Using a semi-permanent colour has created a lot of colour build-up. How can I correct this?

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I have been using a semi-permanent colour on my hair for a few years now, thinking it would fade quicker. But I have a dark brown build-up at the bottom and a lighter hair colour at the top.

I would like an even hair colour and to be a lighter brown. What do you suggest I do? I have long hair so don't want to risk too much damage?

Thank you,

Danielle, UK

The rule of thumb with semi permanent colours is, if you have to mix two bottles together then this is more permanent than semi and also if you apply two or more applications onto the hair this builds up to create permanently coloured hair. When hair colourists colour hair, we never apply the shade from roots to ends immediately as this creates colour build up and cuticle stain on the ends. Resulting in them being heavy and dark.

The way to achieve lighter hair now is to visit a colour specialist who is going to lift the dye out of the hair with a colour remover and then apply a shade to achieve the lighter brown you want.

John Clark, Head of Colour at Brooks+Brooks, London 

Hi Danielle,

Your question is interesting and a challenge at the same time. I will explain below as to why you should not use semi-permanent colours.

Semi-permanent colours do fade usually much more on the ends than on the roots, the reason is that the hair on the ends has lived longer and is more exposed to the sun and other elements. Whereas the hair from the middle length to the roots will have more protection from natural oils flowing from the scalp and is protected from the sun and various elements. It is due to this that you have colour build-up there.

I always recommend to clients with long hair to use the best available shampoos and conditioners, as well as using regular deep penetrating hair treatments. The reason for this; hair in good condition will hold colour molecules longer, the cuticles are closed and the hair looks shiny and healthy, it is also much easier to style.

Using heat (Irons) of any kind will eventually dry and damage the ends of your hair. For all these reasons, it is essential to use the very best hair products. The Celebrities you see in magazines, TV and red carpet events use the best products to achieve the colours and shine on their hair. There is no short cut! Long hair does need more love and attention to look good, it is a fact that long hair costs more money!

May I suggest that you visit a colour expert at a reputable salon. Personally, I would never suggest using semi-permanent colours on long brown hair. There is a massive difference between permanent and semi-permanent colours. A semi is usually applied all over at the same time, where as a permanent colour is applied carefully by selecting the colour needed on different parts of the head - by selecting certain hair sections and using different shades of brown, depending on the colour the hair is and the colour required.

If you would like to have a lighter shade of brown, it may be necessary to first lightly strip the dark colours to get a more even shade before using a permanent tint. A good colourist will most probably use different shades of brown on different parts of your hair to achieve the all over colour you want. You will need a true colour artist to do this type of work! There is no easy way out. Your hair needs a lot of love and care, and by using the best home hair care products your colour will stay looking vibrant and shiny.

In our salon we use a colour make named ‘Silky’, these colours hold and do not fade as most other colours do! 

I do hope you follow my suggestions; you will soon look like a star! My main point is to find an artistic colourist, someone who loves a challenge and loves colouring. The best way to find a good colourist is by recommendation, or stop someone on the street, supermarket or bus when you see a women with the hair length and colour you want. Ask them where they have their hair done, it's a great way to find your future colourist/stylist.

I wish you a good summer and a beautiful new you.

Pierre Alexandre of Pierre Alexandre, Manchester 

You may find that some semi-permanent colours build-up the pigments if you are using them frequently, and the more you use them on the same section of hair, the newer hair will of course be much fresher and lighter.

My advice would be to start applying the colour only to your roots and wait for the ends to fade out. To refresh the ends you can use the same colour but two shades lighter so that your colour will have a great shine again, but they won’t go darker.

Another solution would be to do a bleach bath at the ends to even out the colour. If it’s a matter of 1-2 shades lighter your hair won’t be damaged.

Michael Wilkonski, Position Stylist at Joseph Koniak, London 


When colouring your hair with a semi/demi-permanent, if the application is taken through each time the ends will grab the pigment and become more and more permanent. After a while the regrowth will look lighter as it has more light penetrating the hair due to the lack of pigment. This is a common issue when home colouring!

I would advise having the hair gently stripped of the colour build-up then have the hair coloured to an even depth and tone. This can be a tricky process and must be carried out by a professional.

The process will take a few hours and I would recommend a conditioning treatment to be carried out prior to the service to ensure maximum even porosity of the hair. This will create a much more even result and less fade.

It is worth taking the time to find a colour specialist in your local area by looking at reviews online and asking around.

Good luck,

Simon Daniel, Salon Director of Belle Toujours, Cardiff

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