Can I apply semi permanent hair color over highlights?

from orange to blonde

Let me start by making it clear that it’s totally possible to use semi-permanent dye on highlighted hair.

But is this type of hair dye the best option for your highlights?


Semi-permanent dyes are simply dyes that do not open the hair cuticle. Instead, these dyes deposit color on the outside of the hair and do not change the hair’s natural color.

  • So, it’s not a great way to make highlights lighter. At most, a semi-permanent dye will only add some shine.
  • That being said, if you’re looking for a way to darken your highlights, semi-permanent hair dye is an excellent option.
  • Semi-permanent hair dyes are also a great option for fashionistas who like to experiment with bright hair colors.


YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: How to go back to natural hair color after highlights?


Here’s why:

As the name suggests, semi-permanent dyes are temporary, and last about three weeks. Exactly how long they last depends on how frequently you wash your hair.

Do you think a semi-permanent dye is the right thing to use on your highlights?

If that’s the case, don’t move!


Because here you’re going to learn:

  • When to apply semi-permanent dye to darken highlights
  • How to use semi-permanent dye to change the color of your highlights
  • How to care for your hair after using a semi-permanent dye


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Get ready, because by the time you’re done with this article, all that you’ll have to decide is what color to dye your highlights.


Semi-permanent dye to darken highlights

Monica had highlights done about two weeks ago… but they started to develop a very yellow tint.

As you probably already know, bleach is used to create highlights, and this often leaves your hair with a yellow tint.


 Applying a semi-permanent dye was the right choice for Monica’s situation. 

This is because it could eliminate the yellow tone without damaging her hair, as this type of dye does not contain ammonia.


That being said, I made sure that Monica understood the color would only last a couple of weeks.

She was fine with that, as she didn’t want to apply another permanent dye after recently coloring her hair.


So, just so we’re clear:

  • If you've recently had highlights done, and want to tone down the color, by all means use a semi-permanent dye. Just know the color will only last a couple of weeks.
  • Semi-permanent dyes are not recommended to completely change the color of your highlights. This is because semi-permanent dyes cannot remove your hair's pigment. If you are looking to change the color of your highlights, you'll have to use a permanent dye.


Now let's talk about my friend Sol, a bright, busy twenty-something who was determined to get rainbow highlights.

What do you think? What type of dye would work best? Permanent or semi-permanent?


In what cases is it possible to change the color of the highlights with semi-permanent dyes?

I can still remember being there in the salon, watching Sol's reflection -and incredibly bright highlights- in the mirror.

She has an important party to attend, and wanted a makeover. She was looking for something eye-catching, and thought of rainbow highlights, which certainly fit the bill. The problem was, Sol was looking for something temporary.

What better than a semi-permanent dye?


 Thanks to advancements in hair dye technology, semi-permanent dyes are now available in all the colors of the rainbow, including turquoise, violet, and pink. 

And Sol was ecstatic with the result. She could show off her rainbow highlights at the party, without damaging her hair, and her tresses would go back to their natural color after a few washes.


But let's go back to lightening highlights. Can you lighten highlights with a semi-permanent dye?


When we don't recommend using semi-permanent dye on highlights

Now let's talk about Karina, a client who came into my salon a while back looking to lighten her highlights.

Problem was, her hair had already been significantly damaged.


She had quite a few split ends, which of course could be removed with a trim.

But there was also something I couldn't fix in the salon: her hair was very fragile and dry.


 Karina knew her hair was severely damaged. Because of all her previous damage, when I heard about semi-permanent dyes, I thought they would be perfect for her highlights. 

The only problem is, this type of dye doesn't lighten hair.

Are you curious why?


Then read on!

These dyes do not have peroxide, so they cannot open the hair cuticle, remove the natural hair color, and add a new color.

Are you curious what I recommended for Karina?


In this case, the best thing would be to wait six months and get her hair highlighted again. Otherwise, she would have to bleach her highlights all over again.

Meanwhile, I highly recommended that she do deep hydrating treatments at least twice per week.

And of course, I trimmed her hair an inch and a half or so to strengthen the ends.


How to care for your hair after using a semipermanent dye

For people like my friend Sol, who only wanted her highlights to last for one party, taking care of them wasn't important.

But when you want a semi-permanent dye to last as long as possible, carefully caring for it is very important.



  • And if possible, only wash your hair every three or four days. This not only prevents the color from running down the drain, but it also helps preserve your hair's natural oils, which fortify your hair.


  • Lastly, I recommend using a protein treatment every other week.

But you don’t need to buy expensive treatments from the store. Instead, you can simply mix one egg with two spoonfuls of mayonnaise in a bowl. After the mixture is well mixed, apply it to your hair, paying special attention to the ends, and then let it sit for forty minutes.

Finally, thoroughly rinse your hair.



  • If you want to add some fantasy color to your highlights, semi-permanent dye might be perfect for you.
  • This type of dye is also great for anyone who wants to tone down or darken their highlights.
  • Now, if your goal is to lighten your highlights, you'll need to use a permanent dye, which can deposit new pigment into the hair cuticle. That being said, it can only lighten hair one or two levels. If you want to significantly lighten your highlights, there is, unfortunately, no other option but to head back to the salon and get them bleached again.

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