gray hair. Expect the hue to fade and wash out after about six to 12 shampoos. “Semi-permanent hair color is best used for someone who doesn’t want lasting change but who wants to experiment with a new tone without commitment,” says Garrison. You can also use it to refresh hair mid-shaft to ends after a root color touch up. He recommends Tints of Nature($19, drugstore.com) and Clairol Professional Beautiful Collection($6, sallybeauty.com).

Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Designed to also deposit color but mixed with a peroxide developer, this other ammonia-free hair color is good for root-touch ups or deepening your locks, says Garrison. It lasts longer—for about 28 shampoos, and it can blend gray hair if the pH balance of the formula is alkaline and your hair is fine or porous. It’s not recommended you overlap it over previously colored hair since it can cause build up on strands and mess with color. If you want to refresh the rest of your hair after a touch up at the roots, for example, stick with a semi-permanent formula on the shaft instead, says Garrison. One of his favorite demi-permanent formulas is Clairol Natural Instincts ($8, ulta.com).

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Permanent Hair Color

This one is the heavy hitter. A stronger ammonia base allows permanent hair color to do it all, from lifting to toning your hair to completely covering gray. “It’s best for someone who wants to go lighter than their natural hair color,” says Garrison. He warns against pulling it through previously colored hair, as the more aggressive formula does damage hair, and double dipping can leave strands fried. If you want to refresh the rest of the hair, it’s best to stick with a semi-permanent formula for that part, he says. While the color does oxidize with time (or turn warm), the hair color is, as the name suggests, permanent. Garrison’s go-to at-home permanent dye is L’Oréal Feria ($9, ulta.com).

Foam Hair Color

A major trend in at-home hair color, foam formulas are designed for more control over color placement (no more color annoyingly runningdown your neck or dripping onto the sink and carpet!) and are easier to apply. “Foam is best for first-time at-home users,” says Garrison. Formulas can range the full gamut from semi-permanent to demi-permanent to permanent. The one drawback? Unlike traditional liquid formulas that you can recap and use later, many foam formulas are designed for one-time use unless otherwise indicated on the package. They can also be trickier to rinse out. Garrison’s favorite foams are John Frieda Precision Foam Colour ($11, target.com) and Garnier Nourishing Color Foam ($9, drugstore.com).