When it comes to coloring your hair the right way, the correct use of developers including how to dilute a developer and the level of developer to use according to your existing/desired hair color; all play a vital role to give you the required outcome.
Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the importance of using developers and many people seem to make this mistake of totally skipping the merging of developers with the hair color which results in a non-penetrative color.
On the other hand, many of us often get confused about how to dilute a developer and the different levels used for different purposes.
Let us first begin by introducing you a little about what developers are and their importance in coloring your hair before proceeding to guide you thoroughly about how to dilute developers.
What Does A Developer Do?
Developer or activator as it is called hydrogen peroxide in a creamy texture.
Once you mix it with a hair dye or bleach, it works by either lifting or depositing the hair color to enable and penetrate it in or out of the hair cuticle. In simpler words, it opens or lifts the hair shaft to get the color inside properly so that the color becomes permanent.
Note: The term “lifting” in simpler language basically means lightening the hair. Let’s say you are a brunette and you want to achieve blonde hair then you will need to “lift” your hair color.
Whereas “depositing” denotes putting the hair color molecules into the hair cuticle to achieve a darker shade. On dyeing your hair, the hair cuticle opens up and hair color molecules can be deposited inside.
Some people tend to think that developers can be used alone. We will not vouch for that.
Developers need to be mixed with either bleach or hair dye for best results. If used alone, they can work to lighten the hair to some extent but the color will not be as beautiful and as shiny as desired.
Why Is Hair Developer Important?
A hair developer activates the color to penetrate into your cuticle, depositing it there. Very stubborn and dark hair can only be lifted by using a developer and without a developer, the color would just wash off from the surface.
By opening the hair cuticle and allowing color to penetrate, deposit; developers make the results you expect to come true. Without using it, the hair dye or color would be of no effect.
Moreover, make sure you choose the right developer to get the color you want.
Furthermore, the strength of the hydrogen peroxide formulation affects the dispersion of existing color and can enhance hair color.
Different Volumes Of Hair Developer
Developer bottles showing different strengths and concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. It comes in 50V concentration as well but is not commonly used due to its extra strength which may be unsafe for common use.
The levels or volumes of a hair developer simply mean the oxidizing potential of hydrogen peroxide is used. This means the higher the concentration of the peroxide, the higher is the volume of the developer.
You need to select the developer volume according to your desired result.
Since the developer will practically open the cuticle, it is important that you consider the correct volume of use carefully in order to avoid any potential hair damage.
Normally, with hair dyeing, a low volume or concentration is required whereas bleaching hair requires a higher volume developer.
A volume developer at a level of 10, 20, 30, and 40 are popular matching hair color formulas. Their strength is rated as per percentage.
The percentage of peroxide-based on developer volumes are as follows:
- 40 Vol. developer means 12% peroxide
- 30 Vol. developer means 9% peroxide
- 20 Vol. developer means 6% peroxide
- 10 Vol. developer means 3% peroxide
How To Dilute A Developer For A Hair Color Or Dye?
It is important that you know the perfect ratio for diluting the developer.
Too much developer will make a runny paste which would be slippery to apply whereas too little developer will result in a thick paste which would create lumps in hair, not saturating them evenly
After making sure that you have got your hands on the correct strength/volume according to your requirement, you can then proceed to dilute it with distilled or tap water.
Make sure that you do not dilute too much or the results will be highly compromised. Here is the developer to water ratio summarised in a chart for your ease:
|Volume dilution||Volume peroxide||Ratio of water|
|40 vol. To 30 vol.||3 parts 40. Vol peroxide||1 part|
|40 vol. To 20 vol.||1 part 40. Vol peroxide||1 part|
|30 vol. To 20 vol.||2 parts 30. Vol peroxide||1 part|
|20 vol. To 10 vol.||1 part 20. Vol peroxide||1 part|
Simple chart showing volume to water ratio for an accurate dilution
Note: It is better that you use distilled water for the process but tap water will do the job too.
Diluting 40 Volume Developer
40 volume developer (40V / 12% peroxide) will lift the hair color up to 4 levels. So if you want to create highlights without bleach for a high-lift color, then go for it.
It is also often used by people with black or dark brown hair. However, make sure to handle it with extra care since it contains 12% hydrogen peroxide (literally a very high amount) that can cause burns to sensitive scalps.
It is thus recommended to dilute it essentially to avoid extra strength that may damage the hair. For a lot of people, it is also a very cost- effective method to buy 40V only and then keep diluting it to achieve the desired developer concentration.
