Does Developer Damage Hair (When and How Much)?

does hair developer damage hair

A lot of folks inquire if developer damages hair when using it with or without bleach because they might think that bleaching powder is the main culprit of damage to their hair. Or they may be thinking of using a developer alone to lift their hair color, which is not the right thing to do.

Millions of people bleach or dye their hair daily, but very few know about the chemical ingredients used to alter their hair color. The developer, chemically known as hydrogen peroxide, is the main thing in dyeing and bleaching hair. And it is the one chemical that can damage hair the most in certain situations.

The developer does not damage hair when used in the volume your hair can withstand. However, when you try to use it without bleach powder, it can hurt your hair, and most likely, you will not get the color lift as well.

When used in higher concentrations like 9% or 12%, the developer can rip your hair strands of moisture and protective proteins. And if you already have weak hair, you might experience breakage and extreme dryness.

Let’s dive into a bit more detail about when a developer does damage hair and see how you can evade this damage to your manes.

How Does Developer Damage Hair (and when it doesn’t)?

The developer comes in different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. And, as with many things, too much can be damaging. But if you use the developer, keeping how strong your hair is in view, there are meager chances it will damage your hair. 

However, it is normal to experience some levels of dryness, no matter which volume of developer you mix with the bleaching powder. 

The following are the scenarios where it is likely that the developer will damage your hair by causing protein and moisture loss to your hair strands.  

1. Using High Volume Developer On Weak or Chemically Treated Hair

A developer with 9% or 12% hydrogen peroxide tends to be harsher for the hair strands. It will react with the keratin or other proteins in the hair shaft and cause them to lose away, making your hair weaker and prone to damage.

There are different volume developers available that have been categorized based on the concentration of hydrogen peroxide they contain. The higher the volume, the more the percentage of hydrogen peroxide will be.

You can’t just pick any volume developer and mix it with bleaching powder to lift your hair color. First, you will need to decide how many levels of hair color you want to change.

does volume 40 developer damage hair

Once you decide on how many levels you want to lift your hair shade, you will select the developer accordingly. For a three or four-level color lift, you would need a volume 40 developer.

When thinking of bleaching your hair, you should always look at your hair health first, which you can do by checking its porosity. If you have high porosity hair or weak hair, you should not use any developer with a volume of more than 20.

2. Employing Developer Without Bleaching Powder To Lift Hair Color

The sole purpose of using developer in the bleach is to oxidize the original hair color to a lighter shade. But it needs one other ingredient to do this job, ammonia, which opens the hair cuticle and allows the developer to reach the middle layer of hair where the color pigments reside.

There is a common perception among many that using the developer without bleach powder would lift their hair color. But the reality is the contrary. Your hair may suffer notable damage when you use developer without bleach to change your hair color.

It is because very little hydrogen peroxide will be able to reach the hair cortex, and the remaining will stick to the protective layer cuticle.

A developer without bleach will melt away significant proteins from your hair strands, making them feel gummy, dry, and weak. And above all, you won’t get any color lift.

3. Leaving Developer With or Without Bleach For Too Long on Hair

While some folks use a leave-in conditioner before bleaching and others try putting coconut oil in their hair to avert the bleach damage, it is impossible to prevent the dryness and weakness a developer cause to your hair fully. However, you can reduce the likely harm to a greater extent.

If you leave the developer alone or with bleach powder on your hair for too long, it will cause more damage. The longer it stays, the weaker your strands get because of protein and moisture loss.

According to Healthline, the developer also causes oxidative damage to your hair, and you might experience some degree of hair loss.

Typically, you have to check your hair every five minutes instead of waiting 20 or 30 minutes straight for developer and bleach powder to lift your hair color. The early they change your hair tint, the batter it is.

To avoid the hair damage caused by the developer, people go for a bleach bath instead, which lifts the hair color in less time, causing less dryness and breakage. Some even think of using conditioner instead of a developer to bleach their hair, which is in no sense going to work for them.

4. Using Developer Too Often On Your Hair

As mentioned above, the developer, also called hydrogen peroxide, is responsible for nearly all of the damage bleaching cause to your hair. It breaks apart proteins keeping your hair strands intact, making your hair feel lifeless and frizzy.

So, if you are to use the developer too often, I mean, more than once a month, you should expect notable dryness, split ends, roughness, and breakage to your manes. It certainly will damage your hair when you try lifting your hair color once in a while.

Typically, experts suggest not to bleach your hair more than once in four to six weeks. But if you to lift your mane again more early, make sure you give them some time to recover by applying some of the best oils to your chemically treated hair.

Which Volume Developer To Use To Avoid Hair Damage?

Every volume developer is not made for your hair, especially when you know how many levels you want to lift your hair. Catherine Neat, a hair expert, says the volume 20 developer is her go-to option when she wants minimal color lifting.

In the following, I have explained how different volume developers cause low to maximum damage to your hair. Also, which one you should choose while looking at the condition of your hair and the final color you want after bleaching.

1. Does Volume 20 Developer Damage Hair?

While it is not entirely safe, especially when you have fragile hair, a volume 20 developer is less likely to cause any notable damage to your hair. The sole reason for this is the low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, which is 6%. The lower the strength of the developer, the lesser proteins and moisture will be lost.

does volume 20 developer damage hair

Who should prefer using the volume 20 developer to prevent damage to their hair? Considering the following three points will help.

1. Degree of Hair Lightening

A volume 20 developer is best for someone who wants to lift their hair color by 1-2 levels. For example, mixing this developer with bleach powder can change your hair color from brown to light brown or dark blonde.

2. Hair Texture

Volume 20 works well with delicate and normal hair types and can get you a color lift up to two levels. You can even mix a slightly low amount of this developer for fine hair than recommended on the kit, but for normal hair, you have to go with instructions.

3. Hair Condition

If you have high porosity hair, you need to go with a volume 20 developer to avoid hair damage. However, you won’t be able to lift hair color beyond two levels.

2. Can Volume 30 Developer Cause Hair Damage?

A volume 20 developer is harsher than 30 and allows a color lift between two to three levels. If you don’t want your hair to look straw-like, look into the following things before going with 9% hydrogen peroxide in your hair bleach mixture.

1. Degree of Hair Lightening

If you want to lighten your hair color for two or three levels, you need to opt for volume 30 developer.

2. Hair Texture

9% hydrogen peroxide or volume 30 developer is best for normal and thick hair texture. However, if you want it to use on your fine hair, you might experience some degree of hair damage.

3. Hair Condition

Experts suggest not to use volume 30 developer or higher on extremely porous hair strands.

3. When You Shouldn’t Use Volume 40 Developer to Avoid Hair Damage?

Volume 40 or higher developer is the harshest and most damaging of all types for your hair. However, it is the only option to lift your hair color up to eight levels. Therefore, make sure your hair is in its ultimate health and thickness before bleaching it with a volume 40 developer.

Otherwise, you will most likely suffer extreme dryness and breakage that will be difficult to reverse in a short time.

Wrapping Up

While not a single type of developer is entirely safe for your hair, volumes 10 and 20 are less likely to cause any notable damage. Therefore, they are an ideal option for someone with fine and weak hair who wants to lift their hair color for 1-2 levels.

Volume 30, 40, or higher are safe to use on average or thick and strong hair, but not too often. It is because healthy hair can withstand the damage. Always buy the developer from trusted brands to avoid hair damage.