The big advantage of coloring your hair is that it’s an easy, non-surgical way to change your look, according to dermatologist Susan Taylor’s But it’s best to learn all you can about hair dyes before painting your tresses. (And doubly so for black women.)

In general, hair dyes fall into three distinct categories: permanent, semi-permanent and temporary. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Permanent Dyes
The biggest advantage of these dyes is that results are long-lasting. Despite new growth, the rest of the hair retains the new color until it is trimmed off.

Permanent dyes are of two types: oxidation and progressive. They both rely on chemicals to change the hair’s color, but they use different active ingredients to achieve the same results. The method is the same. The chemicals in both kinds strip away your hair’s natural color and replace it with the new shade.

The drawback? If used incorrectly, permanent hair dyes can cause hair breakage if the hair is over-processed. This is why experts recommend that women have their hair dyed by a licensed hair care professional. (And it is a serious no-no to dye relaxed hair.)

Semi-Permanent Dyes
These dyes are best for women who don’t want a permanent hair color change. Although the hair shaft absorbs semi-permanent dyes, the color eventually fades after several washings. In addition, semi-permanent hair dyes are convenient for people to buy and apply themselves.

The drawback? Although they cause less hair damage, these dyes leave the hair more dry than normal. As a result, the hair needs consistent conditioning and moisturizing. (Translation: You must stay on top of your hair care regimen.) Oh, and if your hair is relaxed, steer clear of these dyes too.

Temporary Dyes
Temporary hair dyes don’t enter the hair shaft; they fuse with the hair and lie atop its surface. Once you shampoo, the color is whisked away (but some can last through five washings).

A big plus with temporary dyes is that most contain coloring agents that are harmless and so are not as damaging as their permanent or semi-permanent counterparts.

In addition, temporary dyes also include natural hair dyes, such as henna and other plant-based coloring agents.

The drawback? The biggest one is that the color from these dyes doesn’t last. In addition, they’re not very convenient. If your hair gets wet, be prepared to say goodbye to your dye job. (That could get messy!) In addition, you must repeat color applications each time you wash.

According to, about 40 percent of women dye their hair. But because African-American women have fragile hair, the process must be carefully considered.

The best advice? Don’t dye your hair often. And check with a hair stylist about what chemical treatments best suit your hair.

Already sporting dyed locks? Click here for tips on how to protect color-treated hair from the sun.