What Is Hair Developer? The Beginner’s Guide

Hair coloring is fast becoming popular across the globe as a way to change the hairstyle. The biggest problem is that not many people know how to balance the developer and the hair color to bring out rich hair color.

Therefore, it’s vital that you go to a professional colorist for the process.

Use Hair DeveloperHowever, it’s okay to color it yourself, but only if you know hair coloring basics. Failure to use enough developer or using it in excess will make the results dissatisfying.

What Is A Developer?

This is the liquid product that you mix with the color for it to penetrate the cuticle. In essence, it’s the activator that makes the coloring process work. If you don’t have it, then the color sticks to the surface of the strand.

hair Developer


The developer makes the color more permanent by penetrating the shaft to change the color from within the strand. To explain it further, it’s a cream product that has hydrogen peroxide as a significant player.

So, as we have said, the developer lifts the cuticles high, slightly high, or low depending on the strength of the developer.

What Does It Do?

For us to understand the volume that would work, we need to know what exactly the developer does.

We have mentioned that it lifts the cuticles just to the level of the volume you use. This then lets the color into the shaft of the strands to make the color change more permanent. The volume goes hand in hand with the way it works.

Another common terminology is the hair developer level, which refers to the oxidizing potential. It also shows you how much hydrogen peroxide there is in the developer. The volume varies from 10, 20, 30, 40, as you will see below.

So, it’s the work of the developer to produce the actual color of your choice. It will only happen if you choose the right developer. It further disperses your virgin color as it lifts the color of choice.

The developer’s work is to help in the toning and bleaching of the hair. So, whenever you want to bleach or tone the hair you will need to use the developer.

Is It Good for Your Hair?

Well, this is a massive alteration to the pigmentation of your hair. Therefore, you get to choose whether or not you want it. Remember, the whole process of bleaching and toning the hair has diverse effects on your hair that ultimately cause damages.

In fact, whether you go to a stylist or do it yourself at home, your hair strands will dry off. Ultimately, it also strips it of its nutrients. Nevertheless, if you intend to bleach the hair, follow the manufactures instruction to the later or else you risk damaging the hair.

Since it’s a destructive process, you need to use the right products to strengthen the hair after and before the coloring process.

Is the Developer A Bleach?

No, it’s not. It’s the product that is essential when you intend to bleach the hair. Thus, you can’t use the developer only and expect it to lighten or bleach your hair. You will need to use the developer and color.

The bleach, on the other hand, removes the virgin color of your hair before using the color you intend to change the hair to.

The Benefits of a Developer

Of course, if you are going to use this product, you need to know the advantages of having it.


The primary use of the developer is to activate the color. It influences the results of the hair color you receive.

The consistent results

It then goes on to produce consistent results as you mix the color and the developer. In essence, when you mix it with the hair dye, it forms a thick and uniform paste. It’s then so easy to apply on the hair.

Natural color removal

When you need to bleach the hair, you have to remove the natural hair color. The developer that has the hydrogen peroxide is the one that makes it easy to remove the color. Once the color is removed, then you can deposit the desired color to the hair.

The bleach looks good

When you use the developer, you are sure to achieve the best results ever. The results are durable than if you didn’t use it.

What happens though if I didnt use the developer

I might have answered this question already without saying. It’s simple; the color is delivered to the outer part of the strand since the cuticles don’t open. This means that the coloring is quite temporary.

So, this is to say that the color you used didn’t modify the hair melanin but just changed the outer surface. There are such options though, and we call such dyes semi-permanent dyes.

The problem with this is that the color fades so quick. But the good thing is that it doesn’t affect the strands much. Notice that you can use such methods when you intend only to darken the hair not lighten the color.

The color further won’t even dry the hair because it uses no sulfate and paraben. This has worked for me for so many years.

Some of the colors you can use include:

Manic Panic, Pravana, Joico, and Directions. These are some of the few semi-permanent colors you can use on the hair.

Notice that although they deposit the color on the surface of the hair strands, they would sometimes stain the hair. Also, they won’t work when you need to cover the greying hair.

How to Choose the Developer

Let’s agree on this one thing; whichever the texture or color you are reaching for, always go for a developer that is at a lower level. The side note to this is that it will take it long to color your hair, but then it’s effective.

The hair developer has levels and volumes, so you ought to balance them. If you go for a higher volume, note that it works faster and stronger.

There are a lot of factors that will determine the right developer to work with. It all matters the kind of hair texture you have, the color you intend to achieve, and the degree of lightening you are after. All these factors determine how the color will come out.

