Demi-permanent Color, Highlights & Lowlights

Hair with highlights
Photo: Sanneberg/Shutterstock
Q: I was thinking about getting highlights but I don't want anything permanent. I've heard of demi-permanent hair color so I wanted to know if this can be used for highlighting. I've gotten highlights before, but they damage my hair and I've finally gotten my hair back to its normal state.
I don't like to retouch just because my hair can't take all the chemicals. At this point, I have highlights at the very ends of my hair (leftovers from previous highlight jobs). I want to know if there are any products that won't damage my hair too much and will fade out within a couple of months.

A: Well, demi- and semi-permanent colors are what we call deposit-only colors. This means that they can only add color and cannot lighten the color of the hair in any way. (Lightening the hair color is always a permanent color proposition.) This means that you can't use demi-permanent hair color to create highlights.
However, you can use demi-permanent color to create lowlights in the hair. If you select a hair color shade that is darker than your natural color, you can add depth to your color by using the same technique as highlighting, except you add areas of darker color rather than lighter color.
Just be aware that demi-permanent and semi-permanent colors only last through 8-12 shampoos, generally. This means that the color of lowlights will fade more quickly the more frequently you shampoo.
If you like the idea of the lowlights option, you might consider using a permanent color formula that is deposit-only to give longer-lasting results. Deposit-only color formulas are much less harsh to the hair than lightening formulas or hi-lift colors. It may be that using a deposit-only color for lowlights can give you the depth you want for your color without damaging your hair.
See also:
How to color hair
Temporary hair color
Demi-permanent and semi-permanent hair color
Hair mascara for temporary streaks or highlights