The 9 Best Temporary Hair Color Products, According to an Expert

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Best Temporary Hair Color Products
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Every now and again the urge hits to switch things up with your hair color, but you may not want to commit to a bold new shade without being able to test drive it first. That's where temporary hair colors come up big. These fun, vibrant formulas wash out after a few shampoos so there's little commitment involved (good news if you end up hating the way it looks).

We spoke to an expert hair colorist, Steph Perry, who teaches a class on alternative hair tints, to find the best temporary hair dye products for every purpose. Discover options for light and dark hair, sprays, waxes, chalks, and more. These are the best temporary hair color products, according to an expert:

Our Picks

Best Overall: Manic Panic Dye Hard Temporary Hair Dye

MANIC PANIC Purple Haze Hair Color Gel
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What We Love: The shades are all super vibrant.
What We Don't Love: It lasts longer on light hair and creates a more semi-permanent effect.

This tried-and-true brand has been around for decades. To this day, it is a favorite amongst those looking to experiment with hair color. "The brand's temporary, washable, easy-to-apply dyes are all over the internet and in every mall in America," says Perry. Manic Panic offers shades ranging from soft pastels to wild neons and the colors can be mixed, a bonus if you like to play chemist. The formula is also vegan, and cruelty-, paraben-, and phthalate-free to cause less damage to your hair. Heads up: While it works on all hair types, Perry warns that the color will last longer on naturally light hair.

Size: 1.66 fl oz | Type: Gel | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Shades: 11+ | Number of Washes: 12

Shop now: $10; amazon.com

Best Value: L'Oreal Paris Colorista 1-Day Washable Temporary Hair Color Spray

L'Oreal Paris Colorista 1-Day Washable Temporary Hair Color Spray
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What We Love: It mimics the look of highlights.
What We Don't Love: The application can be messy.

This affordable hair spray by L'Oreal Paris will give you a bold pop of color without breaking the bank. It easily washes out after just one day of wear, making it ideal for anyone looking for very short-term color. The ammonia- and peroxide-free spray is available in a variety of bright, pure pigment colors like pastel blue, hot pink and gold, and more.

Pro tip: It can be a bit messy to apply, so we recommend covering your shoulders with a towel and not spraying around anything you don't want to risk staining.

Size: 2.0 fl oz | Type: Spray | Sulfate-Free: No | Shades: 10 | Number of Washes: 1

Shop now: $9; amazon.com

Best for Dark Hair: Splat Temporary Hair Dye

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What we Love: The vivid colors really pop on dark hair.
What We Don't Love: It can dry a bit chunky.

This hair dye delivers bright, impactful color on even the darkest of hair. "Unfortunately bright color doesn't show up as well on dark hair without bleaching, but Splat on its own definitely delivers a solid punch of color," says Perry. It comes with a custom applicator comb that makes applying the color easy and clean; product comes out through the comb, so it only goes on where you want it to and it stays put. There is also a conditioning base that is gentle on your hair and prevents damage. The formula is vegan, and cruelty-, gluten-, ammonia-, and paraben-free. Since the color payoff is incredibly vivid and designed for dark hair, Perry notes that if it is used on light hair it will really stay put for longer periods of time.

Size: 1.5 fl oz | Type: Gel | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Shades: 8 | Number of Washes: 1-2

Shop now: $9-$10; walmart.com and amazon.com

Best for Light Hair: Lime Crime Unicorn Hair

Lime Crime Unicorn Hair
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What We Love: It doubles as a conditioner.
What We Don't Love: Some colors are not as vivid on the hair.

This semi-permanent hair color is one that will leave your hair looking both colorful and healthy. It has an ultra-conditioning formula, so it will transform your hair into vibrant colors without drying it out. "The formula goes on like a conditioner and leaves hair feeling soft and silky," says Perry. As an additional bonus, the formula has a sweet smell to it and is free of harmful parabens and sulfates.

Size: 6.76 fl oz | Type: Gel | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Shades: 24 | Number of Washes: 1-2, varies by shade

Shop now: $17; ulta.com

Best Spray: Amica Desert Trip Temporary Color Spray

Amica Desert Trip Temporary Color Spray
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What We Love: It has a subtle sparkle to it.
What We Don't Love: Multiple layers are needed for a pigmented look.

For more targeted treatments, reach for Amika's Desert Trip Temporary Color, which allows you to apply as much or as little color as you would like. "Spray less for a more subtle look or hit your strands harder for something more extreme," says Perry. You can spray your ends, add some streaks or layer it for a more pigmented look. The color comes out in just one wash and it is bleed-resistant. It is available in three different shades and each has a fun, sparkly effect to it. Keep in mind that while the spray-on formula caters to customization well, it can be a bit messy to apply.

Size: 1.3 fl oz | Type: Spray | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Shades: 3 | Number of Washes: 1

Shop now: $9 (Originally $18); sephora.com

Best Wax: Mofajang Hair Coloring Material

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What We Love: It's made from all natural ingredients.
What We Don't Love: If you use too much, your hair can feel crunchy.

This hair wax glides on easily and works on any hair type. Its natural formula won't irritate the scalp or sensitive skin and is less damaging to your hair. It's also very easy to both use and wash out. "Its biggest perk includes its thick consistency, making it foolproof when wanting different strands different colors," says Perry. It comes in seven basic colors, which you can easily mix to create your perfect hue.

