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:

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.

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! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼


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

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

  1. I have dark brown haIr with ashy highlights. I want to dye My hair a Medium copper color. WHat DEVELOPER should i mix with the copper color dye ???

  2. Hi hollie

    Im going to attempt bleaching my daughters hair all over. She has previ had full head of foils bit doesnt want to go down that route again so optimg full head of bleach. Her roots are around an inch an half now what i want to know what percents should i use on her regrowth and the ends she is already around a level 8/9 ish but wants to get to platinum. Now do i start on lengths forwt then Roots as i know they take quicker at the root. Im am a wulified hairdresser but i havent used my skills in over 10 years so i know things chanfe and i want to brush up my skills.
    Many thanks .

  3. HeYyy
    So I currently have a baliage going on wITh my hair ( done At the salon) but with covid and everything being closed i CaNt Go in to Get a touch up so im thinking of doing it my self but im a little scared of what developer i shoulD be Using iF 30 or 40 the last tIme i did my hair was In the BEGINNING of DECEMBER, i have natural super dark hair if not black i would saY … i am planIng on toning with wella t18 …

  4. My hair is currently dyed copper red and a level 5, If i wanted to add some level 7 copper streaks would i use a 30 vol or a 20 vol? Would i need to Use any kind of Bleach or colour stripper first?

  5. I have dark blond hair and would like to go to a 2V violet black. What developer level should I use? and is there anything that I need to do before I color it? This is the first time using this, I have used box stuff for years. Thanks in advance

  6. Hi Hollie, I am medium to light BROWN ( natural medium, highlights light brown) and wish to go bright light COPPER red. Do I need to strip first before I color? I have about 10 percent grey. Should I use 20 or 30 v peroxide? Appreciate YOUr help!

  7. hey!
    First of all thanks for taking the time to answer the questions, really appreciate it:)

    I have black asian hair that i dyed black again after i went chestnut Brown/Orange brown lol (So its black now, but only part of it is virgin black).
    I wanted to bleach 2 strands of my hair blond by using color stripper first and then applying 30V Bleach (im too scared to use 40V, and i dont think i’ll need it if its just 2 Strands). It’s supposed to turn out like Narcissa Malfoy.

    Side information, my (Virgin) hair bleaches very well (been to the salon before).

    Do you think this will work? Any tips or extra information?

    would really appreciate your help! <3

    • The part of your hair that has been colored will not lift as well as the virgin hair, but if you’ve only dyed it once, it shouldn’t be too bad. I’d say to maybe try a small test strand first to see what happens before doing the areas you want. I think your strategy sounds good, but the dyed areas might have some brassiness. Maybe look into using a toner to help with that. Let me know how it goes 🙂

  8. My hair is black i colored it several times, the natural colir is black but i want to go medium golden brown ir golden brown which developer shoUld i use. Thank you

    • It really depends on what level the target color is, but it sounds like you’d need to live it at least four levels, in which case, you’d want to use a 40v developer. The best option would be to do a test strand with 40v to see how much it lightens before doing your whole head. Hope that helps 🙂

  9. VeVery informative. I have black hair and I want to dYe a small Section of it blonde what developer should I use. Also do I need to tone it or will the blonde hair dye get it the color I need.

    • It really all depends on a few things… is your hair naturally black or colored that way? How many times has it been colored? You’ll probably need to use a 30-40v, regardless, but the more it has been colored, the harder it will be to lift it to the level of blonde you want. You’ll probably need to tone it for sure if you bleach it. If you’re using color, you might not need to tone it, but it probably won’t get that light either.


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