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What Does Hair Developer Do by Itself? | A Lot!

Hair developer is a vital part of dying your hair. Millions of people use hair dye at a young age, and it’s important to know what it does. But, what does hair developer do by itself? Don’t worry — we’ll answer this question and give you some helpful tips below.

What Does Hair Developer Do by Itself?

Hair developer by itself, depending on the peroxide volume will limit the damage done to your hair (relative to using other products, that is).

Used by itself, the product activates the hair cuticle, which can have a lightening effect. However, it will only lighten your hair by a shade or less.

What Is Hair Developer?

Hair developer is a crucial element in changing the color of your hair. It opens the hair cuticle so the color dye, bleach, or toner can work on the hair shaft. It’s an agent used to lift and lighten your hair color. 

Hair developer works to penetrate the hair causing permanent changes to each strand. Color, toner, and bleach can do their job to lighten or darken hair once opened up by the developer.

Understanding your hair’s needs will allow you to make the changes you want while limiting harmful exposure. Always keep your hair type, the original hair color, and desired hair color when choosing what products to use.

Types of Hair Developer

Common developer volumes for a piece on what hair developer does by itself

Hair developer is typically used with color dyes, bleach, or toner. Hair developer will open up the hair cuticles allowing the other agent to break through the hair shaft and take hold. 

Hair developer, by itself, can come as a liquid or a cream. It also comes in different strengths, depending on the concentration of peroxide. The developers are classified below: 

  • 10 Volume has 3% peroxide and produces small changes, typically within a shade. 
  • 20 Volume has 6% peroxide and changes hair in one or two shades. It is usually a safe option to see a difference and minimize hair damage. 
  • 30 Volume has 9% and lightens hair up to two or three shades.
  • 40 Volume has 12% peroxide and is used for significant color changes, more than two or three shades. This developer may allow hair to change more dramatically in less time, but it will also leave your hair more damaged. 

What Hair Developer Actually Does

Hair developers usually aid bleach, toner, or color to become permanent. They open the hair cuticles for the color dye, toner, or bleach to reach and color the strands. Hair developer can be applied independently of other products but may have limited effects. 

Hair Developer by Itself 

Hair developer can be used by itself when looking for a slight lightening. Developer by itself may only show a minimal difference, but it will minimize the damage to your hair.

20 volume hair developer can be applied to lessen damage while lightening your hair within one shade.

The process is similar to when using bleach or a color mix. Start with a dye brush or comb and apply the developer where you want to see the hair lightening.

Read Next: How to Mix Bleach and Developer

Hair Developer With Toner 

Toner, without a developer, will do nothing to your hair. A hair developer is pivotal in opening the hair cuticle so the toner can do its job. Toners neutralize unwanted warm or brassy tones in hair color. 

Hair Developer With Color 

Hair developer penetrates the cuticle so color can attach to the hair shaft and become permanent. Adding less developer to your hair can help to make it darker, whereas adding more developer can make your hair lighter. 

Hair Developer With Bleach 

Hair developer is necessary for bleach to lighten your hair. The developer opens the hair’s cuticle so the bleach can penetrate the strand and lighten it.

These two products work together for a more dramatic change than hair developer alone. Hair developer and bleach can lighten hair several shades and allow for more color options for your hair. 

Tips for Safety When Using Hair Developer and Dyes 

There are ways to minimize the damage done to your hair and skin, whether using hair developer by itself or in combination with color, toner, or dye.

Studies are inconsistent or inconclusive about any health concerns connected to using hair dyes, but it is always a good idea to use safety precautions. Wear gloves when mixing or using hair dyes to keep your skin and scalp healthy.

Don’t leave on longer than recommended, and rinse thoroughly. You may also want to apply a petroleum-based ointment to your scalp to protect it when using these hair products.

Using developers and dyes in your hair can cause damage and eventually dry out your hair. Limit sun exposure, stick to hair color within three shades of your natural hair color.

Finally, be sure to always follow the instructions closely to keep your hair healthy. There are also conditioners specifically made to help repair damage done by using hair developers and dyes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Piece titled what does hair developer do by itself featuring a woman getting highlights for the FAQ section


Using hair developer can lighten your hair by itself or give power to bleach, toner, or color dye to change your hair. It is vital to understand what hair developer is and what it does, no matter which hair product you choose.

What Can You Do With a Hair Developer?

Hair developer opens up the hair shaft and allows color changes to become permanent. Hair developer is mostly used with bleach, color, or toner. However, a hair developer can have a lightening effect when used separately.

Can Volume 30 Developer Lighten Hair by Itself?

Yes, a volume 30 developer can lighten hair by itself. However, it is a less controlled process and will cause some damage to your hair.

Is Hair Developer a Bleach?

No, hair developer and bleach are not the same. They work as a team to lighten hair, but they do not function in the same ways.

How Long Should I Leave Developer in My Hair?

20 Volume hair developer should be in your hair for 30 minutes maximum. The exact time may vary depending on your original hair color, the desired hair color, and your hair type. Any longer than 30 minutes will result in damage to your hair.

Can I Mix a Developer and Conditioner?

Yes, you can mix developer and conditioner. However, mixing in conditioner will dilute the developer. Dilution may reduce the effect of the developer. It could also reduce the life of the color.

So, What Does Hair Developer Do by Itself? 

Hair developer can work in a limited capacity by itself. It will lighten your hair, but the change may be subtle. Hair developer by itself can give your hair a lift while minimizing the damage done by additional products. Happy coloring!