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What is Hair Developer: An Essential Guide for Beginners


Hair developer plays an essential role in the hair dyeing process, ensuring that your chosen colour is effectively absorbed into your hair strands. This liquid mixture, activated by the addition of dye, contains hydrogen peroxide as its primary ingredient.

Depending on the desired results, hair developers come in different strengths or volumes, with each level providing a specific amount of lift and penetration.

When you dye your hair, the developer helps to open up the hair cuticles, allowing the colour molecules to enter the hair shaft and bond with your hair’s natural fibres. The strength of the developer is chosen based on the colour change required, ranging from subtle adjustments to more dramatic transformations.

Understanding the function of hair developer and the various strengths available is vital for those looking to achieve the best results from their at-home hair colouring session or salon visit.

To summarise, hair developer is a crucial component in the hair colouring process, as it allows the dye to enter and bond with your hair, effectively customising the final result. By choosing the appropriate volume of developer for your specific needs, you can ensure a vibrant and long-lasting hair colour, that is both stunning and true to your desired shade.

What Is Hair Developer

Hair developer is an essential component in the hair colouring process. It is a liquid, typically an oxidant cream, that is mixed with hair dye to activate the colour. The main ingredient in hair developer is hydrogen peroxide, which lifts the hair colour and helps the dye penetrate the hair shaft for long-lasting results1.

The purpose of using a hair developer in hair colouring is to open up the hair cuticles, allowing the colour to seep into the hair shaft and achieve a vivid, lasting colour. This is particularly important when lightening or changing the colour of your hair, as the developer ensures a more even coverage and reduces the chance of patchy and uneven results.

Hair developers come in varying levels of strength, which correspond to the amount of hydrogen peroxide they contain. Volume 10, for example, is the weakest developer level, containing only 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Higher volumes have higher percentages of hydrogen peroxide, enabling them to lift the hair colour more effectively and providing varying levels of lightening.

It is essential to choose the right developer volume for your specific requirements, as using an inappropriate level may lead to unsatisfactory results or even hair damage. Understanding your hair type, desired colour, and the level of lift needed can help you make an informed decision on the right developer to use.

Types of Hair Developer

When it comes to hair colouring, developers play a crucial role in lifting, depositing, and achieving the desired hair colour. There are two primary types of hair developers: cream developer and liquid developer. These types differ in consistency, making them suitable for various applications and hair types.

Cream Developer

Cream developers are thicker in consistency and offer better control during application. This type of developer is suitable for users who want to ensure an even and precise colouring process. The creamy texture of the developer allows for smooth mixing with hair colour or bleach, creating an easy-to-apply mixture.

Cream developers are ideal for on-scalp applications, as their thick consistency helps to prevent dripping and movement during the colouring process. They are available in different strengths or volumes, which determine the level of lift or deposit of the hair colour.

Some advantages of using cream developers include:

  • Better control during application
  • Suitable for an even and precise colouring process
  • Ideal for on-scalp applications

Liquid Developer

Liquid developers have a more fluid consistency compared to cream developers. They’re typically easier to mix with hair colour or bleach, and they allow for quicker saturation of the hair strands. This type of developer is suitable for off-scalp applications and works well for hair dyeing techniques such as highlights or balayage.

Liquid developers also come in various strengths or volumes, which determine the degree of lift or deposit of the hair colour. Due to their thinner consistency, liquid developers may not provide the same level of control as cream developers during the application process.

Some benefits of using liquid developers include:

  • Easier mixing with hair colour or bleach
  • Quicker saturation of hair strands
  • Suitable for off-scalp applications and various hair dyeing techniques

Both cream and liquid developers serve different purposes in the hair colouring process. As a result, it’s essential to choose the right developer type depending on the application, desired results, and individual hair types.

Primary Functions

Lifting Colour

Hair developer serves a crucial role in the hair colouring process by lifting the colour of your hair. It is a hydrogen peroxide-based cream product that helps to open up the hair cuticle, enabling the colour to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft and become permanent. It comes in different volumes or oxidising potentials, commonly ranging from 10 to 40.

When mixed with bleach, developer works to lighten the hair to achieve the desired shade. The higher the volume of the developer, the greater the lifting power, meaning the hair becomes lighter as the number of volume increases.

However, it is essential to note that using a developer with a higher volume also carries a higher risk of damaging your hair.

Depositing Colour

Apart from lifting colour, hair developer also deposits colour in the hair. It works effectively when mixed with hair dye or toner to create the desired shade. The 10-volume developer is the standard oxidising level for permanent, no-lift hair colour. It is designed for use when you want to add a colour tone or tint to the hair of the same lightness level.

A lower volume developer is suitable for simple dyeing as it only lifts the hair cuticle slightly, allowing the colour to penetrate. For instance, using a 10-volume developer ensures optimal colour depositing without significantly lifting the hair colour, resulting in a more natural-looking outcome.

In summary, hair developer is essential in both lifting and depositing hair colour, whether it’s for bleaching or dyeing purposes. Choosing the correct volume of developer and using it accurately with hair colour products can help you achieve a beautiful and long-lasting result.

