What Is Hair Developer? What Does It Do To Your Hair?

Written by Pooja Karkala

Have you ever tried dyeing your hair and felt dissatisfied because it didn’t turn out the way you expected? That probably happened because you either misused the developer or didn’t use it at all. If you want to get a salon-like hair color look in the comfort of your home, you need to learn all about hair developer and how to use it. Keep reading to find out more!

What Is A Hair Developer And What Is It Used For?

A developer is an oxidant cream product containing hydrogen peroxide. It helps in opening up the hair cuticle, which allows the color to penetrate deep into the hair and last for a long time. It is absolutely essential to use a developer while coloring your hair. Check out the next section to find out why.

Benefits of Hair Developer

There are a number of factors that contribute to the results of a developer:

  1. Activation – When mixed with the hair dye, the developer activates the dye to give you the best results.
  2. Consistency – The developer is mixed with the hair dye to form a thick and uniform paste that is easy to apply and holds on to your hair without dripping.
  3. Color Delivery – The hydrogen peroxide in the developer opens up the hair cuticle, which helps the hair dye deposit the color into the hair.
  4. Color Removal – The cuticle-opening action of the developer also helps in removing the natural hair color.
  5. Better Results – Using a developer results in a more pigmented and long-lasting hair color.

Now that it’s clear that cannot skip developer when coloring your hair, let’s take a look at how you can choose the right one for your hair coloring needs.

How To Choose The Right Volume Developer

Choosing the right volume developer is necessary for obtaining the desired hair color. The different concentration levels of hydrogen peroxide in the developer are expressed either in percentage (%) or units of volume (Vol.). Higher the concentration level, stronger the developer and resulting hair color.

Besides the concentration level of the developer, the type of hair color, degree of lightening, hair quality, and hair type also play a huge role in how your hair color turns out. Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about how to choose the right developer based on various factors.

1. Degree of Lightening/Darkening

You need to choose a developer based on the degree to which you want to lighten or darken your hair. Usually, 3% hydrogen peroxide in the developer achieves 1 degree of lightening/darkening. Volume 10 is the weakest, and Volume 40 is the strongest level of developer.

  • 10 Volume Developer

This developer contains 3% hydrogen peroxide, and it darkens your hair by one level. It works only when you are going from a lighter to a darker shade, but not the other way around. It is the best option when you want to go for a shade that is a bit darker than your current hair color. It is best suited for thin or fine hair.

  • 20 Volume Developer

This developer contains 6% hydrogen peroxide, and it lifts your hair color by one or two levels. It is used with both temporary and permanent hair dyes and is a popular choice for covering gray hair. It works well on thick tresses.

  • 30 Volume Developer

This developer contains 9% hydrogen peroxide, and it lifts your hair color up to three to four levels. As it is a strong developer, it can’t be used on thin or fine hair as it may lead to hair damage. It is suitable for covering grays.

  • 40 Volume Developer

This developer contains 12% hydrogen peroxide, and it lifts your hair color up to eight levels. It is only used for lightening hair. Since it is the strongest developer, it is not recommended to be used at home due to the risk of burning your hair and/or scalp. If you think you need to use this developer to get your desired hair color, get your hair colored by a professional hair colorist.

get your hair colored by a professional hair colorist


2. Color Type

You have to choose a developer depending on the type of hair color you’re going to use. There are temporary hair colors, permanent hair colors, and lighteners. Temporary hair colors require weak (10-20 volume) or no developers at all, permanent hair colors require moderate developers (20-30 volume), and lighteners need strong developers (30-40 volume).

3. Hair Type

As different types of hair react to dyeing in different ways, your hair type also determines the choice of developer. You need to use a low volume developer along with a light hair dye on fine hair as the color penetrates faster into it. For normal hair, you can go with the volume of hair developer recommended by the hair color. Use a higher volume developer on thick hair as it is a bit more difficult to lighten or darken.

4. Hair Quality

Hair quality also influences your choice of developer. As healthy hair reacts normally to color, you can use the recommended volume of developer. For porous hair, you need to choose a lower or higher volume developer, depending on how light or dark you want your hair to be. Porous hair absorbs the color quickly, but the color fades away quickly too. So, you need to choose a lower volume developer for lightening your porous hair and a higher volume developer for darkening it.

The developer is usually included in the hair dye package. But if it isn’t, you’ll have to buy a suitable developer separately. You need to mix them before application. Let’s take a look at the process of combining them.

How To Mix The Hair Dye And Developer

Before mixing the developer and hair dye, put on a hairdresser’s cape and latex/nitrile gloves to avoid staining your hands and clothes.

How To Mix The Hair Dye And Developer


Step 1

Identify the developer to dye ratio. It is usually 1 part of hair color for 2 parts of developer. Make sure you mix the developer and dye in the right ratio as recommended to get the desired results.

Step 2

Apply the mixture on your hair as desired. Decide whether you want to dye all your hair or highlight only a few sections. Part your hair and apply the color mixture accordingly.

Now that you know what a developer is and how to use it, it’s time for you to use this information and color your hair like a pro right at home. Do you have any more questions? Drop them in the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you.

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.
Pooja is a Mass Communications and Psychology graduate. Her education has helped her develop the perfect balance between what the reader wants to know and what the reader has to know. As a classical dancer, she has long, black hair, and she knows the struggle that goes into maintaining it. She believes in home remedies and grandma’s secrets for achieving beautiful, luscious hair. When she is not writing, she learns Kuchipudi, practices yoga, and creates doodles.