Size: 4.23 fl oz | Type: Wax | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Shades: 7 | Number of Washes: 1-2

Shop now: $10; amazon.com

Best Black: Beyond The Zone Color Bombz Explosive Black Temporary Hair Color Spray

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What We Love: It darkens light hair without any permanent tint.
What We Don't Love: It won't do much for dark hair.

If you're just looking to darken your hair without any commitment, this washable black hair spray will give you sultry jet black hair without permanently coloring or damaging your hair. Perry notes that it's not only one of the only all-black hair sprays on the market that doesn't stain light hair on a semi-permanent level, but it's also affordable and specially formulated without any harmful bleaches or peroxides. It works best on dry hair and should be applied at least 12 inches away from the hair.

Size: 2 fl oz | Type: Spray | Sulfate-Free: No | Shades: 1 | Number of Washes: 1-2

Shop now: $7; sallybeauty.com

Best Chalk: Got 2b Playful Temporary Hair Chalk

Got 2b Playful Temporary Hair Chalk 
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What We Love: It's quick, easy, and washes out fast.
What We Don't Love: There are only three shades to choose from.

For a few colorful streaks here and there, temporary hair chalk is the way to go and this chalk by Got2b offers high-quality, vibrant color at an unbeatable price. The chalk washes out in just one shampoo, so it's great for a special occasion or a fun night out. To use, just clip the chalk around a strand of hair and slide it down for instant color. Easy, peasy.

Size: .12 fl oz | Type: Chalk | Sulfate-Free: No | Shades: 3 | Number of Washes: 1

Shop now: $4; ulta.com

Best Semi-Permanent: Joico Color Intensities

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What We Love: It lasts for up to 20 washes or more and maintains vivid color.
What We Don't Love: To get a true-to-color result, it has to be applied to pre-lightened hair.

For longer lasting color, this semi-permanent dye by Joico is a must-have. "[It's] absolutely my favorite for vibrant, healthy, intensely pigmented color," says Perry. "Each color comes out identical to what it's advertised to be and stays true to shade for 4-6 weeks, depending on how light the previous hair was and the washing routine." The color doesn't penetrate the hair strands either, so it is gentler than other dyes and causes less damage. The formula will also condition your hair, leaving it soft and shiny.

Size: 4 fl oz | Type: Gel | Sulfate-Free: No | Shades: 20+ | Number of Washes: 20

Shop now: $13; walmart.com

TL;DR

Manic Panic's Dye Hard Temporary Hair Dye (view at Amazon) has stood the test of time. It delivers vibrant color on all hair types and its natural formula won't cause damage. For very temporary color, the L'Oreal Paris 1-Day Washable Temporary Hair Color Spray (view at Amazon) washes out same day. Go ahead and sample all the different shades without taking a blow to your bank account.

What to Keep in Mind

When purchasing temporary hair color, here are some factors you should keep in mind:

Ease of Use

No one likes a mess, so when shopping for temporary hair color, it's important to make sure the product is easy to apply and won't get everywhere. For hair spray, keep in mind that you will have to be very careful with where you spray it. Dyes and waxes can also be a bit messy, so look for products that are sold with tools that make the application process easier, or try using gloves.

Ingredients

On top of transforming your hair's color, you will also want a product that does not damage your hair. The least damaging products are ones that use clean ingredients and exclude ingredients like ammonia, peroxide, sulfates, parabens or phthalates. Some products also have conditioning elements to them, which can strengthen hair and make it healthier.

Washability

The purpose of temporary hair color is to alter your hair for only a small amount of time, so the product should not permanently tint or color your hair and it should be relatively easy to wash out. Pay attention to whether a product is 'temporary' or 'semi-permanent' as that will dictate how long the color will last and how many washes it will require to get the color out. Some products can last for 4-6 weeks while others are designed for only 1-day use. For 1-day or shorter periods especially, you will want the color to easily come out in the shower without multiple washes or heavy scrubbing.

Your Questions, Answered

Does temporary color change your natural hair color?

Many people may be hesitant to try out temporary color due to the fear of permanently altering their natural hair color, but colorist Joie Wallace assures that there is nothing to worry about. "Semi-permanent or direct dyes work by layering color directly over the surface of your hair, without changing your natural color," she says. "If you dye your hair with something temporary or semi-permanent, it will gradually revert to its natural color." Depending on the product, and how permanent it is, it may take longer for your hair to return to its natural color, but the temporary color will eventually fade and vanish nevertheless.

Does temporary color damage hair?

Another common fear is causing damage to your hair, but according to Wallace, temporary dyes will not damage hair because they "do not contain harsh or permanent chemicals." In fact, temporary color can actually have many benefits for your hair, she notes. "They have moisturizers and vitamins that actually make it safe to use on hair that has been professionally relaxed or permed," Wallace says. "They also give the hair an amazing shine by filing in the cuticles of the hair shaft."

How do you wash out temporary hair color?

Washing out temporary hair color will depend on the product you use and if it is temporary or semi-permanent. Temporary hair dyes only weakly bind color to your hair cuticles, so it should come out with one to two regular washes and Wallace recommends using a clarifying shampoo. Semi-permanent dyes, on the other hand, may take a number of washes to fully come out. It is best to follow your specific product's washing instructions.

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