Selecting the correct developer is crucial if you want rich, lustrous results when darkening your hair. But which one should you choose?
If you’re at a loss as to which developer is best, this article is for you.
In it, we’ll tell you what developer you should use to darken your hair. We’ll also teach you about your other developer options and how they affect the hair coloring process. Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Developer to Use to Darken Hair
- 2 Can You Go Darker with 30, 40, or 50 Volume Developer?
- 3 Developer Strengths and Their Ideal Uses
- 4 How to Go Darker with Dye
- 5 Is Hair Developer Harmful?
- 6 Non-Developer Options to Darken Hair
- 7 Note on Protein Fillers When Going Darker
What Developer to Use to Darken Hair
You should use a 10 or 20-volume developer to darken hair depending on the current color of your natural hair. If your hair is already dark, you can get away with using a 10-volume developer. But if your hair is light, you’ll need to use a 20-volume developer to get to those deep, dark shades.
Can You Go Darker with 30, 40, or 50 Volume Developer?
Whether your hair is naturally light or dark, using a 30, 40, or 50-volume developer to darken it will result in lighter hair. And since you’re reading this article, we know that’s not what you’re going for. So, stick to using a 10 or 20-volume developer if you’re doing darker.
Developer Strengths and Their Ideal Uses
Now that you know which developer to use for darkening your hair, let’s discuss your other developer options. Here’s a rundown of all your developer options and when to use them.
- 10-Volume Developer: This is the weakest developer of all widely-used developers. It is routinely used to darken hair.
- 20-Volume Developer: This developer is a bit stronger than the 10-volume developer. Stylists and DIYers alike use it to lift hair (or lighten hair) 2-3 shades with permanent hair color. This developer strength is most often used in box dye and bleaching kits, and it can also be used to darken hair that’s on the lighter side.
- 30-Volume Developer: This developer is quite strong. You can use it to lift hair three to four shades when it’s added to permanent hair dye.
- 40-Volume Developer: This developer is potent, and it’s used to lift hair four to five shades with permanent dye. Experts advise against using a developer this strong at home. Many have fried their hair beyond recognition with a 40-volume developer.
- 50-Volume Developer: This developer strength is relatively new and insanely strong. With just one use, you can lift your hair by six or more shades. We don’t recommend using this at home unless you’re a professional.
How to Go Darker with Dye
Now that you understand developers and how they can be used to darken the hair, let’s get into how to use them to get the darker tresses you’re going for:
If you’re using a box dye to darken your hair, the process is pretty simple. To start, combine the developer and hair color in the provided containers according to the instructions.
Then apply it to your dry hair in sections.
Wait for the amount of time indicated on the package instructions, then rinse the dye out of your hair. Once your hair is free of dye, wash and condition your hair and then proceed with the styling process.
Some of the best box dyes for natural hair are ammonia free and contain nourishing ingredients that leave your hair soft and hydrated. Here are a few choices to consider:
- Garnier Olia Ammonia-Free Permanent Hair Color
- Clairol Natural Instincts Hair Color
- Naturtint Permanent Hair Color
If you’re using a professional hair dye, the process will be a bit more complicated. You’ll need to combine the developer and hair color in a mixing bowl and stir it with a tinting brush.
You’ll then apply it to your hair in sections using the tinting brush to ensure even coverage. Leave the dye on for up to 45 minutes, and then rinse your hair thoroughly with clean water.
Afterward, shampoo and condition your hair. You can even use a deep conditioner if your hair is feeling dry.
Is Hair Developer Harmful?
Developer can be harmful to your hair. If you use a developer that’s too strong, it can cause breakage and damage. That’s why it’s so important to understand which developer is suitable for your hair type and the look you’re trying to achieve.
If you use the developer as directed, it’s not likely to cause extreme damage.
But every time your hair’s cuticles are forcibly opened by developer-driven color processes, there’s a chance of damage. The lower the developer strength, the less likely it is to cause issues, but even then, there’s always a chance.
Developers’ risks are not limited to the hair.
They can cause irritation if they come into contact with your skin. If you experience any redness, swelling, or itchiness, rinse the area with clean water immediately and consult a medical professional if irritation persists.
Non-Developer Options to Darken Hair
If you don’t want to use any developer, there are still options available to you. We’ll go over three of the most popular ones below.
If your hair is already dark, you can use semi-permanent hair dye to go darker. This product doesn’t contain any developer and doesn’t require you to mix it with one, so it simply sits on top of your hair cuticles and stains them.
You’ll simply apply the dye to your clean hair and let it sit for the recommended amount of time before rinsing it out. The color will last anywhere from 4-8 weeks, and it will gradually fade with each wash.
Another non-developer option is demi-permanent hair color. This type of dye is meant to be mixed with a 10-volume developer and is a bit stronger than semi-permanent hair color.
It slightly penetrates the hair shaft to deposit color just beneath the hair cuticle. This option can be used to darken hair that’s on the lighter side. The color lasts about 24 washes and fades gradually over time.
You can also try using henna if you’re looking for a more natural way to darken your hair. Henna is a plant-based powder that stains the hair and can be used to achieve a range of shades.
To use it, you’ll mix the henna with water (and oils if you prefer) and apply it to your hair.
After leaving it on for up to an hour or more, you’ll rinse the mixture from your hair. The downside to using henna is that it can be pretty messy, and it’s not always easy to achieve an even result.
Note: After coloring your hair with henna, you may have trouble dyeing your hair with traditional colorants in the future.
Note on Protein Fillers When Going Darker
If your hair is extremely light – like platinum blonde – and you want to go very dark, you should add a protein filler to your hair dye before applying it. The product will help to fill in any gaps in your hair shaft so that the dark hair color can better adhere to your strands.
- What Is Developer for Hair?
- Can You Use Conditioner as Developer?
- Is Developer Bleach?
- Bleach to Developer Ratio
So those are your main developer options, along with some other ways you can darken your hair without using any developer at all. Now you can select the best developer for your individual needs.
Be sure to do a patch test before dyeing hair, even if you’ve used a given product before.
And always follow the instructions from the manufacturer to avoid any unwanted results. We hope that you found this article helpful, and we wish you the best of luck on your hair color journey!
Kenneth Byrd holds a BS in Accounting and Management Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With over 15 years of experience, Kenneth has been dedicated to hair care since 2008, when he co-founded Curl Centric® and Natural Hair Box alongside his wife. As a team, they promote healthy hair care practices through their comprehensive platform, Curl Centric. Curl Centric is a website operated by a husband and wife team that encourages healthy hair care. At Curl Centric, we aim to help our readers take control of their hair care journey and make good decisions about products, hairstyles, and maintenance techniques. We also have strict editorial integrity; here’s an explanation of our editorial guidelines and how we make money.