What Volume Developer Should I Use?

Based on your knowledge of hair color, you may or may not know what a 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 aren’t all created equally and people ask all the time what the different volumes of developer are.

Here is the quick answer…

What volume of developer should I use with my hair dye? Find out what all the different volumes of developer are typically used for...


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

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Hair Levels:

First things first, we should talk about the levels of hair. This will make it easier to understand how the different volumes of developer work.

The levels of hair color

As you can see, the level of hair color is measured on a scale from 1-10.

Level 1 is black and level 10 is a very light whitish blonde. As the hair gets lighter, it will have a higher level number. For instance, medium brown is a level 4.

Just to clarify, this does not explain the hue of the color; it’s just a method used to measure how light or dark the color is.

When coloring your hair, you need to first determine your current level along with the target level. 

Hint: You can find the target level by looking at the number of the hair color you’re using. For instance, 5N means your end result should be a level 5 with the right volume of developer. Find out more with my guide to reading hair color numbers/labels.

Follow this guide to learn the different levels of developer and find out which volume of developer you should be using in your hair color! #HairColor #HairDye #VolumesOfDeveloper

Lift vs. Deposit

I want to throw out a little more terminology that will make it easier to understand.

Lift means that we are “lifting” the hair color to a lighter level.

Deposit means that we are depositing hair color molecules into the hair to make it darker.

Keep in mind that virgin hair color (hair that has never been colored) reacts much differently than hair that has been colored. Read more about that concept on the golden rule of hair color.

Follow this guide to learn the different levels of developer and find out which volume of developer you should be using in your hair color! #HairColor #HairDye #VolumesOfDeveloper

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.
  • 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.
20 Volume Creme Developer
  • Excellent gray coverage
  • Great conditioning
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Less Commonly Used Volumes of Developer:

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

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. Sounds like something you wanna put on your head right?


Your Turn:  Did you learn something new about the volumes of developer and hair dye? Do you have any questions about how it works? I’d love to read your feedback in the comments section below…

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Follow this guide to learn the different levels of developer and find out which volume of developer you should be using in your hair color! #HairColor #HairDye #HairTips #DIYHairColor #LevelsOfHairColor

Last update on 2019-08-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

35 thoughts on “What Volume Developer Should I Use?”

  1. Hi, i am planning to color my GREy root and have the rest of the remaining hair lighter in 2 SHADES.is it advisable on the same color 6% for ROOt and 9% on the remaining hair to COLOR.trying It For the first TIME.please advise THAnks.

    • Thanks for the question! Are you just going to be coloring the grey the same color as the rest of your hair? You can probably just apply the color to your roots and then just run it through the rest of the hair for a few minutes before you wash it out. If you let it process the whole time that the roots need to process, it will probably get pretty dark. Does that help? If not, let me know!

  2. hi there,ihave very resistant white hair and would like to know if i can use a 20 developer on my hair first then put a light blone on top.many tanks

    • That is actually a great idea! It will help open the cuticle so that the color can penetrate. Just use the 20v developer by it self for 5-10 minutes and then wipe it off before applying the color (no need to wash). Hope that helps!

  3. Hi my hair is ViRgin At my roots and aboUt an iNch down i haVe black dyed hair aNd then the rest is bleached To about a level 5.i wanna go A beAutiful meduim-dark red.idk what volume to use for wHat sections of my hair.****im planning on using loreal high color In The color magenta.

    • Thanks for the question! To be completely honest, this sounds like a complicated dye job. The hair that is dyed black will need to be bleached before applying the color. The virgin hair will process differently than the other hair.. and you will have to “fill” the blonde hair before adding in new color (I’d check online to see what filling method loreal recommends before using that line).

      If you could get all of the hair to a solid color (by bleaching the black and virgin hair) and then maybe filling the really light hair before coloring it, that would be your best bet.

      Sorry it isn’t more help, but it really does seem complicated and could end up not looking good. Hope this helps a little at least 🙂

  4. Hi Hollie. I want to highlight my hair at home .I have just bought marjiblond 900S and 20 volume developer. I coloured my hair globally last week to a dark BROWN.Is the 20 volume developer ok for the highlights I want. And can I now highlight my hair

    • I’m not sure what the marjiblond 900s is, but you will definitely want to use bleach to get the best results. A blonde dye might lift out the dark color a bit, but it probably won’t look like you want it to.

      If it is bleach and you give it a try, it’s definitely okay to do highlights now and 20v developer will work (although it might take a while). Depending on how dark your brown is, it might be better to step up to 30v.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  5. I have mostly gray roots And brown/ red shade colOred hair my roots always turn out lighter than the rest if my colored hair and barely Covers the Gray with 20 developer. Should i use 10 developer to cover my grays and have even color?

