Skip to Content
HomeCommon Questions

10 Vs. 20 Volume Developer: How They Differ And How to Pick One

When bleaching or dyeing your hair, you have to choose the right developer volume. Two of the most common developer volumes are 10 and 20.

People often get confused when choosing between these two types of volume developers. Developer contains peroxide which opens up your hair cuticles so the color can deposit or lighten.

20 vol. developer contains more hydrogen peroxide than 10 vol. developer. But is it the only difference? And what does higher peroxide mean to the end result?

So, if you want to know the differences between these two for deciding which one of these is right for your specific requirement, read this article till the end. 

Differences Between 10 Vol. Developer And 20 Vol. Developer

There are several differences between 10 and 20-volume developers. Here is a table that will show you the differences at a glance.

Features10 Volume Developer20 Volume Developer 
Purpose Best for going darker, not lighter; use to alter the shade or tint of a similar hair colorBest for going lighter when you need to alter the base color of the hair
Strength3% peroxide 6% peroxide 
Color Penetration Barely lifts cuticle, allows for minimal color penetrationLifts cuticle significantly; strips pigmentation for moderate color penetration
Grey Hair CoverageNoYes
Hair TypeSuitable for all hair types, but thick/coarse hair may require a longer processing timeSuitable for normal to thick hair, may damage finer hair textures 
Hair Color LiftUp to 1 levelUp to 2 levels

Before you choose between the volume 10 developer and volume 20 developer here are the major differences between them.


You’d use a 10-volume developer when you’re not trying to lift hair color but rather alter the shade or tint with a similar color. In this case, you don’t want to change the base color of your hair too drastically. 

A 20-volume developer, on the other hand, is better for when you want to achieve a lighter color than you have currently.


The peroxide level in a 10-volume developer is three percent, while it’s six percent in a 20-volume developer.

With this being the stronger solution, it’s also more damaging to the hair than the volume 10 developer. 

Color Penetration

Since the volume 10 developer does not open the hair cuticle by much, color molecules cannot travel deep into the cortex to settle.

Therefore, You shouldn’t use a Volume 10 developer for colors such as light brown, blonde, red, and other vibrant hair colors. 

With volume 20 developer, the hair cuticle gets opened substantially, allowing the hair pigmentation to get stripped by a couple of levels.

Then the new color goes deep into the cortex. You can use both Vol 20 and Vol 10 developers for permanent or temporary hair color. 

Grey Hair Coverage 

20-volume developer to cover grey hair

Additionally, the 20-volume developer covers grey hair much better than the 10-volume. 

You’ll mostly see the Volume 10 developer used with toners and glazes, popular for at-home use. The volume 20 developer is the most common developer used in a salon. 

Hair Type

The volume 20 developer is better suited toward normal to thick hair types because of its potency.

Thick hair may be resistant to bleaching and accepting color; therefore, the volume 20 developer will be the better choice because it should take less time to process than the volume 10. 

For finer hair textures, it’s critical not to let the volume 20 developer process for too long, as it could have devastating side effects, such as making the hair dry and brittle.

The volume 10 developer is less damaging for all hair types, but it may take longer to process in thick hair.

Bleaching Hair

bleaching hair with 20 volume developer

You wouldn’t use a Volume 10 developer to bleach your hair because it barely opens the hair cuticle to allow the color pigmentation to lift. 

To bleach hair, you want to use the 20-volume developer because it opens the hair cuticle more and strips the pigmentation better to deposit color more effectively.  

Should You Use Vol. 10 or 20 Developer to Darken Hair?

If you’re looking to go darker with your hair color, I’d recommend using a 10-volume developer. The lower peroxide level in a 10-volume makes it perfect for depositing color without drastically lifting or lightening your natural pigment.

With a 20 vol. developer, you risk unintentionally warming up your hair tone or creating hot roots when you’re just trying to go darker.

A 20-volume developer would be more suitable for lightening hair or covering grays, as it has the capacity to lift the natural hair color.

So, if you are going dark, stick with the gentle volume 10 developer for a shiny darker color without brassiness or damage. It’ll darken your strands while keeping the integrity intact.

When Should You Apply 10 Vol. Developer in Hair?

A 10-volume developer has 3% peroxide, which is pretty gentle. It’s great for toning or glossing previously colored hair.

You should apply 10 Developer on your hair when you’re thinking of going darker. For example, if you have brown hair and want to change it to a darker brown or black, you would use a Vol. 10 developer. 

You’re going a few shades darker, so it’ll do the trick since you don’t need to make the pigmentation lighter. Remember that you may have to leave the developer on your hair longer if it’s thick and coarse.

When Should You Apply 20 Vol. Developer in Hair?

A 20-volume developer has 6% peroxide, making it much stronger. It can lift your hair several shades lighter in one session.

However, it is harsher on your strands and can cause dryness or breakage if you aren’t careful. 20 volume works best for intense lighting, like when going from brunette to blonde.

You should apply a 20 Vol Developer when you’re trying to bleach your hair and change it a few shades lighter. It’s essential to note that you can only lift the hair one to two levels with this developer. 

For example, changing your hair from brown to blonde would warrant using this developer because it’ll allow the hair to lighten enough for you to use the blonde hair dye to change the color.

You should also use this volume to cover grey hair. Be careful when using 20 volume on fine-textured or thin hair. 

Can I Use Volume 20 Developer Instead of Volume 10 to Bleach My Hair?

20 vol developer to bleach hair

You can use vol. 20 instead of vol. 10 developer for bleaching. In fact, the Vol. 10 developer isn’t powerful enough to open the hair cuticle, so it’s not recommended for bleaching/lightening your hair.

Volume 20 developer is specifically used to lift the hair one to two levels, so you’ll need to use it to strip away pigmentation before depositing a new color. It will ensure the new color penetrates the hair cuticles.

This isn’t the only situation where you can use volume 20 developer instead of volume 10.

If you want to touch up your roots or cover your gray hair color, you can substitute volume 10 with volume 20 developer.

However, volume 10 is best when the new color you’re trying to achieve isn’t far from your hair color. Volume 10 can only change the tint or shade when the new color is similar.  

So, Volume 10 Vs. Volume 20: Which Developer Should You Use?

From the differences, we can see that 10 volume developer and 20 volume developer has the following characteristics and use:

  • 10 volume– lower peroxide, less lifting, depositing color, gentle on hair.
  • 20 volume – Higher peroxide, more lifting, lightening hair, can damage hair.

So, consider your starting and target shades, hair health, and how many processes you want to do. With some thought ahead of time, you can pick the developer that suits your coloring goals.

Choose Volume 10 developer for depositing color or subtle lightening. Use Volume 20 developer for dramatic lightning or covering grays.

Trending Topics