Craving a colour change without too much of a commitment? Turn your tresses to these temporary & semi-permanent solutions…

Temporary and semi-permanent hair dye is a great way to switch up your look without the commitment of a permanent colour transformation. Whether you fancy a pastel wash of colour or something bold and bright, the new-gen formulas (that span everything from colour-depositing masks to sophisticated sprays) come in an impressive array of shades, with something to suit every budget.   

"The number one benefit for hair colour lovers is that temporary dyes tend to be more gentle [than permanent ones] and wash out,’ says Alex Brownsell, co-founder and creative director of Bleach London. ‘Because they don’t penetrate the hair or change the texture, you can use temporary dyes to change up your look as and when you like,’ she adds. Off on holiday? Or going to a festival? Have some fun and experiment with a fresh new look.

Keen for a change, but not sure if you should go temporary or semi-permanent? Alex reveals that the two aren’t as interchangeable as you might think. ‘Temporary colours are your quick wash-in, wash-out colours that fade after a couple of shampoos,’ says Alex. ‘Semi-permanent dyes last around six to eight weeks, depending on the vibrancy of the colour you choose, how frequently you wash your hair, as well as the condition and porosity of your hair." 

Take your pick from our round-up of 8 of the best temporary and semi-permanent hair colours below, as well as expert application tips and tricks to ensure you get your DIY dye right from the very first try.

How to apply temporary hair dye 

Application differs for every product, so always be sure to read the instructions first. Certain spray formulas can be applied on dry hair while others, such as the Kristin Ess product in our edit, are designed to be used on damp hair. For best results, always mist from afar to get an even blend. 

While application also varies for creams and dye drops, the majority instruct users to apply the colour to clean, towel-dried tresses. Alex’s top tip? "Detangle hair first – this will make application easier." Next, she says "use a brush to paint the dye onto hair, from root to tip, before massaging it in with your hands (wearing gloves) – this will help create an even result." She adds that it’s important not to skimp on colour. 

Once your whole head is covered, let the hair dye develop for the recommended time before rinsing off. "Then you can dry and style your strands as normal," says Alex. 

Can I use temporary hair dye over permanent hair dye?

"Yes, you can use temporary hair dye over a permanent colour, but whether the shade will show up really depends on how light your hair is," says Alex. "If you permanently dye your hair a very dark colour, applying temporary dye on top won’t make much difference. Whereas, if your hair’s bleached or light blonde, you’ll see a real change." 

Is temporary hair dye bad for your hair? 

A common concern, Alex assures that temporary dye shouldn’t damage hair and is one area where temporary trumps semi-permanent. While some semi-permanent hair colours contain a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a known irritant and allergen, temporary hair colour "coats the outside of the hair", she explains. "It will not penetrate or change the condition." In fact, many temporary hair colours contain moisturising ingredients, such as shea butter and plant oils, to help nourish and smooth strands, not to mention give hair incredible shine.

Whether you’re opting for semi-perm or temporary, always do a patch test first. Using a cotton bud, apply a small amount of the product behind one ear at least 48 hours before you plan on dyeing your hair. If there’s no reaction after this time, you’re good to go!

Here are 7 of the best temporary hair dyes that you can buy at Boots
Best temporary hair dyes – cream colours
Josh Wood Colour Glaze Pink Quartz

• Size: 100ml

• Vegan*

• Lasts three to five washes 

A modern pink pastel with violet undertones, this semi-permanent hair dye gets to work in just five minutes and delivers vibrant results on pre-lightened blonde hair and subtle colour on medium blonde hair. Blended with shea butter and pequi oil, the formula helps to condition and soften strands, too.

Bleach Super Cool Colour Tangerine Dream

• Size: 150ml

• Vegan*

• Cruelty-free

• Lasts 2-30 washes 

Feeling brave? Totally transform bleached or naturally light hair with this bright orange semi-permanent hair colour cream mask that packs a vibrant punch. To use, apply generously onto washed, towel-dried hair and let it develop for 30 minutes before rinsing off to reveal your bold new look.  

Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Semi-Permanent Hair Tint in Bunny

• Size: 200ml

• Vegan*

• Cruelty free

Pink hair is back – tap into the trend with this vegan temporary hair dye that delivers a subtle (but not too subtle) wash of pastel pink colour in 30 minutes. Free from bleach, the conditioning formula works best on pre-lightened platinum to pale blonde hair. If your hair is darker, expect a tint of pink.

L’Oréal Magic Retouch Temporary Instant Grey Root Concealer Spray

• Size: 75ml

• Lasts until washed out 

For a quick fix, this temporary colour spray is super effective and suits both light and dark hair, helping to conceal root regrowth with a pigment-packed formula that blends into hair. And if you can’t choose between two colours and have brown hair, go for the lighter one as it tends to pack more of a punch. To use, shake up the bottle, then mist onto roots and leave to dry. Be careful when spraying the front of the hair as it can end up on your forehead! The colour should stay put until your next hair wash day.  

Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour Drops Semi-Permanent Red Hair Dye Fiery Red

• Size: 30ml

• Vegan*

• Lasts 2-12 washes 

Experiment with rich red tones using this temporary hair dye from Schwarzkopf. Suitable for bleach blonde to dark blonde hair, the dye drops can be mixed in with your go-to conditioner to deliver bespoke colour every time. Ten drops will give you intense colour, while two to four drops will create a softer red result.  

Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour Drops Semi-permanent Purple Hair Dye Orchid Purple

• Size: 30ml

• Vegan*

• Lasts 2-12 washes 

For customisable colour, turn your head to these clever dye drops from Schwarzkopf. Depending on how many drops you mix in with your conditioner – and your base hair colour – you can achieve anything from pastel purple (two drops on bleached hair) to deep violet (10 drops for dark blondes and brunettes). Clever!

Shrine Drop It Hair Colourant Blue

• Size: 20ml

• Vegan

• Lasts 3 to 30 washes 

Dark colours show up better on black or brown hair, such as this bold blue temporary hair dye from Shrine. For best results, add your chosen number of drops to your usual conditioner and leave on for 10 minutes. This delivers a blue tint of glossy colour that looks perennially cool.

*Vegan formulas do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.