What Happens If You Don’t Put Enough Developer in Hair Dye?

We’ve all done it. We’ve headed to the corner store to pick up a new box of hair dye. Personally, it’s been a different color every few weeks. With all this time during quarantine, and the ability to quietly turn my Zoom camera off, it’s a great time to try new colors. 

Home hair dye comes with a lot of trial and error. If you’ve ever dyed your hair at home, you know it doesn’t always come out as you expected. 

If you’ve ever blow-dried your hair to find that the color didn’t turn out like the box, it might be an issue with the developer. 

Over the years, at-home hair dye has become much better. Gone are the days of our parents’ brassy blonde roots. However, if you don’t get the proportions right, you might still run into some trouble. 

Here we explain what happens if you don’t put enough developer in hair dye so you can make sure you’re getting the best color.   

What Does Developer Do?

Most of us have been dying our hair for years but have no idea what is actually going into it. Developer, the little bottle you squeeze the color into, is what activates the dye. It is mostly hydrogen peroxide.  

Developer works to lift the hair color so that the dye can work. So will the developer alone remove hair color? Yes and no. 

Developer does lift the hair color, so it will make your hair lighter. However, it’s not a hair dye, so the color won’t look that great. It’s best always to mix developer with dye so that you can ensure an even and beautiful color.

The other thing about developer is that it is made with specific mixes in mind. So layering on developer won’t make the bleach mix any stronger. Developer comes at certain levels for different and darker colors. Layering a 10 Vol developed, which is meant to lighten blonde hair, won’t make brown hair suddenly blonde. 

To use developer correctly, you want to be sure you are getting the right level for your hair color. The darker your hair, the higher Vol you should be using.

What Happens If You Don’t Put Enough Developer in Hair Dye?

If you’ve been dying your hair for a while, you probably stopped following the instructions closely. You become confident you know what you’re doing. 

It can be easy to mess up the proportion of developer and hair dye than you think.

If you don’t put enough developer in your hair dye, you’ll end up with a relatively dry mix. This won’t lift your natural color enough for the dye to be able to set. It also might leave you with uneven coloring. 

For best results, you’ll want to combine the right developer with either the bleach or color you want to use. The ratios are different for different results. 

What is the exact ratio of developer to dye? 

For most dyes, the ratio is one to one. If you’re bleaching your hair or trying to get a bright blonde, you’ll want to use one part dye to two parts developer. That’s also the ratio for any toner colors.

The best way to make sure you are using the right ratio is to weigh your dye. It can seem silly since professional hairdressers make it look so easy. But, it’s crucial for excellent color. Just take a kitchen scale and a small bowl and measure them out. 

To make sure you’re using the right Vol or percentage of developer, you can use these numbers.

  • 10 Vol if it’s close in color or darker
  • 20 Vol for covering grays
  • 30 Vol for a shade one or two levels lighter than the starting color
  • 40 Vol for anything more than two-level lighter than the starting color

What Happens If You Don’t Have the Proportions Right?

If the proportions a little off, there won’t be any problems. Most at-home kits come pre-measured, so the chances that you’re off by more than a fraction is minimal. 

But, if you’re getting more creative and bold with your dye, you’ll want to make sure you get the proportions just right. 

What Happens If You Use Too Much Developer?

Too much developer can lead to uneven coloring. Since the developer is what lightens the hair, you’ll probably notice that your hair has lightened but not fully taken on the new color. This can work for the re-dyeing process or similar colors.

A good way to know if you’ve used too much developer is if the dye is runny. Using it like this will result in short-lasting results and thin coloring. 

The only reason to put in more developer will be if you need to move quickly over your hair. If you just put in a little extra, changing the proportion to one and one and a half, you’ll have a dye that goes in easily.  

This is great for people with long hair or if you want to saturate the hair. You’ll want to make sure that you are getting an even cover, though, to avoid any issues. 

What Happens If You Use Too Much Dye?

As mentioned, if you use too much dye and not enough developer, you’ll end up with a dry mixture. This can lead to patchy coloring since it’s not lifting out the hair’s former color. 

If your hair isn’t lightened enough, it won’t take the new color. Another reason it’s so important to make sure you are using the right Vol. 

The only reason to use too much dye is if you have stubborn grays or you’re doing a balayage. Dryer dye will allow you to paint it onto the hair. 

Are There Cases Where It Is Good To Deliberately Put In Extra Developer?

Now, this may be something that you haven’t thought about, but there are some cases in which it is a good idea to put in more developer than you normally should.

Adding in more developer can be handy when you need a runnier solution than you normally use. This can be helpful when you want to cover the hair with the product as much as you can so that you can spread the product effectively and easily. Saturating your hair with the product like that gives you a more even color and this is important when you do your whole head.

When you don’t have too much time on your hands and you need to work fast, putting in more developer than normal can be helpful. It allows you to work faster because it simply allows you to work the product faster in your hair. That’s why you often see professionals go with a runnier solution. They can work fast, spread it evenly, and get all your hair done in time.

Can It Be Smart To Put In Too Little Developer?

You just learned that it sometimes can be helpful to go with a little more developer so that you get a runnier solution… But can it also be helpful too put in a little less than normally necessary?

You see this mostly with balayage artists who use the balayage technique. This is a technique where they paint freely with a dye brush. They often work with a thicker mix so that they avoid putting on too much product in one go. This way they avoid visible lines of demarcation.

Now there are also some people with grey hair where putting in less developer can work. When you (or something you do it for) has difficult to cover grey hair, you can choose to put in a too little developer so that you can improve grey hair coverage and also get a darker color result.

Can I Do This at Home?

While the process can sound complicated, you can do it all at home. Now that you know what happens if you don’t put enough developer in hair dye, make sure you measure the right ratios to give yourself salon-worthy color right in your bathroom. 

Final Thoughts

Now I hope that you learned a lot about developer. How to use it, in which ratios you can use it and what happens when you put in too little or too much hair dyer. I think you also learned a lot about when too put in too little or too much to get certain effects! As I said above you now know enough to start experiments with it at home. Maybe you have some friends with whom you can start or maybe they want to see the results on your hair! Be safe, use the right ratios, and be sure to send some pictures after you dyed your hair!

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