Let’s say you need 4 ounces of developer to mix with your color formula and all you have is 40 volume in your dispensary, this is what you will need to do to make the volume you need:
- 1oz 4vol + 3oz distilled water = 4oz 10 volume developer
- 2oz 40vol + 2oz distilled water = 4oz 20 volume developer
- 3oz 40vol + 1oz distilled water = 4oz 30 volume developer
Diluting 30 volume developer
30 volume developer (30V / 9% peroxide) lifts and lightens the hair up to 3 levels higher which means that you can use it if your hair is not very damaged and you are in need of a lighter yet long-lasting color. It can be used with bleach to lighten light to medium brown hair.
To dilute it for making a 20 volume developer, just mix 2 parts of the 30V developer to 1 part of water.
Diluting 20 Volume Developer
20 volume developer (20V / 6% peroxide) can be used to lift 1 or 2 levels of your hair color. 20V is optimal for covering grey hair so if you have around 50% grey hair then you should only go for 20V for 100% grey coverage with a permanent hair dye.
Since it is already very low in concentration, you can use it alone safely but if you wish to dilute it to bring it lower to 10V, then mix 1 part of 20V developer to 1 part of water. This will give you grey highlights.
20V can be mixed with bleach to lighten naturally blonde hair gently.
Diluting 10 Volume Developer
10 volume developer (10V/ 3% peroxide) deposits color and makes the hair darker than it was. It works by just barely opening the hair cuticle layer enough to deposit or infiltrate the color molecules in the cortex.
Basically, it does not work to lift the hair color so if you want to add a tint or tone your hair keeping it at the same color level, you should use the 10V developer.
Many toners tend to work with 10V because it does not damage hair and is the safest to use.
How Can I Use Developers After Dilution At Home By Myself?
You can use developers yourself to color your hair at home if you are able to handle it with care.
- Start by mixing the color and conditioner at a 1:3 ratio.
- Apply some shampoo and rinse gently.
- Dry your hair properly before applying hair protector to avoid any sort of hair color staining.
- Now add color to your roots working all the way down your hair. Make sure to saturate it evenly.
- Leave the color on your hair for about 15-30 minutes or as per dye box instructions.
How much developer could be mixed with bleach powder?
Generally the ratio is 1:2 (1 part powder to 2 parts of developer or peroxide) which works well enough for most lightening techniques.
So if you have 30g powder, mix it with 60ml of creamy peroxide. A 1:1 or 1:3 ratio will be good too.
1:1 ratio of bleach powder with peroxide will result in a thick mixture which is good for highlights and balayage.
1:3 is suitable for scalp lightening techniques like root touch up etc; the consistency of which will be thinner making it easier to apply but prone to more slippage.
What if I put too much developer in the dye?
It is very important to put the right amount of developer with the dye or bleach. Too little developer would not be able to open the hair cuticle enough. On the other hand, if you mix too much developer in the dye, the consistency will be very wet and runny.
With a runny consistency, the developer will work to lighten the hair but will not deposit enough color. As a result, the color will look flat, will not last very long and wash away quite soon.
Can I bleach with 40V at home?
No, we will not recommend it.
40 volume developer as mentioned above has a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide which should only be used by professionals at the salon; that too with diluting it mostly or else it might prove to be too harsh for some scalps.
We recommend using 20V or 30V developers if you want to color at home. Make sure to use conditioners and protein masks during the process.
Can I dilute the developer with conditioner?
It can be diluted with a conditioner of course, but it is better to dilute it with either distilled or tap water. (Refer to the charts above)
It is because the water content present within the conditioners may vary from brand to brand and product to product which may make it even harder for you to figure out how to dilute the developer accurately.
However, if you know the water content in the conditioner, you can try it.
How long does a developer usually last?
Usually, you should be able to keep it for 12 months. Make sure to discard it within 12 months after opening.
Ensure storing the developer properly in a cool and dark place not exposed to sunlight.
In a nutshell, you should be able to choose your developer strength according to how many lifts you wish to have.
The 10V developer deposits color without any lift. The 20V developer lifts the color to 2 levels. 30V lifts the color to 3 levels while 40V (the strongest in terms of concentration) lifts it to upto 4 levels.
If going darker, choose 10V. For grey hair 20V is the best choice. Moreover, make sure to use our prescribed ratio to dilute the developer to achieve good results.
We hope that through this guide we have been able to answer many of your queries about using and diluting developers. We wish you beautifully and perfectly colored hair!
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