Understanding Developer Volumes

Hair developers, also known as activators, play a crucial role in the hair colouring process, as they help the colour to penetrate the hair shaft and become permanent. Developer volumes, containing hydrogen peroxide, help determine the outcome of your hair colouring, including the level of lift and coverage. Let’s explore the different volumes of developers and their applications.

10 Volume

10 volume developer is the gentlest option and is ideal for minor hair colour changes, like going from brown to black. It contains 3% hydrogen peroxide and is mainly used to deposit colour rather than lifting it. It’s also suitable for tone-on-tone colouring, covering minimal grey hairs, and refreshing already coloured hair.

20 Volume

A 20-volume developer lifts hair by 2 shades and is typically used to cover grey hairs, although it’s also suitable for lightening hair that’s sufficiently close to the target colour. It contains 6% hydrogen peroxide and provides greater lift than the 10-volume developer, making it a versatile choice for both home and professional use.

30 Volume

30-volume developer lifts hair 3-4 shades, and is appropriate for achieving more dramatic colour transitions. Containing 9% hydrogen peroxide, this developer is recommended for thick or coarse hair types, as it may be too harsh for fine or delicate hair. It’s commonly employed for creating vibrant, eye-catching colour transformations.

40 Volume

Finally, the 40-volume developer contains 12% hydrogen peroxide and is the strongest option available. It’s ideal for lifting hair by 4-5 shades and is typically used for major colour changes or stubborn grey hair.

Due to its potency, it’s crucial to exercise caution when using this developer, especially if you have fine or delicate hair. For best results, seek professional guidance before using a 40-volume developer to avoid damaging your hair.

Precautions and Safety Tips

Allergic Reactions

Before using any hair developer, it’s crucial to perform a patch test. Apply a small amount of the developer to a small patch of skin, typically either on your forearm or behind your ear. Wait at least 48 hours to see if any allergic reactions occur, such as redness, itching, or swelling. If there’s no reaction, it’s safe to continue with the hair developer.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never use a product if you’re unsure about any allergic reactions.

Damage to Hair and Scalp

Hair developers can potentially cause damage to your hair and scalp. To minimise any risk, make sure to choose the correct volume of developer and avoid over-processing your hair. When mixing the developer with bleach or dye, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the appropriate ratio. Over-processing or using too high a volume can lead to hair breakage, dryness, and scalp irritation.

While using the developer, keep the following in mind:

  • Apply the developer evenly, ensuring proper coverage.
  • Avoid applying it on the scalp or close to the roots, particularly if you have a sensitive scalp.
  • Monitor the development process closely, as leaving the product on too long can increase the risk of damage.
  • Ensure proper post-treatment care, including deep conditioning and regular trims to maintain hair health.

By following all necessary precautions and consulting a professional if you’re unsure, you can safely enjoy the benefits of hair developers.

Professional Tips for Best Results

When using hair developer for colouring or lightening your hair, it’s important to follow certain guidelines to achieve the best results. Here, we’ll discuss some professional tips that will ensure a successful application and long-lasting results.

Firstly, always perform a strand test to find the right developer volume and processing time for your specific hair type and desired colour. This will help you avoid any surprises and achieve a more even colour throughout your hair.

It is crucial to select the appropriate developer volume. Using 10-volume developer will lift your hair by one shade and is generally best for minor hair colour changes. Using a 20-volume developer is ideal for lifting hair by 2 shades and helps to cover greys effectively. If you want to lift your hair 3-4 shades, opt for a 30-volume developer.

Keep in mind the mixture ratio of the hair colour to developer. A 1:2 ratio is typically recommended for achieving a significant colour change, though it may vary depending on the specific hair colour product. Also, it is important to assess the health of your hair before using higher volume developers, as brittle or damaged hair is more susceptible to damage.

Make sure to apply the developer and colour mixture evenly throughout your hair and follow the processing time mentioned in the product instructions. Over-processing may cause damage or uneven colour.

Lastly, always apply a deep conditioning treatment after colouring to restore moisture and nourishment to your hair. This will help maintain the health and vibrancy of your newly coloured hair.

By following these professional tips, you’ll be well on your way to achieving beautiful, long-lasting hair colour results.


Hair developer is an essential component in the hair colouring process. It is a creamy product containing hydrogen peroxide, which helps open up the hair cuticle, allowing colour to penetrate the hair shaft and become permanent. Hair developer must be mixed with hair dye, toner or bleach to be effective, and its primary purpose is to ensure the longevity and vibrancy of the chosen hair colour.

The amount of hydrogen peroxide in a hair developer affects its volume, with higher volumes providing more significant colour lifting and lightening capacity. Choosing the appropriate developer volume is crucial for obtaining the desired results while minimizing damage to the hair.

In conclusion, hair developer plays a vital role in achieving professional and long-lasting hair colour results. By understanding its components and purposes, individuals can make informed choices when colouring their hair and selecting the appropriate products.

Always remember to follow product instructions carefully and seek guidance from a professional if unsure about the hair colouring process.

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