There are many reasons to opt for at-home hair coloring. It’s less of a hassle than going out of your way to book an appointment at a salon and drive down there the day of.
It also doesn’t burn as big a hole in your pocket since box dyes are almost always more affordable.
But coloring your hair at home isn’t always easy breezy. It requires some mastery and practice of hair coloring skills too.
One of these skills happens to be mixing your developer and dye correctly by figuring out the right proportions.
Once you have that down pat, you’ll be sure to have smooth, uniform color distributed in your hair. So if you’re planning on doing at-home coloring more often, it’s something you should get used to doing correctly.
Here’s the lowdown on developers, how you can tell if the ever-popular 20 volume developer is right for you, and how much of it you should use for your DIY coloring mixture.
What is developer, and why do you have to mix it in with your color?
Contrary to what hair coloring newbies assume, dyeing your hair doesn’t just mean applying pigment and letting it set in your strands. Your dye is rendered useless when it’s used without something called a developer.
Developers are creams that contain hydrogen peroxide, the chemical that activates your hair dye and makes it possible for the pigment to penetrate your hair fiber.
They help lift your cuticle open so that the actual dye can have room to enter and seep into the hair’s cortex. This is what makes the color last longer in your locks.
If you don’t activate your hair dye with a matching developer, the pigments or color molecules would simply sit outside your hair strand instead of penetrating them.
With one wash of shampoo or even just warm water, the color will completely rinse out. Everything would have been a total waste of time and dye.
There are different types of developers—some harsher than others.
One developer might be gentle on your hair, while another with a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide can take the color out rather than help pigments enter your hair.
So it’s also essential that you choose the right one for your hair goals.
Choosing the right volume of developer for you
As mentioned earlier, there are different types and “levels” of a developer.
These levels are called volumes, referring to the volume of hydrogen peroxide they contain. The most common developers come in thư volumes 10, 20, 30, or 40.
The higher the number, the more peroxide it contains, and the stronger its effect on your hair. So 10 would have the slightest lift, and 40 will open your hair cuticles up the most, making it the most damaging of the four.
To choose the right one for your coloring job, you have to know your hair coloring goals.
If you’re toning, highlighting, or doing a regular dye job, a lower volume developer will work well because all you need is just enough lift for the pigment to enter your hair strand.
But if you’re going for something more intense, like bleaching your hair or lifting it from a deep color to one that’s super light and bright, you’ll need a developer on the stronger end of the spectrum.
The volume-10 developer is used to absorb a new color or tone without changing the base shade if you need your hair to absorb a new color or tone.
It’s perfect for toning your hair if you see brassiness peeking through. It’s also used for subtle highlighting jobs.
The 30-volume and 40-volume developers, on the other hand, are used for bleaching and lightening.
They’re very potent and easy to mess up, so stay away if you’re not a salon professional, lest you suffer from chemical burns on your scalp or hair so damaged it breaks apart like straw.
20 volume developer is what you should be looking for if you’re doing a regular dye job at home. It’s the most commonly used developer not just at home but also in salons.
It lifts the cuticle just enough for new colored pigments to enter your hair.
It has the power to bring your hair color one or two shades up, which is more or less the usual dye job people get if they aren’t looking for a drastic change.
This level of the developer is also the only volume that can color gray hair, as the others are either too gentle or excessively strong.
In a nutshell, volume 10 is for toning, while 30 and 40 volumes are for bleaching. That leaves volume 20 to be the perfect one for your coloring session at home.
But now, we head over to the next challenge: how much of it are you supposed to put into your hair dye mixture?
How much 20 volume developer should you mix with dye?
One part color to two parts 20-volume developer is the most common ratio for this mixture, but you can’t forget that every developer is different.
How many developers you should combine with your hair dye will differ according to each unique formulation, so you must take the instructions on the bottle to heart.
Scientists and hair professionals design each bottle of the 20-volume developer to give you the best coloring experience possible.
So you need to follow your specific developer’s instructions to a T for your own health and safety—and, of course, the best results from your dyeing process.
Stylists at the salon may use the mixed dye and the 20-volume developer by eye without measuring them. Note that this isn’t what you should do if you’re a beginner dyeing your hair at home.
These professionals have had years of training and experience, so they know what they’re doing.
If you try to eye your measurements like them, you risk creating a faulty mixture that leaves you with patchy, overdried hair after your coloring session.
It’s good practice to measure your dye and developer individually on a kitchen scale so that you can be sure you’re using the right amounts for your mixture.
It’s extremely vital that you get your 20 volume developer measurement right because your hair can face major consequences if you don’t.
If you put in too much developer, your mixture can run a bit watery. It may lead you to lighten your hair accidentally instead of putting color in.
You could also burn your scalp, which is very painful and can result in hair loss.
And if you put too little developer, you won’t get that rich, even color distributed across your locks.
You might not lift enough of your cuticle, so none of your natural pigment will come out, and your new color won’t even penetrate your hair strands.
While one part color to two parts developer is the usual ratio, you should always double-check what your developer’s package instructs.
There’s no room for guessing and experimenting when it comes to mixing your developer with your color.
You have to be very exact and precise every single time to get the best results possible, so don’t take those directions on the box for granted.
Mixing the right amount of developer with your dye is the key to achieving the most vivid and even color distribution.
Do your best to have the most accurate measurements whenever you sit down for your monthly touch-up. Your luscious, freshly colored locks will thank you for it.