Does Developer Lighten Hair – Can Developer Bleach Hair?

Published Categorized as Beauty Tips

With so many options available for hair dye these days, it’s impossible not to feel the urge to change your hair color, or at least somewhat. But paying the hefty price for a proper dye job can be daunting for some. Thus, many have wondered whether developer, in and of itself, will do anything to lighten their hair. We’ve got the answers to this and more in today’s post.

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Table of Contents

L'Oreal Technique Quick Blue Powder Bleach Extra Strength 1lb w/30 Volume Oreor Developer 16oz Bundle

Does Developer Lighten Hair?

Does Hair Developer Make Hair Lighter?

Yes, it should in most cases.

Hair developer is used to open up the hair cuticle so that color can penetrate the hair shaft. Developer comes in several strengths, from 10 volume all the way up to 40 or higher in some cases.

Because developer is composed of hydrogen peroxide, it will often do well to lighten your hair a bit on its own, even without the use of bleach or hair color.

Having said that, you shouldn’t expect your lightening results to be much. In fact, using a developer will likely only yield a hair color change equivalent to about one shade, if at all.

Does Developer Lighten or Darken Hair?

In most cases, developer will lighten the hair and should never technically darken the hair on it’s own.

Having said that, however, a lower level developer, such as a 10 volume, is often used when attempting to darken or keep a hair color, thus modifying the hair only slightly as it works to lift the hair cuticle just enough for color to get through. This doesn’t mean the developer itself is darkening the hair but rather that it is lifting the hair cuticle enough to allow for darker dye to penetrate through.

Does Developer Lighten Hair Permanently?

Because developer contains peroxide and is meant to lift the cuticle of your hair for color to penetrate, the answer is yes, whatever change to your hair that the developer causes will be permanent.

Thus, the higher volume developers leave more of a risk for your natural hair color to be lighter than before because these developers contain more peroxide. A low level developer, such as a level 10, is unlikely to cause any real change to your hair’s natural color.

Be aware that this isn’t to say that you’ll never get your virgin hair color back. Just like any modification to your hair or hair color, once your natural hair starts to grow back in, it will be the same color, from the root, that it was before.

Can You Lighten Dyed Hair With Developer?

You can lighten dyed hair with a developer but it will depend on what color your dyed hair already is, the condition of your hair, the level of developer you use and so much more.

If you are considering using developer on already dyed hair, you will need to use caution and be mindful of the current condition of your hair and scalp.

Using a developer only often renders hair dry, brittle and feeling like straw. Be sure to use plenty of conditioners and hair masks when using a developer to dye already dyed hair and only do so under the supervision of a salon professional to prevent your hair and scalp from becoming too damaged.

Developer Volume and Lightening Hair

Can 40 Volume Developer Lighten Hair?

Traditionally speaking, a volume 40 developer is one of the most powerful developers you can purchase for hair. This is typically used for lifting hair color up to 4 levels. It contains the most hydrogen peroxide of the four most commonly used volumes of developers, but it is also the most damaging.

Using a 40 volume developer is probably the most likely to yield the lift in hair color you want, but it is also most likely to cause the most damage to your locks. Remember, dying your hair with only a developer can leave the hair feeling stiff, unhealthy and dry. Attempt this only if your hair is in tip-top condition. Follow up with plenty of thick and high quality conditioners afterwards.

40 Volume Creme Developer, 16 oz
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Can 30 Volume Developer Lighten Hair by Itself?

A 30 volume developer can certainly lighten your hair a shade or so, but as mentioned before, you should be careful.

Even a 30 volume developer can cause damage to your hair, although it won’t be as damaging as a 40 developer. Still, you’ll want to use care and caution when dying your hair with only developer. Be sure to use plenty of conditioning agents to keep your locks on the right track.

Moreover, bear in mind that using a developer even at this strength is unlikely to provide any truly remarkable results. But also using this developer can increase the likelihood of your tresses getting damaged in the process. Thus, using a 30 or 40 developer to lighten the hair might not be worth it.

