What Can I Use Instead Of Hair Developer (In Bleach & Dye)

what to use instead of hair developer

Whether you bleach your hair to lighten its color or tint it using a permanent hair dye, you need to use a developer in both cases. There can be different reasons why you sometimes can’t use the developer while bleaching or dyeing your manes. Maybe you ran out of it or have read somewhere that it causes hair damage.

So, what can you use instead of hair developer?

When bleaching, a hair developer oxidizes your original hair shade. And it activates the dye when coloring your hair. But if you can’t use the developer, which usually comes in different volumes, you can make use of drugstore hydrogen peroxide instead. 

However, first, you must determine the percentage of hydrogen peroxide to lighten your hair color and the proper method of diluting concentrated hydrogen peroxide.

The 10, 20, 30, and 40 volume developers contain 3%, 6%, 9%, and 12% hydrogen peroxide, respectively. 

So, you can buy hydrogen peroxide from the store and use it instead of the hair developer. But you must dilute it to the percentage needed to lift hair color or activate the dye. (I have explained the technique of diluting it below with the help of a table)

Let’s dive into how you can dilute and use hydrogen peroxide instead of hair developer. 

What To Use Instead Of Hair Developer (Alternatives)?

The hair developer has a pivotal role in both hair bleaching and dyeing. Chemically, it is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) every time.

However, other ingredients can also do what hydrogen peroxide does. But H202 is way ahead of them due to its efficacy and safety.

If you have no hair developer to mix with bleach powder or hair dye, use hydrogen peroxide instead. Typically, you will find it in concentrated form in the drugstore.

Therefore, you must dilute the hydrogen peroxide to the required percentage before using it.

As its name suggests, hydrogen peroxide oxidizes your hair’s color pigment (melanin). That’s why the hair developers include it.

Hydrogen peroxide is safe because it only produces water and oxygen when it decomposes while lifting your hair color.

The persulfate salts of ammonia or sodium can also lighten the hair color. However, nearly no brands use them in the developer because they are not as effective and safe as hydrogen peroxide.

Therefore, whenever you need a substitute for the hair developer, use drug store hydrogen peroxide. But always remember, you must dilute it if it is pure.

How To Dilute Concentrated Hydrogen Peroxide To Use It as Developer?

Typically, diluted hydrogen peroxide ranges from 3% to 15% in the drugstore. And I recommend you opt for the one already diluted to the level you need to use. 

However, if you don’t find the exact percentage of diluted hydrogen peroxide, you can dilute it using distilled or tap water to lift your hair color after mixing it with bleach powder. 

For example, what would you do if you have 10 ml of 20% hydrogen peroxide in the bottle and want to dilute it to 6% percent? In other words, you can call 6% hydrogen peroxide the volume 20 developer.

Follow these steps to dilute hydrogen peroxide for the bleach.

  • Divide the percentage of hydrogen peroxide by whatever final percentage you want.
  • For example, diluting 20% to 6% will be 20 divided by 6, which equals 3.3. 
  • Now multiply the answer (3.3) with milliliters of hydrogen peroxide (10 ml). It will be 33.
  • Add 33 ml of distilled or tap water to 10 ml of hydrogen peroxide you have.
  • Here we go; you have 43 ml of 6% hydrogen peroxide that you can use to mix with bleach powder.

Let’s say I have 99% concentrated hydrogen peroxide, and I want to dilute it to 3%, 6%, 9%, 12%, and 15%, respectively, using water. And I want a final volume of 30 ml of each percentage.

% H2O2 NeededAmount taken from 99% H2O2Water Mixed
3%0.9 ml29.1 ml
6%1.8 ml28.2 ml
9%2.7 ml27.3 ml
12%3.6 ml26.4 ml
15%4.5 ml25.5 ml
Table showing how to make 30 ml of different H2O2 dilutions from 99% hydrogen peroxide.

If you want to save the developer or hydrogen peroxide for later use, keep it in a wholly sealed bottle. But if you leave it in the open air for some time, it will evaporate or lose its strength. 

What Can You Substitute Developer With To Mix It With Bleach Powder?

When you buy a hair bleaching kit, it usually comes with two ingredients, the bleach powder and the developer. And you have to mix both in a 1:2 ratio to lift your hair color.

Often you exhaust the developer because it goes in two times the bleaching powder to make a good bleach mixture.

So, if you are left with only bleaching powder, what can you use to substitute the developer?

You can buy hydrogen peroxide from the drug store, dilute it to the required percentage, and use it as a substitute for the developer. Mix it with bleach powder the same way you mix the developer.

When you prepare the bleach mixture, apply it to your hair without wasting time because the hair developer (hydrogen peroxide) gets exhausted or decomposed within 40 to 50 minutes.

When mixed with bleach or left open in the air, it changes into water and oxygen and evaporates.

When Not To Use Hydrogen Peroxide Instead Of Developer?

Suppose the reason for using hydrogen peroxide as an alternative to the hair developer is to reduce hair damage from bleaching.

In that case, you should stick with the developer bottle you already have instead of visiting a drug store to buy the hydrogen peroxide.

As I have mentioned before, your developer bottle only contains hydrogen peroxide. Therefore, there will be no benefit in substituting it with drugstore hydrogen peroxide, which is the same thing you already have.

May it be the developer you got with bleach or hair dye kit or the hydrogen peroxide you purchased from the store. In both cases, your hair will suffer some damage.

The higher the volume of the developer or the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the more your hair will feel gummy, dry, rough, and curly. Further in this article, we have explained how to minimize bleach damage to your hair.

If you are looking for a substitute for hair developer other than hydrogen peroxide, you might not be able to find the one that lifts your hair color perfectly and causes minimum damage.

Wrapping Up

It is hydrogen peroxide if you are looking for what you can use instead of the hair developer for bleaching or dyeing your hair. You will be able to find varying percentages, from 3% to 97%, of it in the drugstore. But, you have to choose the one, which can be any from 3%, 6%, 9%, and 12%, per the levels you want to lift your hair color. For hair dye, it is usually 3%.