Can I use 10 volume developer with permanent dye? Or is it better to use 20 volume?


with box dye

Are you going to dye your hair and a doubt pops up, what peroxide is it best for me to use with permanent dye?



You’re not the only one.

The truth is that emails come to me daily with this type of question, and it seems to be a more than important topic to address.



Because peroxide isn’t a small thing, and you should know very well why it is used and how to use it effectively without damaging your hair.


How many sins are carried out in the name of hydrogen peroxide! Sins that in the end, our hair ends up paying the price for.

First and foremost, I will tell you that for permanent dye, you should use 20-volume peroxide.


This is a general rule.


And this isn’t just a peeve of mine as a stylist or an imposition of businesses that make hair products.

It’s pure chemistry.

That’s why I will explain to you:

  • What peroxide is and what it is used for
  • How to choose the perfect volume of peroxide
  • What other things to keep in mind before using peroxide


Are you ready to enter into my chemistry lab and learn everything about peroxide?

Then put on your apron and join me in this fascinating world of chemical formulas that hair products are full of.




What is peroxide and what is it used for

If you are planning on dyeing your hair in your house, you know that you will need two essential elements: dye and developer.

The developer also is known as peroxide or activator, it’s even sometimes called hydrogen peroxide.



 The dye and the peroxide are mixed in a certain proportion to form a mixture of color that can be later applied to the hair.  

The proportion of the mixture is usually 1 to 1, 1 to 1.5, or 1 to 2, for a stronger lightening effect.


Peroxide is a completely essential element in the hair coloring process, because it is in charge of opening the cuticle of the hair.

In this way, the color molecules of the dye penetrate deeper in the hair fiber and modify the color.

Without peroxide, you will never achieve significant changes in the color of your hair.


Up until here, everything is pretty simple, but now is the moment of chemistry class.


We said that to activate the color, you need something that produces a process called oxidation.

That something is a developer, which contains hydrogen peroxide and here is where volumes come into play, because:

  • 10 volume contains 3% of H202, which in a chemical formula means hydrogen peroxide
  • 20 volumes, 6% of H2O2
  • 30 volumes, 9% of H2O2
  • 40 volumes, 12% de H2O2


The peroxide reacts with ammonia or another alkaline agent like monoethanolamine or ethanolamine, present in the color, freeing the oxygen which is ultimately what ends up changing the color of the stalk of the hair.


Just as water has a cycle in nature, peroxide has one in your hair: activation, elimination, and depositing the color.


  • Activation: the hair dye activates after being mixed with the peroxide.
  • Elimination: the peroxide sufficiently opens the layers of the cuticle and eliminates the natural color of the hair.
  • Deposit the color: as the cuticles lift, the peroxide deposits the color so that the pigment slips inside.


Now, to get the best results, it is important to use the correct concentration of peroxide.

And this depends on the color of the dye that you choose, the type of hair that you have and the health of your hair.

This is what takes us to the next question.



How to choose the correct developer

20 volume developer

Choosing the correct developer to get the results that you want is crucial to get the color you are looking for.

The strength or concentration of the peroxide, like we saw, is expressed in percentages (%) or units of volume (Vol.)


The higher the number, the stronger the developer, and of course, the lighter your hair.



1) Choosing the peroxide by hair color

Temporary Colors

  • Semi-permanent colors are mixed with the weakest developers (10-Vol. to 20-Vol.) Or even with no developer.


Permanent Colors

  • These colors are used with moderate developers. Generally, a 20-vol to a 30 vol.



  • It’s necessary to use the strongest developers, mixing them in bleaching powder or creams. Generally 30-vol. to 40-vol. I recommend that you leave this one to the professionals. 40-volume peroxide can burn your scalp if you don’t use it correctly.


2) Choosing a developer by grade of lightness / darkness

You should choose the concentration of peroxide according to how light you want your hair.

Generally, every 3% of peroxide is able to lower one level of hair. If you want to maintain your hair color, use a 3% developer.


10-volume Developer (3% peroxide)

  • Darkness of the hair by 1 level.
  • It only works if you are going from a lighter tone to a darker one, not the other way around.
  • It adds a tone or color to the hair at the same level of lightness.



20-volume Developer (6% peroxide)

  • You will be able to modify the tone of your hair by one or two levels
  • You can usually use it with temporary bleaching and permanent dye
  • It’s also adequate for covering 100% white hair.


30-volume Developer (9% peroxide)

  • Lightens up to 3 levels.
  • Most of the time, it is mixed with permanent dyes or bleaching powder or cream.


40-volume Developer (12% peroxide)

  • It only works to bleach hair.
  • Best for going blonde
  • It is used together with bleaching cream or powder.
  • There is a risk of burning the hair. I repeat that you should never use a 40-volume developer at home.



3) Choosing the developer for your hair type

Your type of hair can also make an influence in the result of the color.

For example, fine hair is easier to lighten because the color penetrates faster in the hair fiber.

While thicker hair can be more resistant during the death process. That’s why you should keep the following things in mind:


Fine Hair

  • This hair is the easier to lighten than to darken.
  • When dyeing your hair a darker tone, it can end up darker than what you want. That’s why it is best to choose a lighter tone than what you want.
  • Use 10- or 20-volume peroxide.



Normal Hair

  • This hair reacts normally to the dye.
  • Use it with 20-volume peroxide.


Thick Hair

  • This hair is more difficult to lighten and darken.
  • When dyeing your hair a darker tone, the result of the color can be a bit lighter.
  • You can use 30-volume peroxide.


4) Chooseing a developer for the quality of your hair

Th estate of health of your hair can also affect the coloring process.



Porous Hair

  • Porous hair lightens easily and absorbs color very well. But the color fades quickly.
  • Lightening: it is possible to use a lesser-volume peroxide and a shorter processing time for the color.
  • Darkening: You can use a greater-volume peroxide to assure the best penetration of the color pigments.
  • Always apply the color to the ends of your hair for the last 5 to 15 minutes.


Healthy Hair

  • Hair has a normal reaction to coloring. The color absorbs well. 20-volume peroxide acts perfectly on this type of hair.


Advice before dyeing your hair

  • Women always perceive hair color darker than what it really is. If you are stuck between two tones, choose the lighter one.
  • Never mix the dye with peroxide before you are ready to use it. And remember to apply the mixture immediately to assure the best color penetration.
  • Because coloring is a chemical process, it tends to do significant damage in the stalk of the hair. Don’t forget to use deep moisturizing and nutritional products, like coconut oil for example.


As you can see, it’s necessary to analyze a lot of things before deciding what peroxide to use.


You should keep in mind the tone that you will apply to your hair and the health and type of your hair so that the peroxide does it’s job correctly, doing as little damage to your hair as possible.


And remember, avoid using 40-volume peroxide.  The concentration is so strong in this developer that it can cause burns on your scalp.


What level of peroxide will you use the next time you change your hair color?

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