  6. Hi,
    I’d like to know if there is a way to use 20 volume developer for your roots and a 10 volume mix of the same color on the rest of the hair.
    I don’t want to keep putting 20 vol. All over my head every time.
    I do know about combing the color through the ends the last 10-15 minutes of processing.
    Would mixing up a 10 VOL.be better or even a 15 vol Mixture?
    I just don’t want to fry my hair.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks!!

  7. Hey I stumbled across your blog by accident. If I can just help you out a bit…
    The volume of peroxide refers to the amount of extra oxygen in the solution. 20 volume peroxide (H2O2) has 20 times more oxygen than water (H2O). The peroxide does 2 things and neither of them is “opening the cuticle of the hair”. Peroxide shatters natural pigment (melanosomes), allowing light to pass through and make the hair appear lighter. It also develops the color molecules, they become larger so they can not wash out of the cortex. The ammonia in the hair color opens the cuticle to allow the color molecules in. 50 volume peroxide is widely used and sometimes 60 volume, you have to know what you’re doing. 10 volume is the most effective for gray coverage, not 20 volume as some color companies would have you believe and all of this depends on the fabric of the hair you are working with. I teach a class on all of this if you would like to attend. coastlineedu.com

    • I have fine very long hair, im trying to blend grey while doing as minimal damage as possible to my hair im using a demi per color with a 10 vol developer , i did 30 mins didnt cover as well as expected. What would you reccomend for best results? Will it hurt to leave it 45 mins?

      • Hi Joy! Thanks for the question! While it wouldn’t hurt to leave the color on for 45 minutes, I don’t think it would do much to help you. Demi permanent colors are not meant to fully cover greys.. in fact, I see a lot of “grey blending” hair colors that are demi-permanent… they just work by toning down the grey a little bit and blending it in better. 20 volume is usually the preferred developer for grey coverage, although I would use the developer that is meant for the color you are using. If you want more coverage, you can look into a permanent color that is designed for grey coverage. Hope this helps 🙂

    • Ok, weird question for anyone who might know…

      I cannot get my hair to bleach white like I have done in the past..22yrs-31yrs old…always easy with 40 vol., clairol blue & 2 packets of “powder”..15-20mins.

      Now…nothing I do works…bumped up the developer & the time.

      I can only get a pale yellow…I’m tryn not 2 use a toner…I just want, literally, white hair..

      Question is; is it due to menopause? Or the absence of natural hormones & having to take replacement hormones..

      It has stumped me… because bleaching shd remove all color from hair. My hair is fine, straight and a natural light fawn or ash blonde. And easily lightens naturally in the sun.

      So what gives? Why cannot 40 vol. 2 packets of activating powder & clairol “blue” for 45mins remove all pigment from blonde hair?

      • That is a really good question and I’m going to look into writing a blog post about it! I’m not 100% sure what is causing your problems, but I would think that it’s likely that menopause has changed your hair composition from what it used to be. The hormonal changes can make your hair react differently to the color changes. Similarly, I think it could be possible that replacement hormones could change your hair as well.

        There could also be other factors like if you had darker color in your hair at one point (that hasn’t grown out yet). I’m not really sure what the solution to your problem would be, besides to tone it or go to a professional. I would definitely not bleach over the previously bleached hair with 40 volume again… maybe after a while., you can try to lighten it more with a very low volume developer, but please be super careful if you do this. I don’t want you to melt all your hair off. Good luck!

  8. Hey Hollie, I just wanted to ask which product is recommended for Indian brown hair to achieve lighter hair, currently my hair is colored and it’s a shade of brown very close to my natural hair color. I would like to color my hair at home and give them a reddish brown color.

    • Hi Sanika! Thanks for the question! Hmmm. It really depends on how dark your hair is now and what the level of the reddish brown you want is. If you want it much lighter, you will need to lighten it before applying the reddish brown color. If you don’t mind it being darker, you can just color over what you have now. Just be aware that if your roots are a different color (like, if your hair has grown out), you might have to process them differently, otherwise they will turn super red. Hope this helps. Good luck!

  9. 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.

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

  10. 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. 🙂

  11. 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??

    • 20vol will lighten your hair 1-2 shades. Which is good when you’re adding a color on top. I made the mistake of using a 10vol and now my hair is a shade darker. Which I didn’t want, but it’s only semi permanent, lol.
      10vol just deposits color, so depending on the level of the color I’d go with the 20vol. I have always done it that way. But that’s my hair type too, it holds onto color really well.
      It’s really down to your hair….

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