Does developer lighten hair?

By: | Last Updated: June 1, 2022

Have you ever wanted to bleach your hair only to discover that you ran out of bleach powder and don’t have the time to get one?

But then you remember that your friend once mentioned that using a hair developer alone will make your hair lighter.

You were skeptical then, but now you’re curious to know.

So does developer lighten hair on its own? You’ll have to read more to find out.

What is a hair developer?

What is a hair developer

Hair developer is an oxidant that contains hydrogen peroxide to activate hair dye and bleach. It will lighten your strands by opening up your hair cuticles to allow dye or bleach to absorb into your hair.

It’s available in multiple volumes, depending on the type of treatment you want to achieve.

A 10-volume developer is often used for depositing dark pigments into your hair as it won’t lighten your base color. A 20-volume developer will lift 1-2 levels of your hair color, so you can use it for bleaching dark blonde hair to a platinum hue.

A 30-volume developer is suitable for bleaching your hair as it will lift 3-4 levels of your base color. You can also use it for dyeing your hair as its high-lift ability will make the color last longer. Lastly, a 40-volume developer is for bleaching dark hair as it will lift 4-5 levels of your base hair color.

Now that you know what different volumes of developers are for, does creme developer lighten hair on its own?

Does developer lighten hair dye?

Have you ever picked up a box of hair dye only to realize that the color is darker than you wanted? So you start to wonder whether adding a bit more developer will dilute the color?

MIxing hair developer with hair dye will not lighten its color, but adding too much will make your hair lighter.

That’s because having an excess of hair developer in your mixture will make it lift more of your base hair color, but not having the same amount of pigment to deposit will make the resulting color look lighter.

So if you plan on trying this technique, you’ll have to be cautious with the amount of developer you’ll add to the mixture, as it will make it thinner and messier to apply.

Will developer lighten hair without bleach?

Now that you know how a developer works, you’re curious to know if the buzz you heard about it lightening your hair is true.

So, does developer lighten hair by itself?

The short answer is, yes, applying a developer alone will lighten your hair but not as drastic as when you mix it with bleach. That’s because the peroxide will react with some of the melanin in your hair and turn them colorless, but it’s not as effective as bleach powder as it doesn’t have the same lifting power.

So if you want to lighten your hair using this method, expect that it will involve some risks since developer formulas aren’t aimed to lighten your hair alone, so you might see some unpredictable results.

How long does it take for developer to lighten hair?

How long does it take for developer to lighten hair

If you want to lift your hair color by 1 or 2 levels, using a developer alone can give you a subtle change.

But how long does it take for developer to lighten hair?

It will depend on the strength of the developer you’ll use and how light you want your hair to be, but 20-30 minutes is enough to do the trick. Just remember to keep an eye on your hair to avoid overprocessing it, as the developer can work fast.

Does developer permanently lighten hair?

As discussed, the developer is available in different volume levels for specific hair treatments. So when it comes to lightening your hair, will the strength of the peroxide matter for the method to take effect?

Will 30-volume developer lighten hair without bleach? Will 10 or 20-volumes also work? Let’s find out.

Does 10 volume developer lighten hair?

A 10-volume developer is typically used for depositing pigments into your hair since it only contains 3% hydrogen peroxide. So using it to lighten your hair won’t give you noticeable results since it’s not strong enough to lift pigments.

But on fine virgin hair, applying a 10-volume developer alone can give you a subtle change in color by lifting it up to 1 level lighter.

So this method can be useful when you only want to tweak your hair color by making it a shade brighter.

Does 20 volume developer lighten hair?

A 20-volume developer contains 6% hydrogen peroxide, so it can lighten your hair by 1-2 levels when mixed with bleach. But when used alone, it will still brighten your hair for up to 1 level only.

So if you want to do an all-over color, make sure to divide your hair into 4 sections to make sure you’ll apply the developer evenly. You can also tuck your hair under a shower cap to speed up the process, as the heat from your head will activate the developer.

But make sure to check your hair every 10 minutes so it won’t go lighter than you want it to be, as the developer can work fast.

Does 30 volume developer lighten hair?

When bleaching hair, a 30-volume developer is commonly used as it has a high-lift ability that can give you noticeable results in just 1 session. 

But without bleach, can 30 volume developer lighten hair by itself?

It can lift your base hair color but is not as significant as when mixed with bleach, especially if you have dark hair. So if you want to get a lighter result, you can do 2 sessions but make sure to space them a couple of days apart to let your hair recover.

But if you have damaged hair, limit using this developer to 1 session as it contains 9% hydrogen peroxide, which has a higher chance of ruining your hair further.


Does 40 developer lighten hair?

A 40-volume developer contains 12% hydrogen peroxide, so it’s better to let the professionals handle this potent formula.

When applied alone, a 40-volume developer can lighten your hair for up to 2 levels, so if you want to try using this at home, make sure to do it with caution. 

Since it has a more potent formula, the developer will work fast, so make sure not to let it soak for more than 30 minutes to prevent hair damage and scalp irritation.

If you want to do multiple sessions, make sure to apply a conditioning hair mask in between treatments to rehydrate your hair.


What can I mix with developer to lighten my hair?

What can I mix with developer to lighten my hair

If you’re wary of using bleach to lighten your hair but are not satisfied with the results of using developer alone, then there must be another way of lifting your hair color.

So, if you add other ingredients with the developer, will it make it work better?

Does baking soda and developer lighten hair?

If you’re familiar with playing around with hair dyes, then you know baking soda is a common ingredient used for stripping out colors. 

But if you mix it with a developer, will it boost its lightening effects?

Adding baking soda to the developer can make the formula work more effectively since baking soda is alkaline. So it will activate the oxidation process that will make your hair turn lighter.

To try this method, mix 1 cup baking soda and 3 tablespoons of 20 or 30-volume developer to get a paste-like consistency. You can add more ingredients if you have longer or thicker hair.

Then, apply the formula to your strands and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing. This formula will make your hair dry because of the abrasive properties of baking soda, so make sure to apply a conditioning treatment after.


Does shampoo and developer lighten hair?

As of now, there’s no concrete explanation of how this method works, but some sources claim that mixing shampoo and developer will lighten your hair and strip hair color off.

So if you want to know how to lighten hair with developer and shampoo no bleach, there’s an easy recipe that you could try.

You’ll just need to mix 10 or 20-volume developer with a dollop of your regular shampoo and apply it to damp hair. Leave the mixture on for 10-30 minutes, but make sure to check the progress every 5 minutes.

Once the time is up, rinse your hair and apply a moisturizing conditioner.

Does toner and developer lighten hair?

A hair toner is for correcting brassy undertones in your hair after a bleaching treatment. So mixing it with a developer won’t alter the color level of your hair, but it can change its shade. In other words, applying toner and developer to your hair won’t make it lighter.

Instead, it will eliminate yellow, red, or orange pigments from your hair to make it look like a natural shade of blonde; that’s why it looks lighter.

Final thoughts

Using bleach to lighten your hair can be terrifying, considering the damage it can do to your hair. So it’s understandable if you want to look for gentler methods to lighten it instead.

Using a developer can be effective, but you have to be aware of certain risks to consider since it’s not made to lighten your hair alone.

It’s suitable for lightening your hair subtly, but it can give you unpredictable results. So it’s still best to consult a professional on how to lighten your hair if you don’t want it to get damaged.

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