Can you mix semi permanent dye with developer?

By: | Last Updated: April 13, 2023

Whether new or old to dyeing hair, you might have heard of semi-permanent hair dye before. It’s the more beginner-friendly kind of dye because of how it causes a lot less hair damage. 

You can just paint it on, let it sink in, and you’re done! 

For those who prefer a lot of colors, semi-permanent dyes would also be your best bet. 

Permanent or demi-permanent dyes can’t come in the wild blues, greens, pinks, and purples that semi-permanent dyes come in every shade of. 

But of course, there will always be a little bit of a catch. While semi-permanent dyes work in favor of hair health and color range, they’re a little bit lacking in the longevity department.

Semi-permanent dyes also can’t lighten the hair. All they can do is latch onto previously lightened hair and give you a more true-to-color effect, or on dark hair, it will leave more of a tint or stain.  

So, would mixing in a developer help? Or would that spell disaster for your hair color?

What is a developer?

What is a developer

Before we dive deep into the semi-permanent dye plus developer combo, let’s quickly recap what a developer is. 

If you frequently dye your hair, especially with permanent colors, this might not be new information to you. But knowing how developer works is crucial to figuring out whether or not it would work with semi-permanent dye and other hair products. 

Developers, also known as activators, are well-loved despite the damage they can potentially do because, without a developer, permanent dyes will just not work. 

With hydrogen peroxide as the main active ingredient in developer, it works perfectly for priming the hair to receive hair color when dyeing. 

This is because the effect of developer on hair involves opening up the cuticle on the hair shaft, allowing color to penetrate more deeply into each strand. This then increases the staying power of the color. 

However, this does come with the downside that this effect is also precisely what can make developers so damaging. Open cuticles mean your hair is more rough, brittle, and prone to tangling and breakage.

Usually, developers are graded by volume, which refers to how much or how little hydrogen peroxide is in the formula. The higher the volume, the more hydrogen peroxide is in a developer. 

You might have already seen this on different products like dyes and bleaches requiring developers ranging from volume 10, increasing by tens up to 40. So, depending on the product, you might sometimes need a volume 10, 20, 30, etc.

Should you mix semi-permanent hair color with developer?

So, if developer seems to work so well with permanent hair color, it should work wonders with semi-permanent dye, right? 

If the main issue with semi-permanent dye is how easily it washes out, it would seem like quite an easy fix to slap on some developer and call it a day. In theory, it should work to deepen the color penetration. But don’t be tempted to do so! 

Never mix semi-permanent dyes with developer.

While it seems quite tempting to do this, stick to the box instructions with semi-permanent dyes to stay safe. 

What happens if you mix developer with hair dye?

What happens if you mix developer with hair dye

So, why shouldn’t you mix developer with semi-permanent dye? It couldn’t possibly be that bad. 

But take it from the experts. Semi-permanent dyes will fade when you mix them in with developer. It’s not going to be a flattering shade, either. 

This is because the acidic hydrogen peroxide in developer will break down the chemical molecules that make semi-permanent dyes so vibrant. 

In the same breath, can you mix semi-permanent hair dye with peroxide? No, because it’s the biggest culprit that will ruin your semi-permanent dye if you mix it in. 

Can you mix semi-permanent hair dye?

Can you mix semi-permanent hair dye

One of the things that developer does for hair is lighten it. This is something you won’t be able to find in regular semi-permanent hair dye. 

Semi-permanent hair dye does a great job of depositing color, but it won’t ever be able to lift the color of your hair or lighten itself. 

So, now that we know that a semi-permanent dye and developer mixture is a bust, what other alternatives are out there to lighten semi-permanent dye? Can you mix it in with anything else at all? 

Can you mix semi-permanent hair dye with bleach?

If you’ve already bleached your hair prior to using semi-permanent hair dye, go ahead. Your bleached hair would be a great canvas that will help any color pop. 

However, bleach is not the way to go if you’re looking for ways to lighten semi-permanent hair dye. 

Bleach only works in tandem with a developer, which, as you already know, causes a chemical reaction that destroys the bonds which cause pigment to show up. So, if you want to maintain the color of your dye, pass on the bleach immediately. 

Instead, use them separately and check out other alternatives to lighten your semi-permanent dye. 

Can you mix semi-permanent hair dye with conditioner?

This one’s the winner! If you want to lighten your semi-permanent hair dye by doing a little DIY project all on your own, then look no further than your trusty conditioner! 

Conditioner is a great mixing medium with semi-permanent hair dye because often, it doesn’t contain the acids that break down the developer’s color. 

All you have to do is to choose a dye-safe conditioner. Make sure to use a white one so your color lightens evenly. 

Then you can start mixing. Try not to use less than 3 parts conditioner to 1 part dye for the process to work well. 

After that, you must apply it evenly to your hair and then let it sit. Thirty minutes should be a reasonable amount of time! 

Don’t forget to rinse thoroughly to avoid build-up of product and color. 

Can I mix semi-permanent and permanent hair dye?

Absolutely not! 

Semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes have very different formulas and function best with different processes. 

Semi-permanent hair dye coats the outer layer of the hair and stains it deeply, while permanent hair dye needs to permeate deeply into the hair, beyond its first layer, in order to work. 

This means that permanent dyes need a developer to prime the hair and open the cuticles for it to work. Your semi-permanent mix-in will be utterly useless in this concoction because the hydrogen peroxide will still break down all its pigment. 

So, keep these two dyes as far away from each other as you can when mixing products for coloring your hair. 


So, when you need something to lighten your hair dye, especially the semi-permanent kind, it’s best not to turn it into a chemistry experiment. 

Stay away from chemical developers which contain hydrogen peroxide because that’s bad news for semi-permanent colors. 

But don’t worry! The answer to your conundrum might be right under your nose — or in your bathroom, at least. Grab that conditioner and do a bit of mixing, and you’ll get your desired color in no time. 

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