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