Did you ever wonder why there are two parts to your hair color and why they only start working when you mix them together? Well, one of the tubes contains the actual color, and the other is a hair color developer.
And one doesn’t work without the other.
But what is hair developer? Why do you need to mix it with your color? Can it damage your hair?
There are several different volumes of developer, and each of them has a different function.
Some of them can be more damaging than others. Some lift your hair lighter while others are made for deposit. Oh… and some are better for grey coverage than others…
This ultimate guide to the different volumes of developer will answer all of your questions…
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what Does Developer Do?
The hair dye developer lifts the cuticle of your hair just enough for color to get in or out of the hair. If you didn’t mix developer with your hair dye, the color molecules would not be able to penetrate the hair and would just wash right off.
The volumes of developer refer to how much peroxide that developer contains. Furthermore, the amount of peroxide determines how much the hair cuticle will open during the process.
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.
As you can see, hair color levels are measured on a scale from 1-10.
Level 1 is black, and level 10 is a very light 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’ll need to determine your current level along with the target level.
Hint: You can usually find the target level by looking at the number on 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.
Lift vs. Deposit
It’s also essential to determine if you want to lift or deposit.
Lift means that we are “lifting” the hair color to a lighter level. For instance, if your hair is brown and you want to go blonde, you’ll have to lift it.
Deposit means that we are depositing hair color molecules into the hair to make it darker.
You’ll also need to determine how many levels of lift or deposit you want to achieve. If you’re going from a level 5 brown to a level 8 blonde, you’ll need to lift your hair three levels higher.
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 the golden rule of lifting hair color.
The Different Volumes of Developer:
• 10 Volume Developer (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’re doing any type of color in which you only need to deposit color without lift (including most hair toners), this is what you need to use.
• 20 Volume Developer(20V / 6% peroxide) 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 Developer (30V / 9% peroxide) will lift the hair up to 3 levels higher and is commonly used with lightener.
• 40 Volume Developer (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 misused.
Less Commonly Used developer types:
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’d wanna put on your head, right?
10 volume developer is meant to deposit pigment into the hair without lift. 20 volume developer is intended to lift the hair 1-2 levels. 30 volume developer lifts the hair three levels, and 40 volume developer lifts four levels.
It depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you’re going darker, you should use 10 developer. 20 – 40 developer can be used to lift 1-4 levels. 20 developer is best for grey coverage.
30v developer will lighten the hair up to 3 levels.
Depending on how many levels of lift you want to achieve, you can use 40 volume developer on dark hair.
10v developer is meant for deposit and will not lift the hair.
If you’re into DIY hair color, you must formulate your hair color correctly. One of the most important aspects of mixing your dye has to do with using the right volume of developer.
Some developers are meant to lift, while others only deposit color. If you have grey hair, it’s crucial that you use a 20 volume developer for optimal coverage. If you’re toning your hair, you’ll likely want to use a 10 volume developer for deposit.
Depending on what your hair currently looks like and what you’re trying to achieve, you can use this guide to formulate the perfect color for your hair!
Until next time,
Your Turn: Did you learn something new about the different volumes of developer? Do you have any questions about how it works? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼
- The Definitive Guide to DIY Hair Color
- How to Use a Hair Toner For Brassiness: Step-By-Step Guide
- The Golden Rule of Lifting Hair Color
- The Different Types of Hair Color
- How To Lift Dark Hair To A Light Blonde Color