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Will a 30 Volume Developer Lighten Your Hair?



In this article, we will talk about how to choose your developer.

We will look at using 30 Vol developer in particular.

We will concentrate on the following situations:

  • Using 30 Vol with regular color to increase the lift
  • Using 30 Vol on blonde hair as a substitute for bleach.
  • Using high lift color on dark hair to produce highlights
  • Using high lift color with bleach.

But first, let's deal with some basic questions.

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 lift 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.

Will a 30 Vol developer used by itself lighten my hair?

The release of oxygen will indeed allow the hair to lighten.

And 30 Vol will definitely do this to a greater extent than 20 Vol.

But we don’t recommend that you apply just developer to the hair. 

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

Always use developer combined with bleach or color or toner. Never by itself.

Follow the developer choice rules given below, and you will get much better results.

When should I use which strength of developer?

The rules for developer choice when using regular 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 also good.

The rules when using high lift color are as follows:

  • Use 30 Vol if you want to achieve lift without bleach.

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.

Does 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 - with good quality products -  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.

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

If you have very dark hair that you need to lift with bleach, you need to use 30 Vol for the first application.

Then 20 Vol for the second application.

Never use 30 Vol twice on the same hair.

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.

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

Ugly Duckling developers are of excellent quality.

They are also all batch controlled and their freshness is guaranteed.

They can be used with any brand of color.

But you can use other brands of developer if you wish.

Just make sure that the product you use is fresh (check the manufacture date) and that it is homogenous (no lumps).

Make sure that the bottle has. not swelled, because that is a sure sign that it has been kept badly and that it has lost some of its strength.

When using developer, remember to use the right mix proportions and development times.

Use developer 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.

1. Using 30 Vol with Regular Color to increase the lift

When you are using regular color, use 30 Vol developer whenever you want to lighten or lift by 2-3 levels.

So, for example, if you are working on brunette hair (level 2,3,4) you would almost certainly need to use 30 Vol developer.

When applying 30 Vol, be aware that it will process very fast on the root area because of the heat coming from the scalp.

In most cases it would be a good idea to apply 30 Vol to that area last.

Or better still: use 20 Vol for that area.

2. Using 30 Vol developer with a high lift color as a substitute for bleach

When you want to go more than 3 levels lighter, and you want to avoid using bleach, you can sometimes achieve a similar result using a high lift color with 30 Vol developer.

Ugly Duckling's high lift colors can be used in this way.

For example, our client came in with a regrowth of level 7, with faded blonde lengths. 

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.

We extended briefly to the lengths.

Then rinsed.

See before, process shots and after below:

Dark Regrowth - 30 Vol Needed

Before - Dark Regrowth, Blonde Hair

High Lift Color with 30 Vol

During - High Lift plus 30 Vol sitting on the root area

Result - Dry

Final Result After Blow Drying


Hair by Elona Taki

3. Using 30 Vol developer with a high lift color on dark hair

We do recommend that you do this if you are unwilling to use bleach.

You can get good highlights that way.

Of course, you won't get to level 10 blonde.

But you will get very nice highlights.


Hair by Elona Taki

4. Using 30 Vol Developer with bleach

When using bleach, you can use 30 Vol when you want to lift by 3 levels or more.

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 Ugly Duckling bleach in order to lift that.

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.

See images below:

Dark Regrowth - 30 Vol Needed

Ultra Dark Regrowth

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


Hair by Elona Taki

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.

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