Imagine sitting behind the wheel of your ideal car. You start the engine and hit the gas. As the speedometer climbs you get to your destination faster...but you also lose a bit of control. Can you get to your final destination safely going 80mph? Maybe. Can you get there going 60mph and incur less risk? Absolutely. It's the same with your trusty developers. Each developer has its use – just like each speed has its appropriate time and place. To let you on in the best ways to use 10, 20, 30, 40 volume developer and everything in between we’ve created this handy guide to answer the question: what volume developer should I use?
What exactly is developer?
Developer is, quite simply, hydrogen peroxide. Different companies will include different additives but at a base level the hydrogen peroxides job is to lift the cuticle layer of the hair. The stronger the developer the more the cuticle opens.
What is the difference between cream and clear developers?
Mainly, consistency. A thicker viscosity (cream) allows for an easier application and more control while a more liquid consistency (clear) allows the color to go further and more easily saturate the hair. Color lines will specify what developers should be used with their various color lines. Chemists spend countless hours figuring out the best combination so following the color lines suggestions is always best.
Does it really matter if I used the same developer as the color or can I use a generic developer?
Since the primary active ingredient of a developer is hydrogen peroxide any developer should work with most any color line. HOWEVER, many color lines spend years formulating a specific developer to best work with their color formula and thus lift, tonality, longevity and consistency can only be guaranteed when using the ideal partner products.
Volumes and Uses:
5 volume is a lesser-used developer but often teamed with semi and demi-permanent color lines for its minimal effect on the cuticle. Many color lines will allow you to use their permanent color with 5 volume for ‘deposit only’ results. The hair will no longer be virgin and it will shift the natural shade, however, it will not offer grey coverage or lift. Its role is as an activator for the color and will typically be in developers specifically made for glazes and toners. When used with bleach, 5 volume can create a very slight shift in the hair, which is great for fragile baby hairs needing only1-2 levels of lift.
10 volume will slightly open the cuticle and allow for moderate penetration of color molecules. Similar to 5 volume, 10 volume can be used with permanent color lines for depositing color, however, it will not offer much grey coverage or lift. If the hair is a finer fabric it could over a slight one level lighter shift in base color and grey blending. Ten volume is also the default developer for many toners and glazes, however, keep in mind that this higher volume developer means a possible shift to the natural base color. When 10 volume is used with bleach it can give 1-4 levels of lift depending on the bleach, the method of application, and the hair.
20 volume is likely the most used developer in the salon. Twenty volume will give 1-2 levels of lift when used with permanent hair color. On finer fabrics it may even give up to 3 levels of lift. It is the standard developer for grey coverage, however, a stronger developer may be needed for more resistant hair types. Twenty volume should not be used as a developer for toner or glazes especially when wanting to maintain a natural base. When used with bleach, 20 volume is a powerful tool lifting 1-9 levels depending on the bleach, method of application, and hair type/history. This combination steadily opens the cuticle and consumes the pigments while allowing time for the rest of your application. 20 volume is the highest level of developer that should be used on the scalp with bleach as the scalp produces more heat and increases the power of the developer.
30 volume developer is ideal for lifting 2-4 levels using permanent hair color depending on the texture of the hair. It can also be used for grey coverage on more resistant hair types. Thirty volume should never be used for basic deposit only color as it will blast the cuticle for no reason. When used with bleach and foils 30 volume works fast and may incur the risk of over-processing. This developer is more ideal for open-air processing which incubates less heat. Applications with 30 volume should never be placed under heat and should be monitored regularly and ideally, a test strand should be performed prior to use.
40 volume developer can be used with permanent hair color and high lift color to give 3-4 levels of lift depending on the power of the color and the texture of the hair. Open-air processing such as balayage is ideal for 40 volume developer as it allows for maximum lift but the control of less heat. Bleach, forty volume, and foils can be a dangerous combination, so tread carefully.
In recent years developers of 50 volume and above have become increasingly popular due to all the popular hand painting techniques. As trendy as these may be we must be careful and always consider the desired end result and the integrity of our client's hair. These developers are not made to be used in foils or with color.