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Will a 30 Volume Developer Lighten Your Hair?


How does Developer work?

When the developer is mixed with the hair color or with bleach, the developer releases oxygen. This release of oxygen is what allows the natural melanin inside the hair to get lifted out, or lightened. 

The use of hair color developers is therefore absolutely essential for hair coloration or bleaching process to take place.

Why do Developer Strengths Matter?

The higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the greater the amount of oxygen released and typically the more lifting of the hair you will get.

So it is a good idea to remember these conversions:

  • 3% hydrogen peroxide is 10 Volume developer

  • 6% hydrogen peroxide is 20 Volume developer

  • 9% hydrogen peroxide is 30 Volume developer

  • 12% hydrogen peroxide is 40 Volume developer.

When Should I use Which Strength of Developer?

The rules for developer choice when using hair color are as follows:

  • Use 10 Vol developer for level on level hair coloring, toning and tone-down coloring.

  • Use 20 Vol developer for lifting by 1-2 levels, for grey hair coverage and toning

  • Use a 30 Vol developer for lifting by 2-3 levels.

  • Use a 40 Vol developer for lifting by 3-4 levels.

Please also note the following:

For blonde hair toning, you have a choice of 10 or 20 Vol developer. Make a choice based on how well lightened the hair already is and whether you still have a lot of yellow left in the hair.

The rules for developer choice when using bleach are as follows:

  • Use 20 Vol for 1-2 levels lift.

  • Use 30 Vol for 3 levels lift and more.

Using 30 Vol Developer to lighten hair

30 Vol developer is really the go-to solution for dark based and when you have some serious lifting to do. 20 Vol developer is too weak and 40 Vol developer is only to be used in exceptional cases of very very dark hair.

A 30 volume developer vs a 20 volume developer

You do need to be careful not to overuse 30 Vol developer. Very often, you should have both 30 Vol developer and 20 Vol developer and be prepared to use both during a coloring or bleaching process.

Some examples of when to do so are given below:

  • If you are doing a two-stage color application process (for example bleach followed by color), use 30 Vol for the first stage. Only use 20 Vol for the second stage –  you should not need anything stronger, anyway, as the first stage should have lightened the hair sufficiently.

  • If after using 30 Vol with bleach on very dark hair you feel it is necessary to do a second bleach application, use only 20 Vol developer the second time round. It should be enough if you saturate correctly during both applications.

  • The idea is basically to use the 30 Vol (if and when required) for the first-time bleach application only. Then use the 20 Vol developer for the second-time bleach application and also the subsequent toning application.

Steps to use a 30 volume developer (the RIGHT way)

Let’s take an example where we needed to use a 30 Vol developer to lift and lighten the hair

Dark Regrowth - 30 Vol Needed

Ultra Dark Regrowth - Looking to go blonde

In the case above, our model clearly has a very dark regrowth - around level 3/4. She also has a mid-length area which looks very yellow. 

Her lengths are level 10 blonde and clearly she is looking to lift up her roots in order to color her entire hair blonde.

In this case, her hairdresser should first use Bleach and 30 Vol on her root area only and lift that all the way up to level 10 - very very pale yellow. 

Once she has done that, her hairdresser should then rinse, then tone with a pearl blonde toner. With the toner she can use 20 Vol developer.

Lift Root Area with Bleach

We applied Brilliant Blonde bleach and 30 Vol to her root area. We saturated the hair very well and waited and then checked the hair level.

Above, you can see that the hair was still very yellow. We waited some more and then rinsed.

Apply Toner with 20 Vol

This was the color of the hair after the application of bleach and 30 Vol developer.

Applying Toner with 20 Vol

We then applied intense pearl blonde toner with 20 Vol to the entire head. 

Once again we saturated very well and made a second application using fingers wearing gloves to make sure that the color penetrated the hair shaft.

Result Shot

Result Shot

The 2 result shots above show the final result.

How long should I leave a 30 Vol developer in my client’s hair?

When you are using a 30 Vol developer with bleach, the solution will basically remain active as long as it is moist. 

So you need to keep checking from 20 minutes of application onwards, and rinse when you have achieved a good level of lift. 

If for example the hair was dark hair (level 3 or 4) you should try and get it to yellow at least (level 8). At this point you can apply more bleach with 20 Vol in order to push the hair all the way to level 10 extra light blonde. 

That is the level you need it to be before you can tone the hair.

Can a 30 volume developer lighten hair by itself?

The release of oxygen will indeed allow the hair to lighten. But we don’t recommend that you apply just developer to the hair. 

You will get an uncontrolled lift, without any recoloration and you will end up damaging the hair. 

And not get a good hair color result. Rather, we would recommend you try one of our sets above. 

How can I use High Lift Colors with a 30 Vol developer?

As stated above, you can use any Ugly Duckling colors with 30 Vol developer. 

In the case below, we used an Ugly Duckling high lift color with 30 Vol developer on the root area.

This worked because our client’s base was already fairly light - around level 7. We applied the mixture to the root area first then extended to the lengths. 

If you want to avoid using bleach, and your client’s base is around level 7 or lighterm this will work. 

This was the situation when our client came in: A regrowth of level 7, with faded blonde lengths:

Dark Regrowth - 30 Vol Needed

We applied Ugly Duckling 100.11 Highlight Deep Ash Blonde with 30 Vol developer to the regrowth area and left it in for 35 minutes, 

This allowed us to lift up the base sufficiently:

High Lift Color with 30 Vol

For the last 5 minutes we extended with extra mix to the lengths in order to re-freshen them. Here is what the hair looked like wet:

Result - Wet

And here is the hair after blow drying:

Result - Dry

Does the 30 volume developer harm your hair?

The stronger the hair developer strength, the more you are opening up the cuticle. 

As long as you use good quality cream developer and also good quality bleaches and colors and toners, you will be able to respect the hair quality.

However, as we pointed out earlier, it is definitely important not to overuse 30 Vol developers. We generally recommend a one time use only of 30 Vol developer. 

If you use it as we suggest, that one time use will be enough for you to get the lift that you need. 

After that, 20 Vol will be just right to get your client’s hair to its final desired target hair color.

Will a 30 volume developer lighten hair without bleach?

It will, but you won't get very good lift and you will be doing an extra chemical process for no good reason.

Better instead to use the developer with Ugly Duckling bleaches, colors or toners, including our high lift colors on your client’s hair. All these will enable you to get substantial lift. 

  • Using Ugly Duckling colors you will get 2-3 levels lift.

  • Using Ugly Duckling toners you will get 2-3 levels lift

  • Using Ugly Duckling high lift colors will give you up to 5 levels lift.

  • Using Ugly Duckling bleaches you will get up to 8 levels of lift.

For more information on which strength of developer to use when, go here.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.