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Home / Blog/ Will a 30 Volume Developer Lighten Your Hair?
Home Blog Will a 30 Volume Developer Lighten Your Hair?

Will a 30 Volume Developer Lighten Your Hair?


How does Developer work?

Developer is basically hydrogen peroxide in a cream base.

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.

The percent of hydrogen peroxide in developers is as follows:

  • 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.

The rules for developer choice when doing blonde toning are as follows:

  • Use 10 or 20 Vol developer.
  • When doing big blonde transformation using Ugly Duckling cream toners, 20 Vol is usually a better choice.
  • But when doing gloss toning on highlights using Ugly Duckling liquid toners, 10 Vol is good.

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.

Try and stick to these rules as far as possible. 

What about developer mixes?

The rules for mix do vary from brand to brand. Here is what Ugly Duckling recommends:

  • For regular colors, we recommend one part color to one part developer
  • For toners and high lift colors, we recommend one part toner/color to two parts developer.
  • For our bleaches, we recommend one part bleach to two parts developer.

When Should I Be Using 30 Vol Developer? 

You should use 30 Vol developer when you are working with really dark bases hair and when you have some serious lifting to do.

Anything with level 2,3 and 4 is would require 30 Vol in order to go blonde.

But you need to be judicial about the use of 30 Vol developer, because it is strong.

When doing multiple applications on the hair, you should never use it twice on the same hair - you should always use 20 Vol the second time round.

And be cautious when using 30 Vol developer on the root area. Only use 30 Vol on the root area if the hair is truly very dark, because it will process very fast there due to the heat coming from the scalp.

In general, Ugly Duckling bleaches, toners and colors are very fast acting, very lifting & intensely pigmented.

You should therefore be sparing when using 30 Vol developer with our products.

When Should I use both 30 volume developer & 20 volume developer?

There are times when you will need to work with both developer strengths.

You may need to do a second bleach application on very dark hair, for example.

In such cases, you should use 30 Vol with bleach for the first bleach application.

And 20 Vol with the bleach for the second application.

Never use 30 Vol twice on the same hair.

Using 30 Vol Developer on a Dark Regrowth

Let's take a specific example of when you should use 30 Vol developer rather than 20 Vol.

In the picture below, you can see that our model had a truly dark level 2 regrowth. So we had to use 30 Vol with our bleach in order to lift that.

Dark Regrowth - 30 Vol Needed

Ultra Dark Regrowth

So we first used Bleach and 30 Vol on her root area only and lifted that all the way up to level 10 - very very pale yellow. We also extended the same mix onto her yellow parts - the mid-lengths. But we did this for a very short amount of time, knowing that it would process very fast.

Once the hair was correctly lifted (thanks to the 30 Vol), we then toned with a pearl blonde toner, using 20 Vol developer this time.

Lift Root Area with Bleach

Lift using Bleach * 30 Vol

Apply Toner with 20 Vol

Toning with Pearl Blonde toner & 20 Vol developer.

Applying Toner with 20 Vol

Toner processing on the hair.

Result Shot

Final Result - wet

Result Shot

Final Result After Bleaching & Toning - Dry

Using 30 Vol developer with a High Lift Color

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 lighter, 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

Before - Dark Regrowth, Blonde Hair

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

High Lift plus 30 Vol sitting on the root area

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

After toning - wet

Result - Dry

After toning - dry

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

Development time should be a function of the level achieved. You always need to check hair as it is lifting.

Peel back some of the mix with a tail-comb and examine it closely, for example.

When you are using a 30 Vol developer with bleach, the solution will process fast, especially on the root area.

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. 

You should instead use developer with bleach or color or toner. Not by itself.

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. 

Is there any reason why I should use Ugly Duckling developers versus anything else?

Always use a quality cream developer of the appropriate strength.

Also, make sure that the product you use is fresh and is homogenous (no lumps).

And finally: remember to use the right mix proportions and development times, you should get excellent results.

It goes without saying that Ugly Duckling developers are of very good quality and will guarantee satisfaction in your coloring, toning & bleaching.

Use them correctly (as indicated above) and you will get excellent results, time after time.

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

And for an interactive guide which will help you choose your developer strength in real time, go here.

All hair examples in this blog from Elona Taki.

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.