What degree of lightening are you looking to achieve?

The developer you choose should be based on the lightening degree or darkening degree you intend to achieve. This is based on the volume of the developer that matches the hair color of interest.

The color

The developer and the hair color you intend to use, go hand in hand. You will need to choose the developer depending on the color you are after. You can buy lighteners, permanent, and temporary hair colors. They all determine the volume level of the developer to use.

  • Temporary hair color: it uses weak developers so maybe 10-20 volume, but I love to use it without any developer.
  • Permanent: this is at a moderate level. You should use between 20-30 volume.
  • Lightener: it requires a lot more work so you should use the developers at the volume of 30-40 volume.

Consider the degree of lightening or darkening you need

Before we go deep into this, we should know what the terminology lift and deposit means

  • Lift: this means that you are lifting the color of your hair to a higher level.
  • Deposit: in this case, you are applying the molecules of the color to your hair strand and thus quickly making it darker.

Here, there will be a difference if this is your fast time coloring the hair. It will react very well with the color.

  • Without developer to 10 volume developer with a 3% peroxide

This is actually like the temporary color, so it only works when you are going to darken the hair and lifts it to a single level.

  • 20 volume developer and 6%peroxide

It can lift the color to 1-2 levels. If you intend to cover your white hairs, this is ideal. It works with permanent colors.

  • 30 volume developers and 9% peroxide

This one will lighten up to 3 levels. It works with the permanent color and other lightening creams.

  • 40 volume developers and 12%peroxide

It can offer up to 8 levels of lifting. It’s only suited for those looking for the lightening of the hair. It works best with the lightening cream. Be careful when using it because it can burn your hair.

The hair types

Notice that different hair types will react differently to different colors. Therefore, you should know your hair type as well. If you have fine hair, you should use the low volume developer and lightener.

If your hair is normal then follow the instruction of the developer. But if you have thick hair, then a high-volume developer is ideal.

What of the hair quality?

Your hair quality will determine the reaction, you know? If you have healthy hair, the color will react normal, but when you have unhealthy hair, it’s all different.

The porosity of the hair matters too. As I would say, low porosity hair requires the use of high developers to help open the cuticle.

The Hair Developer Levels

Before we go to the hair developer levels, it’s vital that you know the hair color levels. That will help you in identifying the developer amount to use for the different colors.

The hair color levelsSo, you will need to know which level your hair is and the color you are reaching for before you begin the process.

The hair developer level is the oxidizing potential of the hair developer.

10 volume developer-3% peroxide

Sometimes, you may decide to use no developer at all, and that will be fine. But if you are using permanent color, you can use the 10V developer to add a tint or tone to the hair color. It also makes it last longer.

The reason why most people who want to tone will use level 10 is that it’s less damaging compared to the other levels.

It helps in the deposition of the color to the hair so that it can darken it a little. It opens the cuticle just a little then deposits the color molecules.

1. Clairol Professional Pure White 10 Gentle Lift Creme Developer

If you are going to use any Clairol color then you should use this developer as it will blend perfectly well with it. It works best if you have chemically treated hair. I like that it’s a consistent piece that will deliver the color.

2. Goldwell Topchic Hair Color Coloration Cream Developer Lotion

With this piece, you will achieve your desired color every time, especially since it comes with a sleek tint brush. This developer lets your hair remain shiny, strong, and healthy. It features an alkaline hair color for the best result.

20 volume developer-6% peroxide

This is the most common developer used, and maybe this is because it covers your greys. It works to bleach and tone the hair color.

So, when you want to lift the color a level, or two or you want to cover at least 50% of your greys, 20V has you covered. It can work with you bleach to become a lightener too.

3. L’Oreal Oreor 20-Volume Creme Developer

This kind of developer is great for those who know the color scheme technology. I’ve always used it not only because I trust L’Oréal products, but because it’s effective.

You will love its consistency, thickness, and richness. In using it, you only receive consistent results so you can rest assured about the effective.

10V vs. 20V

They are almost at the same level even though the 20V developer is a little stronger. The main difference is that while the 20V developer lightens the color a degree or two higher. The 10V darkens your hair color, or you can use it to tone it.

If you have greys, you can use the 20V developer to some level, but no the 10V one won’t cover the greys rather it will make it appear as though the grey hair is lightly highlighted.

30 volume developer

This is for the lightening and coloring of the hair. It covers you when you need to move two to three levels higher. It works well with lighteners.

