Based on your knowledge of hair color, you may or may not know what developer is.  On a basic level, if you were to buy a box of hair color at the grocery store, it is the cream that you mix with the hair color to activate it.  Well, they are not all the same and people ask all the time what the different volumes of developer are.  Here is the answer…

Have you ever wondered what each of the different volumes of developer used in hair color were for?  Read about it in this short hair snip article.

The volumes of developer refer to how much peroxide that individual developer contains. In turn, the amount of peroxide determines how much the hair cuticle will open during the process.

The Different Volumes of Developer:

  • 10 Volume (10V / 3% peroxide) developer will deposit color and make the hair darker that is was. It works by just barely opening the cuticle enough to deposit pigment. Therefore, if you are doing any type of color in which you need to just deposit color without lift (including most toners), this is what you need to use.
  • 20 Volume (20V / 6% peroxide) developer is the most commonly used. First off, it is optimal for covering grey hair. Also, you’d use it to stay anywhere around the level your hair already is, or to lift 1-2 levels (see the different levels.)
  • 30 Volume (30V / 9% peroxide) will lift the hair up to 3 levels higher and is commonly used with lightener.
  • 40 Volume (40V / 12% peroxide) will lift the hair up to 4 levels. It is often used with lightener or high-lift blondes. Some high-lift colors even require double-40V for extra lift. Do keep in mind that 40V used with lightener can be tragically damaging if used incorrectly.

Less Commonly Used Volumes of Developer:

There are some other less commonly used developers such as 5V, 15V, 50V, 60V etc. Based on what you just learned, you should be able to figure out what each of them do.

Disclaimer: I would never ever recommend using anything higher than a 40V.  However, there is a 120-volume developer, in which you can make any other strength by diluting it.  This sounds pretty awesome, but do keep in mind that it’s hard to obtain as most shipping companies cannot transport it.

Now you know…


Hollee Wood is a professional hairstylist with over 10 years of experience in the hair industry. She loves teaching about the science of hair along with everything else beautiful.


  1. The person who wrote this is a professional none professional wouldn’t know the difference just saying to those who talking shit and 40% can be used as 20% when watered down

    • i dont think this is written professinaly becauuse they spell colour as (color) but other from that abso great for information 🙂

      • I currently don’t work as a hairsylist (although I’m still licensed and do side work) but I spent 9 years in the salon as a professional. Anyways, I’ve rarely ever seen it spelled “colour”. I always thought that was how countries outside of the U.S. spelled it.

      • In the US, “color” is the correct spelling. Also, professionals are human and make mistakes as well lol.

      • “color” is US, “colour” is Canadian. We also spell “neighbour” instead of “neighbor” .. Canada. We like to put the “u” in everything lol

  2. Try to find a licensed professional… that’s my recommendation.

  3. Hello. I find this article very useful. I would like to ask this. I died my hair with Syoss 6-76 (copper) dye, which is a little bit lighter than my natural hair (medium brown); however, the dye didn’t cover all of my grays. My question is if I can put 6 % peroxide instead of the color developer that comes in the original dye box to get a better result and in what ratio should I put it- the same as with the color developer (1:1)? Thank you.

    • Theoretically, I would think that would work, but of course, I should recommend following the directions provided by the company that makes the product, since I don’t know anything about that product. If you do decide to do it, do a 1:1 ratio. 🙂

    • It basically means the level of developer. It has to do with the ratio of peroxide… higher volume means stronger developer.

  4. Hi 🙂 I am attempting to color my hair myself, for the first time in years! My formula is 1 part level 4 & 1.5 part level 5 with a 20 vol. developer. My friend, who is a stylist told me I should use a 10 vol. developer. My hair is currently colored & at a level 5 with few level 7 highlights & I want to stay at a level 5, what should I do??

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