There are a lot of questions when it comes to colouring natural grey hair with semi-permanent hair colour; How long will the colour last? Should I be using permanent colour? Will it work? As the hair transitions into this much lighter natural tone, the texture and hair type also tend to change. In turn, this makes colouring your hair different to what you may be used to but not impossible. Before we get into the process, let’s take a look at what type of base grey hair is so we can get a better understanding of its needs. 

About Grey Hair

The point at which grey hair becomes part of our lives is different for each individual; some will notice the hair begin to change colour during the later stages of their life whereas many people find that their grey hair begins to come through when they are still quite young. The cause of grey hair hasn’t been 100% identified yet, but the majority of the population will experience this at some point in their lives. Doctors have also predicted that stress can contribute to the greying of natural hair. 

Grey hair occurs when there are minimal pigment cells in the hair follicle. The affected strands will not hold as much melanin as before and will eventually grow out to a grey, white or silver tone. Compared to more richly pigmented strands, the texture of grey hair tends to feel more coarse due to the lack of oils that the hair produces and becomes a more porous base.

So, what is the best way of approaching this hair type when applying semi-permanent hair colour?

One of the key considerations when dyeing natural grey hair with semi-permanent colours is the formulation of the dye itself. Semi-permanent dyes are designed to fade over time, making them ideal for those who want to experiment with different colours without committing to a permanent change. However, this also means that the dye may struggle to adhere to the hair shaft, especially if it is coarse and porous. As mentioned, when the hair transitions into its natural grey state these strands become more porous; this makes it more difficult to hold the pigment within the dye formula. However, the right approach and understanding of the properties of semi-permanent hair dye can provide achievable results.

To overcome this challenge, it is best to choose highly pigmented tones when dyeing natural grey hair with semi-permanent colours. Opting for shades that are intense and rich in pigment will help the colour to show up vibrantly on grey strands and last longer between touch-ups. Choosing shades that are far less pigmented is more likely to wash from natural grey hair almost instantly or within a wash or two. Check out our favourite Manic Panic hair dyes to apply directly onto natural grey hair:

Purple Haze


Enchanted Forest

Hot Hot Pink

Vampire Red

Rockabilly Blue

Psychedelic Sunset

We also love the Manic Panic Amplified Formula range for this hair type; these formulas hold 30% more pigment than those within the High Voltage Classic Colour range so they are more likely to stay in the hair for an extended amount of time. 

The Process

Preparing the hair properly before applying the dye is another crucial step in ensuring successful results. Natural grey hair tends to be more resistant to colour penetration, so it's essential to pre-treat the hair to open up the cuticle and allow the dye to penetrate deeply. This can be done by using a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup from the hair. Try the Manic Panic Prepare To Dye Clarifying Shampoo; our vegan and cruelty-free clarifying shampoo is designed to be used on all hair types and leaves the hair with the fresh smell of grapefruit! 

Before you choose to apply your colour all over, we strongly recommend doing a test strand an hour before your application. By doing a test strand, you can take a look at what kind of result to expect so that you are prepared and can decide whether it is what you have been looking for.

When applying your chosen semi-permanent hair colour to your hair, ensure that each intended area of the hair has been highly saturated with the formula; this is best done when working in sections so you can easily see where may require more application during the process. Once the colour is on the hair, we recommend leaving it to develop for a minimum of 30 minutes; you can choose to leave the colour on for longer, however, after about 45 minutes you probably won’t notice much difference. When rinsing the colour, use cold water as this helps to seal the pigment in by keeping the cuticle of the hair closed. It is also best to use only sulphate and paraben-free products on the hair; using a PPD-free conditioner will help to seal the colour in for longer whilst also creating a smooth and fresh base. 

During the aftercare of your new hair colour, remember these tips to keep your colour lasting as long as possible:

Wash your hair as infrequently as possible

Use only sulphate and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner 

Wash the hair in cold water

Avoid applying heat via styling tools and even though UV rays from the sun

So, if you are planning on switching it up and giving your natural grey hair colour a transformation, at least you now know it is possible! Dyeing natural grey hair with semi-permanent creative colours can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it requires careful consideration and proper technique to achieve the best results. By choosing highly pigmented tones, prepping the hair effectively, and following a diligent aftercare routine, it's possible to enjoy vibrant colours on natural grey strands too!