Should I use 10 or 20 developer to darken hair?

light-haired woman thinking of two alternatives

  • If your hair is blonde and you want to darken it, you can use a 10 developer because you don’t need a strong chemical reaction like the 20 developer would generate for the color to set. In other words, your hair is light and will take the color without a problem.
  • Alternatively, if your hair is brown and you want it dark brown or black, you can also use a 10 developer. If you used a 20 developer instead, your hair would turn orange because it lightens the hair in addition to working with the dye to color it.
  • If your hair is very gray, you should use a 20 developer whether your base color is dark or light. Gray hair is colorless and needs a stronger chemical reaction to fix the color.


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What developer to use to darken hair? Hair Coloring 101


I think I’ve made myself clear.

 Whether your hair is blonde or brown, it’s best to use a 10 developer rather than a 20 vol to darken it. 


Remember that the developer lightens the hair. On the other hand, you want to darken it in this case.

Therefore, if you used a 20-volume developer to darken your blonde hair, you’d be risking your hair. The stronger the developer, the more nutrients and moisture it’ll take away from your hair.

In the case of brown hair, if you use a 20-volume developer to darken it, you’ll soon get unwanted brassy undertones.

The 20-volume developer would leave your hair lighter at the lengths and ends and darker at the roots.


Now if your hair is very gray and you want to darken it, you should use a 20-volume developer whether your hair is blonde or brown. And we’ll get into this in more detail later.

Let’s start by talking about the 10 developer.


When to use a 10 developer to darken hair?

10 volume developer to darken blonde or brown hair

 The 10 developer darkens your blonde or brunette mane  because it fixes the color without using more developer.


If you’re blonde, this is excellent news because blonde hair is generally finer and more prone to breakage than dark hair. Your base color is light, so you don’t need to use a 20 developer.


 Alternatively,   if your hair is brown, and you want to darken it with a dark brown or black dye, you can also use a 10 developer. 


I’ll explain it to you with an example.

One of my clients, Gabriela, has been dyeing her hair dark brown for a long time.

After many months of darkening her dark blonde hair with a dark brown dye, she began to notice that the color wasn’t even. Some strands were brassy.

woman shows hair darkened using 20 volume developer

She went to the hairdresser to ask for dark brown hair.


 Why did Gabriela’s hair seem to get lighter every time she dyed it instead of darker? 


Gabriela was using coloring kits with a 20 developer. It works by bleaching out the color in some of her sections, such as lengths and ends. Then, they’d be lighter than the roots.

So, from that moment on,  I applied a dark brown dye with a 10 developer at the salon. 


Therefore, my advice as a professional is that if you want to darken your blonde or brown hair, buy the dye and developer yourself. Coloring kits, in turn, always include a 20-developer.


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You don’t need to generate such a strong chemical reaction in your hair to darken it.

I recommend you use a creamy developer with moisturizing agents such as aloe vera or keratin.


If you want to darken very gray hair, you should always use a 20-developer

woman with very gray hair wants to darken it

What is very gray hair?

It’s hair with 30% to 70% grays.

Why should you use a 20-developer?


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A stronger chemical reaction is needed as gray hair lost its natural color. Therefore,  the 20 developer will open the cuticles and fix the dye in this hair type.  Alternatively, if you use a 10 developer to darken your very gray hair, the dye won’t work.

In this case, you can use any coloring kit because they include a 20-volume developer.



Both the 10 and 20 developers can be used to darken your hair. However, you need to know when to use each.

If your hair is blonde or brown, you don’t need a strong chemical reaction to darken it. A 10 developer will help you retain nutrients and moisture in that case.

However, in the case of very gray hair, you’ll need a 20 developer to fix the color.

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