What Developer Level to Use: A Comprehensive Guide for Colorists


What Developer Level to Use A Comprehensive Guide for Colorists

Are you a professional colorist looking to elevate your hair coloring game? If so, you are in the right place! As you already know, choosing the right hair color developer level is crucial in achieving stunning results for your clients. However, you still might not be completely sure how to choose the right one for every situation. 

In this guide, we will explore the world of hair color developers and shed light on what they are, how they work and when to use each specific volume level. Whether you’re dealing with gray coverage, finer hair or clients seeking a dramatic color change, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more and discover how to take your hair coloring game to the next level! 

What Is Developer and What Does It Do?

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with the basics. While its importance is often overlooked, hair color developer is a crucial element in the hair coloring process. It’s not just a liquid — it’s the chemical catalyst that transforms your client’s hair color dreams into reality.

Developer’s primary role is to activate the hair color or lightening products, making them work their magic on your client’s hair. Without it, your chosen hair color product would be a lifeless mixture. Developer contains hydrogen peroxide, which helps open the hair cuticle and allows the color molecules to penetrate each strand, resulting in a color change.

Understanding Developer Volumes

Understanding Developer Volumes

When it comes to developers, one size definitely does not fit all. The volume level of a developer refers to how aggressively it lightens the hair. In a way, it’s like a volume knob on a speaker. The higher you turn it up, the louder it gets. In this case, the higher the volume, the more dramatic the lightening effect. Here’s a breakdown of developer volumes, ranging from gentlest to most aggressive:

  • 10 Volume: Starting at the gentle end of the spectrum, 10 volume developer is the mildest option. It’s perfect for those subtle shifts in color or when you want to deposit color without significant lightening. This is often used when working with clients who have previously colored their hair and are looking for a touch-up or a slight alteration.
  • 20 Volume: Stepping up a notch, 20 volume developer is a versatile choice. It’s ideal for lifting natural hair color by one to two shades and is commonly used for gray coverage. If your client is looking for a noticeable change but not a drastic one, 20 volume is your go-to option. It yields natural-looking results and is a good choice for clients who are already blonde but want to go a little lighter without damaging their hair. 
  • 30 Volume: Moving into the realm of more significant transformations, 30 volume developer is designed for clients seeking a moderate to dramatic change in hair color. It can lift the hair by up to three levels, making it suitable for clients who want to go a bit bolder with their color choices. 
  • 40 Volume: At the top of the developer hierarchy, we have 40 volume developer. This powerhouse is meant for thicker, coarser hair that could benefit from a more aggressive lightener. It quickly lifts up multiple levels, making it a must-have when you’re aiming for striking, high-contrast looks.

When to Use 10 Volume Developer

When your client’s hair color needs a subtle boost, or you’re working on a delicate color correction, reach for 10 volume developer. Its gentle touch ensures a natural-looking result while minimizing the risk of damage. This low-volume developer is also a good choice when refreshing faded color or blending in those first signs of gray.

10 volume is the choice for clients who seek a hint of change, perhaps transitioning from a rich brown to a slightly warmer tone. Use it to maintain the hair’s integrity while making a subtle change.

When to Use 20 Volume Developer

For clients looking for a change that’s noticeable but not too dramatic, 20 volume developer is your secret weapon. Use it to lift the hair by one to two shades, whether for gray coverage or a subtle shift in hue. It strikes a balance between effect and subtlety.

20 volume should be your go-to choice when you want to breathe life into dull hair or cover grays. When used with permanent professional hair color, it offers 100 percent gray coverage. This volume of developer is the middle ground, offering enough lift to make a difference while preserving the hair’s natural beauty.

When to Use 30 Volume Developer

When your clients crave a more significant transformation, reach for your 30 volume developer. It can lift hair by up to three shades, making it ideal for achieving vibrant results. This developer is particularly useful when your clients desire a noticeable shift in color, such as going from dark brown to a lighter shade. You may also want to use it in conjunction with hair lightening products to achieve bright reds and other vibrant colors.

Imagine your client walking in with a vision of going from a deep brunette to a sun-kissed caramel. Situations like that are where 30 volume shines. It provides the necessary life to turn that vision into reality while maintaining the hair’s health and integrity.

When to Use 40 Volume Developer

When bold and dramatic are the keywords for your client’s desired look, 40 volume developer is the way to go. This high-volume developer is ideal for working with thick, coarse hair or achieving a substantial lift. It’s the go-big-or-go-home option for those looking to make a statement.

While going from jet black to platinum blonde is pretty much impossible, 40 volume is what you need to start the process. It has the power to make dramatic changes, but it also has the most potential to damage hair when not used correctly. It’s also far too easy to make mistakes when using this powerful formula if you don’t have the proper training. Achieving stunning results with minimal damage requires the skill and expertise of a seasoned colorist (like you)!

hairstyle at beauty salon

Preparing for the Consultation

Always recommend a color consultation with your client. It’s not just about learning what your client wants. It’s also about listening to their needs and addressing their concerns. Here’s how to conduct a successful consultation:

Actively Listen

Start by actively listening to your client’s goals and expectations. Encourage them to share their hair color inspirations and any past experiences — both positive and negative. Understanding their history and desires is the foundation of a successful consultation.

