How to Choose Developer for Hair Color?

When coloring your hair, choosing the right developer is crucial to get the perfect look. A developer is essentially made of hydrogen peroxide. Depending on its concentration, it opens up the hair cuticle to a greater or lesser degree, allowing pigment penetration or stripping out the color.

The developer activates the hair dye so it becomes more vibrant and ensures consistent coverage. In this article, we take you through the main steps to the proper selection, handling, and application of developers to maximize your hair-color impact.

Step 1: Understand your Hair Type and Texture

Different hair types react to developers in different ways. You need to select the right type, otherwise, you could damage your hair and end up with a really bad dye job

Option 1: Fine Hair

Fine hair needs only a minimal Volume 5 or 10 developers. It provides only mild activation, minimal lift, and doesn’t change your natural color much. Fine hair very easily loses/gains pigment, which can make the color darker or lighter than intended. Volumes 5 and 10 balance out toners if you use one. If your hair is porous in addition to being fine, these options work great for lightening. But you need a higher volume for darkening because fine, porous hair does not retain color very well.

Option 2: Normal, Healthy Hair

For normal hair without any specific needs, just follow the instructions given in the package.

Option 3: Thick and Coarse Hair

Thicker and rough hair absorbs color to a lesser extent. So, a higher concentration developer i.e., Volume 20 or 30 is preferable, as allows better pigment seepage on resistant strands. These developers lift by 1, 2, or 3 shades respectively. These developers should not be exposed to heat as they are already very strong.

Option 4: Grey/White Hair

Volume 20 and 30 can be used to emphasize, blend or cover grey and white hairs since these are more impervious and tougher to treat.

Step 2: Establish the Degree of Coloring/Levels of Lifting

Before you select a developer, refer to the hair color chart and determine by how many levels you are going to lighten or darken your hair. The developers increase by a 3% hydrogen peroxide concentration and consequently provide one lift for each 3% raise.

Option 1: Volume 5 or 10

These base volumes provide a mild shift in your natural color, that may not even be visible. If you want to add some tints in similar shades, use a glaze, or attempt level-on-level blending, these are the best. Volume 10 has about 3% hydrogen peroxide concentration which works only when going from light to dark. It works best for temporary darkening.

Option 2: Volume 20

This volume developer has 6% hydrogen peroxide and is one of the most popular, commonly used concentrations. It gives a lift of 1- 2 shades, and should ideally be used with a lifting toner to enhance your roots and blend in their regrowth. It also helps with mid-length brassiness. Volume 20 is preferred for 50% - fully white or grey hair.

Option 3: Volume 30

Volume 30 has a 9% peroxide concentration and lifts hair cuticles to 2-3 shades - a marked difference. This isn't recommended for thin/fine hair but works well for permanent dyeing.

Option 4: Volume 40

This harsh option should never be applied at home because it can singe your hair and scalp. Salons use this 12% peroxide blend, for treatments like balayage. It is solely for lightening, usually in conjunction with lightening creams/powders or bleach prior to the treatment. You’ll see a striking effect up to 8 shades lighter.

Option 5: Volume 50+

Strictly for professional use, this developer is highly drying and strong and can cause brittleness. But it deposits maximum color and provides the best off-the-scalp lift.

Step 3: Buying the Right Developer

Option 1

Buying the same brand or a combo package ensures that you use the developer best suited for that particular dye. Don’t use a different option in such cases, because they may not gel well together.

Option 2

If you buy a stand-alone tube of dye, buy your developer separately. Try to approximate best to your lifting needs, and be prepared for the color to be somewhat different than advertised.

Option 3

Buy more quantity of the developer and dye than your anticipated requirements, because they tend to smear, spill, and typically might fall short. So, if your hair decides to act up, you can save yourself a load of trouble.

With long hair, buy 2-3 boxes and for shorter hair, 1 or 2 boxes total will suffice.

Step 4: Applying the Developer

Stage 1

Developer-proof your furniture, clothes, and skin. Wear gloves (preferably latex), while mixing the dye and developer to prevent staining your hands. Spread out newspapers on the table, and wear a towel or old sweatshirt over your clothes.

Stage 2

Mix the dye and developer well in plastic in a bowl, in the ratio specified on the box. It is usually a 1:2 dye-to-developer ratio, or alternatively 1:1 and 1:1.5. The instructions for specific dyes shouldn’t be ignored, and if there aren’t any guidelines, don’t do it arbitrarily, or the color may come out uneven. The mixture should be prepared only when you are fully ready to start the process because it stays active only for an hour.

Stage 3

If you are going for a full dye, start applying the mixture with a brush from the tips to the roots, in an upward motion. If you are highlighting, separate your hair into sections, and pull them all up using clips, except one portion on which the mixture is applied. This has to be repeated for all the segments, one by one to ensure that dye isn’t applied haphazardly and only to specific areas.


And there you have it – a few clear, easy steps to getting those richly hued tresses! We hope this cleared things up!

Updated on: 19-Jun-2023


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