The essence is to let in a little more color into the cuticle for the pigmentation. This means that the color is more durable. It further works best on those with the low porosity hair since the hair resists not only moisture but also color.

4. Schwarzkopf Professional BLONDE ME Premium DEVELOPER Oil Formula (9% ; 30 Volume)

For the easy application, you have the tint brush that makes it easy. You can also use it for the color and developers. This developer is ideal if you are looking for a blonder look. The good thing is that it can lift the color up 9 colors higher.

It’s designed to be a little more caring to your hair while delivering the bright and perfect blondes. It can also fully cover your grey hairs.

5. Sensitive Scalp 30 Volume Creme Developer

As you get to higher volume level its best to use the sensitive skin developers. This one is designed to work with all your permanent colors and lighteners. It will even leave the best fragrance on your hair.

40 volume developer

It can lift the hair comfortable to more than 4 levels higher. It works best with the lighteners and light blonde colors. Notice that this color is a little strong and can easily damage your hair so you should use the help of the colorist.

This developer has the highest percentage of peroxide which will cause burns on the hair and the scalp. Here’s my advice though, don’t use it if you will color the hair at home.

6. L’Oreal Oreor Creme 40 Volume Developer

As earlier mentioned, loreal is one of the best brands when it comes to hair products. We have the 40v one to lighten the hair further and even stronger. This one will lift the hair at least 4 levels extra.

It doesn’t deposit color, but it lightens the color of your hair. It features the same rich and creamy formula.

7. SATIN Satin Oxide Developer 6 Oz 40 Volume

You can have a developer that uses silicone elements to enhance the hair shine. It further is good at conditioning the hair. Its formula is great as making the hair strands softer and shinier. Also, it has shea butter to keep the hair moisturized through the process, thus avoid drying.

The silicone is further great because it helps the hair retain the color over a prolonged time. It will lift the hair to 4 levels higher.

30V vs. 40V

These two developer volumes also work almost the same, although the 40V one is higher and more rapid. The 30V developer will lighten the natural color two or three levels higher. And the 40V developer, on the other hand, lifts the hair 4 degrees higher.

It’s best used when you are looking for a lighter and deeper color. The 40V one works with the high lift colors. It further works best with bleach.

Of course, the 40V is the strongest of the two that will come up with a rapid change on your hair. When using it, you ought to be careful, or else you could burn and damage your hair.

8. Super Star Creme Developer 50 Volume

I know what some of you may think its too strong and yes, it is that’s why it’s used only in the salons. This developer has the right consistency, which means that it can never run as you are applying.

It makes the coloring process a fast process. You can use it in the place of the liquid peroxide.

Where to Buy the Developer

Online stores like Amazon sell the best developers. Alternatively, you can reach for a quality one from your colorist. Other places to visit are the hair product stores around.

How to Use the Developer

With all the information above, I should expect it to be easy for you to color your hair with ease now. Once you have identified the color you want to reach and your natural hair color the whole process is easier.

To begin with, find the ratio between the dye and the developer. Often, it’s usually a 1:2 ratio part. Remember, this is a determinant of the color results, so use the right ratio. I often go for the maximum of a 20V developer. And if I need a higher volume, then I go to the salon.

In this case, I also encourage the use of cream colors as opposed to the powder ones. For the cream, it’s easy to know the ratio needed.

Once you have the right ratio, you can apply it on your hair. Whether you need to highlight or color the whole head is a personal decision. So, apply the hair color mixture quickly and in sections.


Can you use the hair color without developers?

Yes, you can, but it won’t change the melanin of the hair so it won’t be a permanent color rather a temporary one.

What volume should I use when I wish to go darker?

You should use the 10V when you need to go darker. It makes the color a little more permanent. The essence of the developer is to help in the deposition of the color, so it’s the best volume.

What developer to use when dying hair red?

This color is determined so much by the developer you choose. You don’t want to make a mistake of using a wrong one I know. Mind you; the red color is achievable without the need for bleach.

It matters to know your natural hair color. For those with blonde hair and wanting to achieve a dark red color, you can use the 10V developer, but if you have a brunet hair, for example, you should use the 30V developer.

9. L’Oreal Hicolor HiLights for Dark Hair Only Red 2-Pack with 16 oz. Oreor Crème 30 Developer

This works for the red color only.

How much developer to use with hair dye?

As earlier mentioned, you should balance the ratio to a 1:2. But the instructions will also be in the instructions page of the developer.


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