Analyze Hair Type and Condition

Assess your client’s hair type, texture and condition. Consider factors like porosity, thickness and any existing color or chemical treatments. This evaluation will guide your recommendations for the most suitable color and developer, so make sure your client understands the importance of being honest about their hair’s history.

Skin Tone Assessment

Determine your client’s skin tone, as it plays a significant role in choosing the right professional hair color. Warm, cool or neutral undertones influence the shades that will complement their complexion.

Lifestyle and Maintenance

Discuss your client’s lifestyle and maintenance preferences. Are they looking for a low-maintenance color, or are they willing to commit to regular touch-ups? Understanding their lifestyle helps tailor the color choice to their needs.

Address Concerns and Questions

Create an open and welcoming environment where your client feels comfortable asking questions and expressing concerns. Address any worries they may have and provide clear, honest answers. Building trust through transparency is one of the keys to client satisfaction.

hairdresser applying bleaching powder

Developer and Hair Color Application Tips

Now that you have a solid understanding of developer volumes and know exactly what your client is looking for, let’s explore some essential application tips to ensure your color transformations go smoothly.

Toner to Developer Ratio

Mastering the ideal toner to developer ratio is crucial when it comes to delivering the results your clients want. The best formula varies from client to client, so getting it right every time is a challenging task. However, doing so is vital as toner helps remove brassy tones and helps you achieve each client’s desired color. 

When mixing toner and developer, check the product’s guidelines. Use a reliable measuring cup or scale to ensure accurate mixing of the developer and toner, following the manufacturer’s recommended ratio specified in the product instructions.

Section the Hair Carefully

Before application, divide your client’s hair into well-defined sections. Secure each section with clips or ties to ensure a systematic approach to the coloring process.

Start at the Roots

Begin application at the roots, especially for root touch-ups or all-over color. This ensures that they have plenty of time to absorb the color. Use a high-quality tint brush to apply the developer mixture evenly, working through each section meticulously.

Ensure Full Coverage

To guarantee uniform color distribution, blend the color carefully and make sure you don’t miss a single strand.

Keep a Close Eye on Processing Time

Adhere to the product manufacturer’s recommended processing time and frequently check the color’s progression to avoid overprocessing or underprocessing.

Rinse and Condition

After the designated processing time, rinse your client’s hair with lukewarm water until the water runs clear. Follow up with a high-quality color-safe conditioner to retain moisture and enhance shine.

Other Considerations

Choosing the right developer volume is just one piece of the puzzle. Several other factors come into play when determining the ideal formula for your client’s hair. Consider factors like the type of hair color you’re using, your client’s hair health and their desired hair lift. 

hair salon color catalog consultation

Educating Clients: Why Choose a Professional Colorist?

Educating clients about the benefits of professional color services is an essential part of being a colorist. Many clients consider DIY options due to convenience or cost concerns, but a well-informed client is more likely to understand the value of professional expertise.

During consultations, take the time to discuss the potential risks and challenges of at-home coloring. Mention common issues like color banding, uneven results and the potential for damage. Emphasize that professional colorists possess the knowledge and experience to avoid these pitfalls and ensure a flawless outcome. Here are a few other compelling reasons to choose a professional colorist to share with your clients:

Expertise Matters

Your clients should know that you are not just applying color. You are an artist crafting a masterpiece. Share your training journey and continuous learning in the world of hair color. Explain that you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques to provide them with the best possible results.

Tailored Consultations

Let your client know that a professional colorist takes the time to understand their unique hair goals, considering skin tone, lifestyle and personal style. This personalized approach results in a hair color that complements individual features and preferences.

Quality Products

Remind them that, as a professional colorist, you use high-quality professional hair color and developer products that are not readily available to the public. These products offer better color retention and cause less damage, ensuring color remains vibrant and healthy-looking.

Ongoing Maintenance

Maintaining hair color is an ongoing process. As a professional, you can recommend the right products and techniques to keep color looking fresh between salon visits. You’ll also be there to help if anything goes wrong with your client’s color or style. 


Each client is unique, and their hair color should reflect that individuality. Highlight the importance of personalized consultations where you discuss their hair goals, lifestyle and preferences. This tailored approach ensures that the color you create is a perfect fit for them.


As a professional colorist, selecting the appropriate developer level is an art form. It’s the secret ingredient that can make or break a hair color transformation. Armed with this guide, you can make informed decisions based on your client’s unique needs and desired outcomes.

The developer you choose reflects your expertise and creativity as a colorist. So, embrace the nuances of developer volumes, experiment confidently and unlock a world of stunning hair color possibilities for your clients.


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