Schwarzkopf Igora Royal Oil Developer 33.8 oz / 1000ml (9% / 30 Volume)
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Can 20 Developer Lighten Hair?

A 20 volume developer may be used on the hair, and is, in fact, much gentler than a 30 or 40 developer.

Still, damage can be caused to the hair. Your strands will still likely feel like straw after you’ve used developer only to lighten your locks. In order to use a 20 developer on your hair to lighten it, we recommend you follow the steps listed below. This will ensure that you are using the right method to achieve a lighter look, with the least amount of damage to your natural tresses.

Sensitive Scalp 20 Volume Creme Developer
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Can 10 Developer Lighten Hair?

A volume 10 developer isn’t likely to lighten your hair. That’s because, a developer at volume 10 is usually used to keep the hair the same color or tone, or to darken it.

Thus, a 10 developer only is useful for lifting the hair’s cuticle just enough for color to penetrate the shaft and cause the hair to become darker, modified or the same tone.

PRAVANA Creme Developer 10 Volume, 33.8 oz.
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How to Lighten Hair With Developer

If you are interested in lightening your hair with developer alone, we recommend you try the following method for best results:

  • Take two tablespoons of developer and mix it with the normal amount of shampoo you would normally use.
  • Apply this mixture to already damp and detangled hair.
  • Comb it through and cover with a shower or processing cap.
  • Wait 10-30 minutes, checking at intervals of 5 minutes to watch for the desired results.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Apply masks, conditioners and treatments to soften and nourish the hair if needed.

What Can I Mix With Developer to Lighten My Hair?

In order to lighten your hair, you could technically use only developer and potentially get results. However, as mentioned above, you may also combine your developer with your daily amount of shampoo. If you use specifically a lightening shampoo, you’ll get even better results. Still, this will only lighten your hair color by one shade.

Another idea is to add bleach powder to your developer. By adding bleach powder to your developer, you will be able to lighten hair up to 5-7 shades. But this is depending on what strength of developer you use. But remember, the higher the volume of the developer, the more damage that will be done to your locks.

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How Can I Lighten My Hair With Developer and Shampoo Without Bleach?

In order to lighten your hair with developer and shampoo without bleach, simply follow the steps as detailed above. Shampoo and developer combined has the potential to lift your natural and virgin hair color by about one shade. So you shouldn’t expect to notice much of a difference.

Remember two things when adding developer to your hair without bleach or coloring agents. You will need to keep your hair wet, and apply constant low “heat” to expect to see any results. This is why a plastic shower or processing cap is recommended. If you apply a developer on dry hair or without some form of a low heat source, you are unlikely to see any difference in hair color at all.


Is developer the same as bleach?

Developer is not bleach. But is mixed with bleach or dye to change the tone, color or add highlights to your mane. Developer is also known as activator. It contains hydrogen peroxide at varying intensities. This aids in the lifting of the hair cuticle to allow hair color to seep in.

Can I lighten my hair without bleach?

Lightening your hair without bleach is certainly possible using only developer, but bear in mind that the results may be minimal.
If you are looking to lighten your hair by only one shade, we’d recommend using only a developer with a shampoo as described above or use a lightening product like Sun-In or Go Blonder to get the job done.
And though you may be avoiding bleach for its damaging effects, one should bear in mind that developer can also damage the hair. Especially when used in strengths of 30 or higher. Even lower strength developers, such as volume 20, can do this if used without being combined with alkaline dye or bleach powder.
Thus, you’ll want to use extreme caution when using developer alone on hair, especially if your hair is already damaged.

Does Developer Lighten Hair: Yes, It Can!

To summarize, it is possible to use a developer on hair alone, but it isn’t necessarily recommended. While you can certainly lift your hair a shade by doing so, the results are minimal. You’ll likely be left with unhealthy feeling and damaged hair once the process is over. For the results you desire with minimal damage, follow the package directions of hair dyes and bleach powders. Better yet, see a salon specialist.

To learn more about hair treatments, check out these related posts on our blog:

By Ellis James

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