How to Add and Maintain Semi-Permanent Bright Hair Colors

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February 15, 2012

I’ve had bright streaks of color in my hair for almost six months, and I get complimented on it nearly every day. It’s fun to play around with, and because the colors are semi-permanent I can change them around as I feel like it. But, while it may be fun, it’s definitely a lot of maintenance. Here’s the process I go through to add and maintain semi-permanent hair color (I do all of it myself except for the bleaching):

Bleach Blonde

Unless you have very white hair naturally, you will want to bleach out the pieces (or all of your hair) to color. Go with the whitest bleach you can, otherwise any color you put on top will mix with yellow (i.e. blue will become green, red will become orange). I go to the salon to have my hair stylist bleach my hair, but if you know how to do it at home, that works too.

Shampoo and Dry

Shampoo your hair but do NOT add conditioner. Then dry your hair completely (preferably air dry instead of with heat) so the color can adhere properly.

Get Prepped

Organize all your supplies before you start adding color. You’ll need your dyes (I use Manic Panic Amplified), a hair color brush or two, gloves, vaseline, tin foil, and a towel. Drape the towel around your neck to prevent staining your clothes. If you are applying color anywhere along your hairline, add vaseline at the very edge of your skin to prevent staining.

Apply the Color

If you are applying the color all over your head, you will want to clip it up and start at with the most underneath layers, brushing the color into your hair from root to end. Do this in small layers until you’ve painted all of your hair.

If you are only doing color highlights, try to separate out as much of the bleached strands as possible. I use a sheet of tin foil under the hair, paint on the dye, and then fold the foil over the hair so the color doesn’t transfer to the dark parts. I do this in several segments around my head. For the back of my hair, which is colored underneath, I clip up the dark hair and use my fingers (with gloves) instead of the brush, to grab and twist in the color.

Wait it Out

I wait approximately thirty minutes for the color to set. You can wait longer, even overnight (if you cover your pillow). Some people use heat to help set the color, but I haven’t noticed a significant difference.

Rinse x2

Rinse your hair in cold water until the water runs clean. After, I use a white vinegar rinse (1/2 white vinegar mixed with 1/2 water) to seal in the color longer. Towel dry and style as normal.


I wash my hair every two to three days in ice cold water to prevent fading. With this routine, my color starts to noticeably dull in about two weeks. I’ve noticed purple and red shades washes out a lot faster than the blue. As the color fades you can repeat the steps above, or choose to bleach out other areas or swap out colors. If you layer one color over an existing one (even faded) they will blend, so beware mixing colors that may not match.

Have you tried bright semi-permanent colors or have any tips to share?

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