Can 20 Volume Developer Lighten Hair By Itself?

The series continues! If you are a regular reader of the blog you might see some correlation between the last posts! It is all about hair dye and hair bleaching. It feels kind of like a series!

It happens because we all go through phases. And now, me and my friends are going through a hair coloring and bleaching phase where we experiment and show each other what creations we have made! I know this may sound dull to some of you but we have the most fun and that is the most important for us :). Naturally, our talks also gravitate that way so we often talk about developer, toner, hair dye, and all that kind of stuff. 

Last week we sat together and it seemed like we all had the same thought at the same time! We were talking about developer and how it is used in lighting your hair, where Melissa (my oldest friend) asked: “Can developer lighten hair by itself?” 

And that is when we started thinking and chatting about it. This week someone tried it with 20 volume developer and that is why this article is going that way. We all learned a lot about it and I’m now ready to tell it further! 

So, can 20 volume developer lighten hair by itself? You can! Developer itself has some kind of a lightening effect and therefore you can lighten your hair with it. Volum 20 developer can lighten up your hair one shade. If you want to go lighter than one shade you should mix the developer with bleaching powder.

Can I use developer to lighten my hair?

The simplest answer to this is just how you read it in the section above. Yes, you can use developer to lighten your hair. You might not know this but developer is made of varying strengths of hydrogen peroxide. This is the chemical that will “bleach” your hair. 

But there are some things about developer that you should know. It is not that easy to lighten your hair with it. Developer needs heat application and it needs to stay wet in the hair for quite some time. Using heat and keeping something wet at the same time is very hard as you might imagine. 

I think it is better to say that: yes, you can use developer to lighten your hair but you probably shouldn’t. Because of the constant need for heat and wetness (for a long time otherwise, it won’t have an effect at all) the results need that great. The resulting color can be brassy and your hair can feel like straw after you’ve done this process. 

But, if you really want to try it I have one tip for you:

  • Condition your hair like a crazy person would do! Because of the heating element that you need for a long time, the moisture in your hair will deplete. By using deep conditioning masks before the treatment you can help your hair stay healthy. 

What happens if you only put developer in your hair?

The color will lighten a shade if you use 20 volume developer to lighten your hair. But only if you keep the developer wet and apply heat to it the entire time. As you could read in the above section this can be a process that is not that easy to do. 

How much does it lighten your hair?

Mostly we talked about 20 volume developer and you now know that it will light up your hair a shade. But what about other volumes of developer? this depends, if you go to 10 volume developer your hair will get less of a lightening effect. If you go higher the amount your hair lightens up will be more. 

It’s all about the amount of peroxide that is in the developer.

20 volume = 6% of peroxide

30 volume = 9% of peroxide

40 volume = 12% peroxide. 

The higher the volume, the more it will lighten your hair.

Although peroxide alone will lighten up your hair, it isn’t as effective as using a mix for bleaching your hair. Peroxide is acidic so it doesn’t swell the hair. That’s why all the commercial hair lighteners you buy use an alkaline peroxide. By adding alkaline hair color to peroxide the oxidation process is triggered and that will make your hair lighter in a more effective way.

How long can you leave 20 developer on your hair?

If you’re going to try the “only developer” route as I call it, you should probably know how long you can leave 20 volume developer in your hair (the 20 volume is for example here).

If you are using 20 volume developer in your hair, you can let it sit for about 20 to 30 minutes. This is the same as when you use 20 volume developer with hair color, a lightener, or a bleaching agent. 20 to 30 minutes is enough for the developer to do its thing.

Can you use developer to remove hair color?

Yes, you can! But not in the way that you might think. You can not just dip your hair in developer and think that all the hair color is out of your hair (or was I the only one thinking that for a brief moment? haha!)

Here’s how you can use developer to remove hair color. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • The demi-permanent dye in clear
  • 20 volume creme developer
  • gloves
  • -mixing bowl

And here’s what you need to do with all that:

I have to say that this method is best used when you want to remove semi-permanent hair dye (unnatural colors like blue, purple, pink, etc…). Actually, it is quite simple: 

Follow the instructions that you can find on the hair dye box (so, mix everything together and stuff like that). Rinse it out of your hair and deeply condition your hair afterward. Due to the developer that use used your hair can lighten slightly. Keep an eye out for unwanted bleaching effect.

What is volume developer and how do you use it?

Developers are called activators. And they’re called that way because, without the use of a developer, hair dye won’t have any effect on your hair. It helps the hair dye penetrate the hair shaft so that the hair coloring can become permanent. 

Hydrogen peroxide developer will lift the cuticle layer of your hair and then, depending on the strength of developer you use 10, 20, 30, 40, the cuticle will lift more or less.

As I said earlier in this article, the numbers that are coming after the word developer say something about the strength of the developer. Here’s the overview again:

20 volume = 6% of peroxide

30 volume = 9% of peroxide

40 volume = 12% peroxide. 

Which level of developer you need to use is dependent on what kind of results you want to have. 

Here’s an overview to make it simple for you. You can see exactly when you need what.

10 volume developer:  You can use a 10 volume developer when you apply permanent, no lift hair color to your hair. It won’t lift your base hair color a lot so you should use it only when you want to add a tone or tint the hair.

20 volume developer: You can use this strength of developer when you want to lift your hair one to two levels of hair color. Good to know is that if you have 50% grey hair (or more) you should use 20 volume developer to cover the grey hairs for 100% with permanent hair dye.

You can also use 20 volume developer if you want to bleach your hair from natural blonde to a little more than that.

30 volume developer: You can use this strength of developer when you want to color your hair and allow it to lighten two to three levels. With 30 volume developer you allow for more pigment to embed into the hair shaft.

If you have healthy hair and you want a lighter and long-lasting hair color, 30 volume developer is your way to go.

40 volume developer: 40 volume is used when you want to create highlights into your hair without bleaching your hair. It will lift your hair color up by four shades! If you want to bleach your black or dark brown hair you also should go for 40 volume developer.

You have to keep in mind that this 40 volume developer is the one that brings the most damage to your hair so you should take good care of your bleached hair!

Final thoughts

Although you can use 20 volume developer to lighten your hair, I don’t know if it’s a very good method. Me and my friends debate a bit on this but I think that it is better to use a whole process to lighten up your hair than to “half-ass” it.

Developer is designed to work with other products (as you could see in the section above where I lay out for you which volume of developer to use when). Sure, you can get results with it and if the results you want are in line with what I have described in this article, you should go for it. 

If you want to color your hair or lighten it and want to do it in a way that you know you get lasting and good results, I will advise you to use developer in the normal hair dye mix (or bleaching mix), or go to a professional salon who can do it for you.

But yes, you can use 20 volume developer to lighten your hair, and if you want it to be quick, and only one shade you can go that way. 

Happy coloring and lightening everyone!

Do you want to know more about bleaching and coloring? Check out the articles below!

How many times can you bleach your hair?
Does it take long to dye your hair?