Does Semi-Permanent Color Need Developer?

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So, you’re ready to color your hair! There are many products and options out there, it is important to understand the process of hair color in order to make the right choice. 

The two major categories of hair color are permanent and semi-permanent. These products have different ingredients and different application methods. A permanent color requires a mixing agent called a developer, but does semi-permanent color need developer?


What is a Color Developer?

Hair Color Developer

When you purchase a permanent color from the box you typically have two bottles: the color and developer.

When you mix these two together, it creates a chemical reaction that colors the hair. 

A color developer is used in most permanent box hair dyes and also in professional salons. 

Developers come in a variety of levels. Each level of developer will have a different impact on the color that it is mixed with. A developer can modify the color to be slightly lighter or darker than the original shade.

Hair salon colorists are professionally trained in mixing hair color and developer in order to give their clients the desired outcome.

Their decision on what level of a developer to use would be determined by the hair’s color, thickness, and previous treatments.

In order to have a permanent result, this chemical reaction penetrates the cells of the hair called the cuticle.

So, the question is, does a semi-permanent color require the developer?

Does Semi-Permanent Color Need Developer?

Cotton Candy Semi Permanent Hair Color

A semi-permanent color does not require a developer. That is because of its ingredients and semi-permanent nature.

Semi-permanent dye is made ready to apply to the hair. It will last about 4-12 shampoos and does not contain ammonia.

Semi-permanent color is also less damaging and can be applied without any mixing!

In fact, it is recommended not to use any type of developer with this semi-permanent color as this can result in an unwanted color! 

Mixing any level of developer with your semi-permanent hair color can make the color much lighter, darker, or even an orange color! When choosing to color your hair, always follow the instructions of the products you are using. 

See also:

What If I mix a Developer with My Semi-Permanent Colour?

A semi-permanent hair color is ready to use and it does not require a developer. However, some people might mix the semi-permanent color with a developer in order to speed up the color process. 

The thinking behind this is to use the developer to modify the color to be slightly darker or lighter, just as one would do when mixing permanent color with developer.

However, this will not work, and could result in a hair disaster!

Semi-Permanent or Permanent Color?

Maybe you’re thinking, which option is better for me, semi-permanent or permanent color? Semi-permanent color is designed for someone who is looking for short-term results that last from 4 to 12 shampoos. 

You may be preparing for an event or vacation and are looking for temporary color. A semi-permanent color is also a good option to test out a new look before committing to a permanent color.

A permanent color will last for about 6 weeks before it begins to fade, or until your hair grows out.

A permanent option is suited for someone who has been consistently using permanent color, or for the use in a professional hair salon.  

Both semi-permanent and permanent hair colors are best suited for making hair darker or richer. If you are blonde and want to go darker, you’ll get a great result with any color. 

Also, for a brunette, the best colors would be dark brown or black.

It gets tricky when you want to lighten the hair. The use of bleach is the only way to lighten the hair, and it’s a rough process.

This is due to the way it will treat the hair’s cuticles. The cuticles in the hair are the cells that make up its texture and color. The color in your hair is made up of melanin cells, when you lighten the color of your hair, the chemical process works to change the melanin structure of the hair. 

When bleach is applied, it will open up the hair cuticle, expanding the pores to allow the color to be absorbed. Hydrate your hair after bleaching so that you can restore it!

If you are looking to lighten the color of your hair, only the use of a semi-permanent color wouldn’t do the trick. And mixing the color with a developer could only make things worse. 

The only sure way to lighten the color of your hair with the use of a semi-permanent or permanent color is to first have the hair bleached, then apply your color.

How Long Does Semi Permanent Color Last?

Semi-Permanent color will last about 4-12 shampoos or about 6 weeks. Considering it does not contain ammonia or require the use of a developer, the semi-permanent color will only treat the outside of the hair shaft instead of treating the interior hair cuticle. 

This makes it safer to use and can be used weekly due to its semi-permanent nature.

You can maximize the results of your semi-permanent color by limiting the number of times you expose your hair to shampoo or water. Try using a dry shampoo in between washes, or experiment with some new hairstyles. 

Staying out of the sun and chlorine can also lengthen the result of your semi permanent hair color. Exposure to these elements will cause the color to fade more quickly. 


By understanding the uses of developer and how it impacts the hair cuticle, we know it is not recommended to use with any semi-permanent color. Semi-permanent hair color is best designed for making the hair darker or richer, and needs no developer. 

Semi-perm color is a great option for a temporary look or if you are looking to cover any pesky greys. If you are thinking of using a developer with a semi-permanent color for a shortcut to make your hair lighter, you could end up searching for How To Remove Semi-Permanent Hair Dye In One Day

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).