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11 best temporary hair dyes of 2021

Experts weigh in on how to color your hair like the pros.
Woman dying her hair at home
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Today is the day. You woke up, glanced in the mirror and finally decided. You’re going to dye your hair bubblegum pink.

Well, only for about a month or so.

That’s the beauty of semi-permanent hair color — you can switch up your look at the drop of a hat without the risk of long-term commitment. So, what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, the difference between having a good hair day and a bad six to eight weeks largely depends on the products you use.

While a professional hairstylist will most likely recommend consulting a colorist before taking your locks into your own hands, we asked the experts to share their favorite semi-permanent hair color when experimenting with your own at-home hair treatments.

Classic semi-permanent hair colors

Kristin Ess Hair Gloss

Blondes, listen up. The reason you have more fun might be because your locks give off a magical shine. If you want to keep that brightness, Jill Buck, senior hairstylist at Nine Zero One in West Hollywood, California, recommends looking for products with a peroxide level of 1.5% or less. “Less peroxide means less damage and less room for error! If you chose the wrong color or something doesn’t go as planned, it’s an easier fix than permanent color.”

The Kristin Ess Signature Gloss Toner will tone down warmth and extend color vibrancy between appointments for up to three to four weeks. The formula is silicone-free, keratin-safe and only requires a single application to give your hair a healthy boost.

Clairol Natural Instincts

If you’re a brunette or redhead looking for a gentler coloring alternative, Clairol Natural Instincts has an ammonia- and paraben-free formula to help keep your hair looking and feeling healthy. This product was designed to feel more like a conditioner, leaving your hair feeling super soft after every application. It's also packed with 80% naturally derived ingredients, including coconut and aloe vera.

“Since semi-permanents aren’t meant to cover gray hair 100%, they just blend in," says Rita Hazan Salon colorist Carlina Ortega. "I find this color holds your gray better than others on the market. In addition, it leaves your hair feeling silky smooth with every shampoo.”

Christopher Robin Temporary Hair Gels

When the roots grow in, it’s time to pull Christophe Robin’s Color Gel out. This temporary color solution is perfectly pigmented, hiding grays easily without any harmful help from oxidants and ammonia. It's also perfect for sensitive scalps and anyone serious about capturing a fuller and more radiant looking ‘do in a pinch.

“At-home hair color has come a long way, but one should still be careful when selecting the right shades, master colorist Joseph Mullen told Shop TODAY. "A good rule of thumb is to stay as close to your natural [color] as possible to avoid the inevitable unwanted red or orange tones."

dpHUE Gloss+

Prolong the durability of your hair color and boost its vibrancy with the Gloss+ semi-permanent color and deep conditioning base. Its hydrating formula deepens dark locks and leaves a soft and shiny finish for up to 10 shampoos.

“The dpHUE Gloss+ is amazing! Made by a professional, this is safe to use at home and formulated with you in mind,” says Buck.

Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss

Bring your hair color back to life and say goodbye to brassiness, dullness and pesty grays. This Madison Reed product is rich with keratin, argan oil and ginseng root extract, all of which will help nourish your hair and add dimension.

“The line is made with fewer harsh chemicals, so you can feel good about what you’re putting on your scalp,” says balayage specialist Lindsey Esposito.

Bold semi-permanent hair colors

Joico Color Intensity

Itching to try something more out of the norm? Joico’s Vivid Semi-Permanent Color Line is the go-to for over-the-top and intermixable pigments, from bright periwinkles and lime greens to alluring mauves and reds. Each shade is formulated with a special Quadramine® Complex to keep each strand strong, healthy and shockingly shiny.

“This line is incredible and offers over 40 beautiful shades to try! This product doesn’t use developer, so that means it won’t lift your hair in any way,” says Buck.

Keracolor Color Fling

Hair trends tend to come and go, but now you can actually keep up with them! Add a hint of pigment or go all out with a full head of Keracolor’s temporary color stylers, made for all hair shades. Once you’re done being the life of the party, you can wash away the treatment with just one shampoo.

“These products are safe and non-permanent at-home treatments for when you cannot make it in to see your professional stylist,” says hairstylist and colorist Samantha Higgins.

oVertone Coloring Conditioner

What if we said there’s a way to color your hair in less than 15 minutes using only a conditioner? Something so easy couldn’t possibly exist, right? Wrong. No matter your starting hair color, oVertone can provide the right shade for you — whether it be a chic neutral tint or a head-turning hue. You’ll be shocked by the pigment produced by this boundary pushing (and inexpensive) product.

“If you’re looking for a bold color, I like oVertone semi-permanent color. It works perfectly on brunettes seeing as most temporary dyes work best on lighter hair. It’s also longer lasting compared to other brands,” says Ortega.

Lime Crime Unicorn Hair

Make your pastel rainbow hair fantasies come true with Lime Crime’s Unicorn Hair Tints. Available in over a dozen dramatic tints, there’s no shade too extreme for this collection. These work best with pre-bleached platinum to pale blonde hair to achieve more magical pops of color.

“Keep in mind that these colors stain the hair more than temporary colors would, so if you’re looking for a ‘weekend only’ color, I’d stick with a temporary [dye],” Ortega said.

Color & Co Kits by L’Oréal

Now you never have to worry about picking the wrong shade. L’Oréal’s award-winning color kits are personalized just for you and your hair goals by professional colorists. Each box contains a fully customized formula and professional-grade pigments, all of which are long-lasting so you can color with confidence.

“You can take a quiz and even have a video consultation with a colorist, and then they send [you] a color kit along with all the tools and guidance you need. It’s kind of brilliant,” says Mullen.

Pravana Color Enhancers

Is your purple mane looking a little dull? Pick up one of these color enhancers (available in pink, silver, aqua and violet) for an extra boost in pigment without the in-salon experience or price. They say pain is beauty, but not when your hair pick-me-up is formulated with oat protein, amino acids and Kakadu Plum Extract. The only outrageous ingredient in this conditioning treatment is the color.

Higgins only asks that you follow one crucial rule: “Always, always wear gloves and take precautions to stain-proof your area!”

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