How much developer for hair dye? Secrets hair colorists don’t want you to know

  • When you need to mix the developer with the hair dye, the proportions will depend on your desired result.
  • If the color you chose is close to your base color, the ratio is 1 to 1: one part hair dye to one part developer.
  • If you’re going to lighten your hair three or four shades or apply a toner, the ratio is 1 to 2: one part hair dye to two parts developer.
  • You have to respect these ratios of the developer to hair dye. If you apply less developer than you need, the hair cuticles won’t open. Alternatively, if you use a higher proportion of the developer, the pigments won’t penetrate enough for the color to last.


mixing ratio of dye

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We, stylists, give much importance to measuring the developer and hair dye when preparing coloring mixtures.

There’s no such thing as “approximate measuring” for us.


Approximates can work in some situations such as cooking.

Tell me the truth; haven’t you ever called your mother to ask for a special recipe?


I thought so. And what was her response?

In my mother’s case, the amounts of ingredients were something like “add a pinch of such and such”, followed by “a handful of that” and then “two dashes of that”.

The recipe, of course, never resulted like my mother’s. But in her case, practice makes perfect, and she had a very “educated” eye in culinary matters.


 But if you measure the proportions of developer and hair dye, there’s no such thing as practice makes perfect. The amounts must be exact. 

Otherwise, you risk ruining the color. What’s more, you can damage your hair.


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Remember that in this case,  both developer and ammonia are chemicals. So, using the wrong amounts can dry out your hair. 

So, if you make a culinary recipe with approximate amounts, the dish may not turn out to be exquisite. That’s the worst thing that can happen.

However, if you make a mistake with the amounts in coloring, your hair pays the price.

Are you ready to measure the exact amounts? Where do we start?


Let’s start with the easiest one, 1 to 1.

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How to measure the proportion of hair dye and developer in similar shades to the base color

color mix

What are similar shades?


They’re colors that differ no more than 2 levels from your current hair color.

  • For example, a brown 4 is similar to a dark brown 3.
  • A light blonde 8 is similar to a dark blonde 6.

The same rule applies if you want to lighten or darken your hair and the new color is up to 2 levels different from the base color.


In these cases, you mix the hair dye with the 20-volume developer because you don’t need a big chemical reaction in your hair. The ratio for each part of hair dye is one part of developer: the famous 1 to 1.

It means that  if you use a 50 cc hair dye, you should use 50 cc of 20-volume developer. 


If you buy a coloring kit, you won't have to worry about the proportions. They are already preset.

But  if you buy the hair dye and developer separately, you have to measure the amounts exactly. 

A secret?


You can help yourself with measuring spoons to calculate the right measure of the ingredients, for example, plastic baking spoons.

Don't use metal utensils for measuring nor for mixing the developer and hair dye. The hair dye contains chemicals that lose their effect when they are exposed to metal surfaces.


Do you want to lighten your hair in more than three shades?

In this case, the ratio between developer and hair dye is going to be different.


To lighten 3 or 4 shades, you should use 1 part hair dye and 2 parts developer

correct ratio

In addition to using a higher proportion of developer in the coloring mixture, you have to choose a higher-volume developer. It has to be related to the shades you want to lighten.

You should use a 30 or 40-volume developer. You need to generate a chemical reaction in the hair to lighten the base color. Which one to choose.

  • If you want to lighten up to 3 shades, you should use a 30-volume developer.
  • If you want to lighten up to 4 shades, your option is the 40-volume developer.


However, there’s always a but. You must be careful with these developers.

Therefore, if your hair is dry or frizzy, your ends are brittle, and you experience slight hair loss,  YOU MUSTN’T USE THOSE VOLUMES OF DEVELOPER. 

What is the alternative?


You have two alternatives.

Apply a hair dye to lighten your hair up to two shades with a 20-volume developer, or go to a professional.

If you want to lighten your hair in 4 or more shades, you’ll have to mix the 30 or 40-volume developer with the hair dye in a ratio of 1 to 2, i.e. 1 part hair dye to 2 parts developer.


If I want to apply a toner, what are the proportions?

toner, developer, bowl and brush

If you bleached your hair and unwanted orange or yellowish tones remain, you can apply a toner.

In short, toner is a hair dye that neutralizes unwanted colors that appear after some coloring processes.


Therefore, you should make the mixture with a ratio of 1 to 2, i.e. 1 part toner and 2 parts of 20-volume developer.

Although we used to recommend applying the toner with a 10 volume developer, I don’t recommend it anymore.

A 10-volume developer is too weak to fix the pigments in the hair. So, the toner will fade quickly.

A secret?


 Toners usually have a scale on the side to easily calculate the amounts.  Use it to know exactly how much 20-volume developer to mix according to the proportions I indicated above.


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The proportions of developer and hair dye must be exact if you want to get a good result. Also, if you want to lighten your hair up to 3 or 4 shades, you should use a 30 or 40-volume developer according to the shade you choose.

Don’t measure the amounts of developer and hair dye approximately when mixing because appearances can be deceiving.

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