What Volume Developer Should I Use With My Hair Color?

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…

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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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.

Hair 101 is what I link to think of as an interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school. Did you know that...

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.

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, 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.

Hair color bowl, brush, developer, powder bleach and supplies.

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:

β€’ 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.

β€’ 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.

β€’ 30 Volume Developer (30V / 9% peroxide) will lift the hair up to 3 levels higher and is commonly used with lightener.

β€’ 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.

Clairol Professional Pure White 10 Gentle Lift Creme Developer, 16 ozClairol Professional Pure White 10 Gentle Lift Creme Developer, 16 ozClairol Professional Pure White 10 Gentle Lift Creme Developer, 16 ozClairol Pure White 20 Creme Developer Standard Lift 16ozClairol Pure White 20 Creme Developer Standard Lift 16ozClairol Pure White 20 Creme Developer Standard Lift 16ozClairol Professional Soy4plex Pure White Creme Hair Color Developer, 30 VolumeClairol Professional Soy4plex Pure White Creme Hair Color Developer, 30 VolumeClairol Professional Soy4plex Pure White Creme Hair Color Developer, 30 Volume

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?

Surprised woman looking at her hair.

General FAQ

FAQ Icon
What Are The Different Volumes of Developer?

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.

What Volume Developer Should I Use?

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.

Does 30 Developer Lighten Hair?

30v developer will lighten the hair up to 3 levels.

Do I Need To Use 40 Volume Developer On Dark Hair?

Depending on how many levels of lift you want to achieve, you can use 40 volume developer on dark hair.

Can I Use 10 Volume Developer to Lighten Hair?

10v developer is meant for deposit and will not lift the hair.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

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! πŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸΌ


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

105 thoughts on “What Volume Developer Should I Use With My Hair Color?”

  1. i have been dying my hair a plum colour for a few months and been using 20v but the lady suggested i use a 30v to get more purple out of it. I’m wondering if this will damage my hair amd if I should maybe mix the 20v and 30v instead of just using 30v.

  2. Hi, i was wondering…if my hair color is about a 5 or a 6, and i want to dye the tips red (i should probably note that i have virgin hair) what developer should i use? -thanks

  3. I have NATURALLY dark Dark Brown hair, right now my root is jeT black and my ends are a faded dark redish brown from a faded purple. I want to bleach my ends to get a intenSe dark purple what volume developer should i use.

    • It really depends on how dark your ends are and what condition they’re in, but usually ends are the most damaged. I’d probably start with a 20v or 30v and watch it carefully. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

  4. Hi.
    I have roughly 29inch length hair. Was dyed 3 mths ago. My roots are level-2 black, mid way its level-6 blonde and the RESt to ends are reddish-dark brown. I want to acheive a honey blonde SHade all over. Without going to a salon.

    *What developer(s) should I USE? Was thinking-30V?
    *Can I use creme of nature (honey blonde) box dye after bleaching to achieve the right color?
    *Or should I put the box dye I want in with the developer?

    • I would honestly recommend just investing in a salon visit because it sounds like a complicated formulation. You’ll probably need to use a different developer and formulation for each section. You might be able to soap cap it or bleach everything all out before applying a box color (with developer), but it may not have perfect coverage and some sections may be darker or different shades than the other. That’s why it’s best to have someone else help in this situation. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

  5. Hi I black hair by birth . Ive done some highlights with reddish brown. Now I want to add some caramel brown highlights. Which developer shouldei use

  6. i dyed my hair a medium brown before and even have some highlights but i want to completely dye my hair burgundy now. if i want to a achieve a mulled wine tone without having to bleach my hair, what combination would be the most ideal? a 20v with a #6 hair dye? or a 30v with a #5 color?

    • I guess it depends on what level your hair is at now, but if you’re gonna be around the same level, I think you’ll do okay with a 20v. Loreal has some high-lift red colors that are supposed to work well with colored hair. However, I always recommend doing a test strand before dying all your hair so you can see how it goes. Hope that helps!

    • Is your hair naturally dark brown? or did you color it that way? If it’s naturally that color, it might lighten up to two levels higher. If not, you’ll have to bleach it first. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

  7. if i want to tone a hair after bleaching it what developer should i use?
    the girl has a level 7 to 8. i want to lift it to a 9ish level but make this greyish toned hair

    • Toners don’t usually lift hair… they just deposit tones to counteract the brassy tones, so usually, they require a 10 or 20v. But I would use whatever developer is recommended to use with the particular toner you’re using. The other option is that you can try using a level 9 ash color with a 20 or 30v to lift it a bit more while adding those tones. It’s probably best to do a test strand first to make sure it will lift how you want it to. Hope that helps!


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