If you’ve always considered hair color to either be the kind you get in a salon or the box you buy at the drugstore, you’re in for a happy surprise. There’s a whole other category of hair color out there that can be a game-changer: hair makeup. Hair makeup is very temporary hair color — available in a variety of formats and formulas — that can instantly change up your hue, but comes out with regular old shampoo. Hair makeup lets you quickly and easily cover-up telltale roots, make strands appear thicker, and try out a new hair color without having to make a permanent (or semi-permanent) commitment. Here, everything you need to know about why — and how — you should consider working hair makeup into your routine.
What exactly is hair makeup?
It’s exactly what it sounds like: Just as you’d apply eyeshadow to your eyelids, hair makeup is temporary color that you apply to your hair. Without getting into complicated specifics, hair makeup differs from both the box dye and in-salon color in that it doesn’t require any developer or involve any type of chemical reaction in hair, explains Kristen Fleming, a colorist based in Chicago, Illinois.
All of this means is that hair makeup doesn’t change the actual color of your hair — rather, it just sits on top of strands which is why it can so easily be washed out, notes Fleming. The other nice thing is that it comes in a variety of different forms, including powders, sprays, waxes, and more, adds Tiffanie Richards, a colorist at Louise O’Conner Salon in New York City. So no matter your preference of hair product types, there’s a hair makeup for you.
The 4 top benefits of hair makeup
1. It instantly blends away gray roots
Both Fleming and Richards cite this as the biggest benefit. So whether you’re in-between the time you color your hair, have a big event, or need a quick touch-up hair makeup is a great way to temporarily conceal gray or soften the look of tell-tale roots, says Fleming. (Click through to learn more ways to cover grays and for going gray gracefully.)
2. It can create instant highlights
According to Richards, using a shade that’s just slightly lighter than your base color around the hairline is a great way to create faux highlights. Similarly, Fleming adds that using hair makeup in blonde hues is a great way to lighten up grown-out highlights. (Click through to see how highlights for brown hair can make hair look thicker.)
3. It makes hair look thicker
Dealing with sparse spots or areas of thinning? “Hair makeup, especially the kind that contains fibers, will build volume and add texture, filling in and masking thinning hair,” says Fleming. And if your hairline is receding, hair makeup can help restore the illusion of fullness to the hairline. (Click through to see the best haircuts for thin hair.)
4. It gives you an easy way to experiment with hair color
Hair color should be fun! Hair makeup offers a quick and easy way to change up your look, no commitment required. Love the way it looks? You’ll know what to look for in a box color or what to ask for at your next salon visit. Not thrilled with the results? All you have to do is wash it out. (Ever imagine yourself as a redhead? Click through for ginger hair looks.)
How to remove hair makeup
It’s as easy as washing your hair just like you normally would. Most of the time, your standard shampoo should be totally sufficient to remove hair makeup, says Fleming. A few caveats: If you’ve used a waterproof formula or have added on multiple layers of product, Fleming says you may want to opt for a clarifying shampoo. These shampoos are slightly stronger than their traditional counterparts and are specially made to remove product build-up. One we like: Nexxus Clean & Pure Nourishing Detox Shampoo (Buy from Target, $15.99).
The 6 best hair makeup products
1. Best hair makeup for quick color touch-ups
Both Fleming and Richards sing the praises of Color Wow Root Cover-Up (Buy at Sephora, $34.50). Fleming loves how fool-proof it is to apply. All you have to do is dip the included brush into the powder and sweep it onto roots, she says. And Richards agrees saying: “It makes it easy to target the product so that it stays just on our hair, and not your scalp, which can sometimes look artificial,” she explains.
2. Best hair makeup for creating faux highlights
Oribe Root Touch-Up Spray (Buy at Oribe, $34) is favored by Richards for how pigmented the spray is. Tip: A little it goes a long way, so start with light spritzes. It’s a great choice for either creating the look of highlights or freshening up existing ones, since it comes in several lighter shades, including platinum, blonde, and light brown. Even better? The powder formula dries quickly and has the added benefit of absorbing oil, which keeps strands from looking limp.
3. Best hair makeup for ‘bulking up’ thinning hair
For those with fine, thin hair, look to Toppik Hair Building Fibers (Buy on Amazon, $7.95), which contains tinted fibers. “The beauty of this TikTok famous product is that while it blends and covers gray hair with just a few shakes, it also fills in thinning hair,” says Fleming. It’s also great to use to conceal sparse spots around your part or hairline, she adds. The result? A thicker-looking mane instantly!
4. Best hair makeup for easy placement and more pigment
If you want your hair makeup to pack a major color punch, try dpHUE Root Touch-Up Stick (Buy on Dermstore, $28). “Pens tend to be a bit more pigmented than powders,” notes Richards. She likes that this dual-ended choice comes with a built-in smudge brush that makes for mess-free application.
5. Best hair makeup for covering grays
Fleming likes that Tarte Big Ego Dab & Go Hair Concealer (Buy on Tarte, $26) is a cream-to-powder option that offers full-coverage and the colors are multi-dimensional for a much more natural end result — plus, it’s waterproof. Everything mentioned above makes this product ideal for concealing grays, though it also comes in a gray shade if you’re sporting silver strands and want to freshen them up.
6. Best hair makeup for testing out a new hue
L’Oréal Paris Colorista 1-Day Spray (Buy on Ulta, $10.99) is for those who want to take an unexpected color for a test run. It’s easy to apply onto larger sections and comes in a rainbow of fun shades like rose gold, red and blue. And yes, as the name suggests, it only lasts a day and washes out easily with shampoo.
For more tricks that help hair look thicker and fuller, click through these stories: