Show your friends you mean business when it comes to putting together a costume this Halloween by going all out with your hair. Commit to a look and switch up your color by using a non-permanent hair dye alternative — you’ll score tons of compliments, and the best part? It’s only temporary!
We checked in with experts Meri Kate O’Connor of Eva Scrivo Salon and Stephanie Lynn Diaz of Bumble and Bumble for some of the best picks and how to do temporary hair color right.
Is temporary dye bad for your hair?
Absolutely not! In fact, the less-damaging dye is the only dye you should be using on your hair outside of the salon. "Temporary hair color is a whole different ballgame," says Diaz. "There is no possibility for damage." Just make sure you switch to a color-safe shampoo to preserve any temporary color.
There's a catch, though: If you have ultra-light, natural hair, even temporary color might wind up being more permanent. "The darker the temporary color and the lighter the hair, the longer it will take the color to wash out," warns O'Connor. It won't necessarily ruin your natural hair color, but it may alter it for a bit longer than you hoped for.
What is the best temporary hair dye?
Hair mascara isn't just for covering up grays: it's an easy technique to add a fun pop of bold color. Apply the wand directly to your hair and brush on some color. It's the most temporary dye, lasting just 1-2 shampoos.
Hair chalk is great: because of its opacity, it typically shows up on every hair color. To use, simply wet your hair, separate it into sections, then run the chalk down your strands. It lasts 2-4 shampoos.
Colored hairspray is exactly what it sounds like — hairspray with added color! Each application lasts about 2-4 shampoos.
Semi-permanent hair dye lasts at least a week. "Semi-permanent hair color molecules are larger, so they don't penetrate into the hair and instead act as a stain in the cuticle layer of the hair," explains Diaz.
Vegetable dye is the longest lasting temporary dye. The chemical-free method can "last anywhere from 1-30 shampoos, depending on how dark or saturated the tone of color is," Diaz says.
Below are the best temporary hair colors, no matter if you're blonde, brunette, looking to color grays, or just get a fun look in time for Halloween:
1. Best Temporary Hair Color Spray
When using colored hair spray, Diaz says to always make sure to spray from a distance to get an even surface coverage. "The closer the applicator is to your hair, the more of a localized 'spot' placement you’ll get," she says, "Be sure to move the can around as you apply for even surface coverage and hold 6-12” away."
2. Best Temporary Hair Color Stain
Also known as stains, direct dyes use all natural formulas that won't harm your hair. "These are called direct dyes or vegetable dyes because there is no chemical action happening, meaning it is not mixed by instead comes ready to apply," explains Diaz. They show up best on lighter hair, but they're a safe bet for everyone because there is no possibility for damage.
3. Best Temporary Hair Color Spray for Gray Hair
Unlike traditional hairspray, this temporary color won't leave hair feeling stiff and crunchy, but lightweight instead. You can build and blend the saturation to create your own unique color. Because this spray comes out in just a couple washes, this is a great option for gray hair, which tends to pick up more color than darker tones do.
4. Best Temporary Hair Color for Brunettes
Dying brown hair, even if it's only temporary, requires a lot more effort than dying blonde or bleached hair. Overtone makes it easy with a formula designed for dark strands. This complete rose gold system comes with a coloring conditioner and a daily conditioner that's hyper-pigmented, resulting in a subtle change in color for brunettes.
5. Best Semi-Permanent Hair Dye
Semi-permanent dye can't lighten your hair but only darker or deposit tone. Diaz suggests this temporary dye "for translucent toning blondes, reds and brunettes, or some fashion colors."
6. Best Temporary Hair Color Wax
Hair wax is a great way to color and style your hair at the same time. It lets you sculpt and create texture while achieving the perfect vibrant look. Apply this with your fingers for full coverage or use an eyebrow brush to target smaller sections.
7. Best Temporary Hair Color for Dark Hair
Here's an option if you're worried that your hair is too dark to hold bright colors like pinks or blues. This temporary dye allows fun colors to show up on even black hair and it lasts for 2-3 shampoos so you can have bold hair color that will last all week long.
8. Best Temporary Hair Color Mascara
You can layer on more for a brighter, more vivid color, or keep it subtle by adding light, thin streaks. This is the perfect option if you're looking for a short term dye job — it comes right out with some shampoo and hot water!
9. Best Temporary Hair Color for Unicorn Hair
Why not add glitter into the mix? Get the ultimate unicorn hair with this Star Mist from Lime Crime. This hairspray doesn't just add a pop of pink but some sparkle as well. It's perfect tool to kick your temporary dye job up a notch.
10. Best Temporary Hair Color Chalk
Still a major trend, hair chalk lets you easily add all sorts of colors without much commitment. Chalking your hair gives you a lot of control over the end result. Diaz recommends this technique for updos, "because it moves with the hair".