10 developer vs 20: which one should you use?

Let’s get into developer volumes and their differences!

  • Difference 1: the 10-vol will lighten your color, while the 20-vol will lift it up to two levels.
  • Difference 2: the 10-vol is less damaging than the 20-vol because its chemical reaction is milder.
  • Difference 3: the 10-vol is used with very light or very dark colors, while the 20-vol can be used with all the colors of the palette.


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Now that you know the main differences between these two developers, you can decide how to achieve your desired goal.

But beyond the differences between these developers, there’s one thing they have in common.


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Any developer, either the 10-vol or 20-vol, is a must for your hair coloring process.  

If you don’t use them, the dye won’t set in your hair evenly. 


That said, let’s start with the differences between the two developers so you can decide which one you need to dye your hair.

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Difference 1: The 10-vol will lighten your color while the 20-vol will lift it up to two levels

dyeing hair caramel after bleaching

Both developers open the hair cuticles.


But while  the 20-volume developer has a stronger oxidizing strength, the 10-volume developer can barely open the cuticles. 


Cuticles are small scales that cover the hair fiber to protect the core, which is where the color is located.

When you apply a dye, the developer opens those scales. The higher the volumes of the developer, the higher the cuticle opening power. So, the higher lift you’ll get.


Since the 10-volume developer doesn’t open the cuticles completely, its lightening power is very limited, even non-existent.

  •  If you want to brighten your hair, and it’s virgin or very fine, you should use the 10 volume developer. It’ll be enough for the coloring job you want to achieve, and it won’t damage your hair.
  •  However, if you want to lift your hair color one or two levels, you should use a 20 volume developer. Its oxidizing strength will help you achieve your goal.


Difference 2: The 10-vol is less damaging than the 20-vol because its chemical reaction is milder

porous hair without elasticity

In the previous point, we discussed the lightening power of  the 20 volume vs. the 10-vol developers.

It’s related to the second difference because the higher the number, the more damaging it’s for your hair.


  When the developer opens the hair cuticles to modify the color, it removes pigments and melanin but also nutrients and proteins , such as keratin, water, and vitamins.


The higher the developer volumes, the greater the loss of moisture and nutrients.

  •  The 10-vol generates minimal damage  because the cuticles almost don’t open. Therefore, your hair loses less nutrients and melanin.
  •  Instead, the 20-vol generates more damage because it opens the cuticles completely,  and more nutrients and melanin are lost.


Therefore, you should consider your hair health when choosing developer volumes.

  • If your hair is damaged, frizzy, dry, dull, and has split ends, you should go for a 10-volume developer to avoid further damage.
  • Alternatively, if your hair doesn’t have frizz or split ends, you can use the 20-volume developer.


Difference 3: The 10-vol is used to touch up with very light or very dark colors while the 20-vol works with any color for the first time or for touch-ups

takes several bleaching sessions

In case you didn’t know,  hair coloring and color touch up aren’t the same thing. 


Color touch-up is done when the hair is already colored but worn off.

Whereas a coloring job means applying a new color to the hair, even if the hair is previously colored.


The 10-volume developer is used to touch up specific colors in the palette:

  • Black 1.
  • Brown 2.
  • Very light blonde 9.
  • Extra light blonde 10.


The darker dye colors are very persistent and don’t require a high-volume developer to be fixed in the hair.

The hair is already infused with color pigments.


Alternatively, the extra light colors don’t require a strong oxidizing strength because the hair is completely bleached.

Therefore, the color will set evenly even if you use a 10 volume developer.


So,  to touch up very dark or very light hair color, you can use a 10 volume developer. By the way, it’ll also be less damaging to your hair.  


Now, if you’re thinking about changing your hair color, the story changes.

When you apply permanent hair color for the first time to virgin hair or to change your color, the cuticles need to open for the pigmentation to settle in.


And in this case,  you’ll need a 20 volume developer. 

For example:

  • To apply a dark blonde 6 on a brown 4, you’ll need 20 vol.
  • Also, to apply light brown 5 on light blonde 8.



The most important differences between the 10-volume developer and the 20-volume developer have to do with their oxidizing strength on the hair.

If your hair is very damaged, and you want to lighten the color or touch up very dark or very light color, go for a 10 volume developer.

Alternatively, to completely change your hair color, you’ll need a 20 volume developer that’ll open the hair cuticles to deposit the new pigments.

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