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Can You Mix Developers?

by Gabbi

The process for coloring your hair includes a lot of different products, tools, time and patience, especially if you are doing it at home.

While there are many pre-made kits for hair dye available for at-home use, having a full understanding of what each product does in the color treatment process will help you feel more prepared and skilled to apply your color treatment like a pro.

Hair developer is a product that is mentioned frequently with hair dye, as it is a crucial step in allowing the dye or bleach to penetrate the hair shaft completely.

In most instances of dyeing your hair, whether at home or in a salon, a developer will be used. This will allow the dye to create the desired color results, as well as create a long-last result that can withstand many hair washes.

Can you mix developers when coloring your hair? In general, yes you can mix developers, although you’ll want to do so cautiously. There may be some circumstances that require a developer in a volume that is in between two levels, so mixing the developers together in the correct ratio will help to achieve your hair color goals.

Below, we’ll discuss what hair dye developers are, if it is safe to mix them together, and how to do so properly.

What Is Developer?

Hair developer is a product that is mixed with hair bleach or dye to activate the color before applying it onto the hair. Developer is also often referred to as activator or peroxide, as it is formulated with hydrogen peroxide to stimulate the hair shaft and dye.

The developer is mixed in with the hair dye or bleach to deliver the color treatment to the hair, to allow the product to fully absorb into each strand of hair.

Developer is used to help lighten or color the hair, and contain varying levels of hydrogen peroxide, which determines the volume, or level, of each developer.

Although there are instances of hair dye being used without developer, if you want permanent and long-lasting results, a developer is required to be used in the color treatment process.

Often, the hair dyes that do not require developers are semi-permanent, while hair dye with developers are permanently altering the hair shaft to change to its new color.

The results from the hair dye with developer will last longer than the semi-permanent results, and will require less frequent touch-ups to maintain the color.

If you’re not sure which ones to choose, take a look at this video explaining developers from Brittnee Alexus on YouTube.

How Are Developers Categorized?

Developers are categorized by different volumes, which relate to what level they will lighten the existing hair color. The volumes most commonly used range from 10-40, increasing in ten-unit increments.

Although there are some developers that are higher than 40, it is best to save those for professional use as they can be tricky to work with.

Hair developer allows the hair color or bleach to penetrate through the layers of the hair to permanently change the existing color to the one that is desired.

The change happens by the developer opening up the cuticle layer of the hair shaft, to allow the hair bleach or dye to penetrate deeply and take effect. Lower level developers, like 10 and 20, do not open the cuticle as much as the higher levels, like 30 or 40.

If you are looking to lighten the hair with bleach, higher volume developers will be needed to achieve the desired results. If you are looking to add color to the hair, without lifting the existing shade too much, lower levels can be used for the best outcome.

The more hydrogen peroxide that is included in the developer, will determine how much the hair cuticle will be opened, and how much lighter the hair will be lifted to.

Can You Mix Different Developers?

Overall, yes you can mix hair developers together, however it must be a careful process when doing so. If the developer is over-mixed, it can lead to more damage to the hair than normal. Over-mixed developers can dry out the hair and make it look and feel more brittle.

However, there will be instances where in-between volumes will be needed to achieve the desired hair results. In that case, you can mix the required developers together in an equal ratio to achieve the in-between volume. 

What Are The Different Types of Developers?

As mentioned, there are many different volumes of developers that achieve varying results on the hair. Level 10 is the lowest level developer, with each volume increasing slightly in strength.

The level of developers is determined by how much hydrogen peroxide they are formulated with to determine how much they will lighten or change the existing hair color.

Vol 10

Level 10 developer is best used for color treatments that do not need to be lifted and that stays close to the existing tones of the hair already. It is also the volume recommended to be used with toners, to add a tint of color to the hair.

Vol 20

Level 20 is the most commonly used developer for coloring hair. It lifts the existing tones of the hair one to two levels and is best used when subtly lightening the hair. It is also the recommended developer to use with coverage of grey hairs, as it will help to create an even tone to the hair.

Vol 30

Level 30 is a commonly used volume for lightening the hair, as it will lift the existing color up to three levels. This is an ideal developer for light to medium brown hair shades that want to start the process of lightening their hair.

Vol 40

Level 40 developer is meant to lighten the hair for bleaching. It can lift the hair color up to four shades, and can be used to lift any brunette shade to a lighter blonde. It works well for adding lighter highlights into the hair as well.

The higher level developers should be used by a salon professional, as they can be damaging to the hair if not applied properly. While there is a level 50 developer, that can cause significant damage to the hair and is only recommended, if at all, to be used by a professional.

Best Ways To Mix Developers

After knowing what developers are made to do, and what volume works best to achieve which results, knowing the best way to mix together different volumes is an important step to coloring your hair.

Most often, you should not need to combine the different volumes, however there may be times when achieving a different volume is needed for the proper results.

The best way to mix different volume developers together is to split the ratio evenly between the two. It is also important to know the volume level you are trying to achieve when mixing the two developers together, especially if you are looking for an in-between volume.

When mixing the two developers together, you want to take half of each volume to combine in the correct ratio.

If you are looking to achieve an in-between volume, like a 25-level developer, then mixing half the volume of a level 20 and half the volume of a level 30 will give you the desired result.

You may need to create this in-between level if you are looking to lighten the hair more than what a level 20 can offer, however you do not need the intensity of a level 30 developer.

You can also mix together developers from different brands, if you need to, however you want to make sure they are only labeled as developers.

If they are developers mixed with another product or hair color, you do not want to mix it with anything else. Mixing two developers together that are only activators will avoid any potential negative reaction that can come from mixing two products that achieve different results.

There also could be instances where you need to dilute a higher level developer, to lessen its strength and not lighten the hair as much. For example, if there is only level 40 volume developer available, but you do not want your hair to be lifted to four level, diluting the intensity will help achieve the correct results.

In order to dilute a higher level developer, like a level 40, you want to mix a small amount of the developer with a cream conditioner or water to lessen its intensity.


Coloring you hair, especially at home, can be a tricky process to ensure you achieve to desired results. However, knowing how the hair dye is absorbed into the hair and what products will achieve the look you are going for can help make the process easier to carry out.

Developers are a key product to capturing the correct results for your hair color, and creating long-lasting results. 

The different volumes of hair developer will react in various ways with your hair, so it is crucial that you are aware of what each volume can achieve, how to apply the product, and how to mix the developers together if need be for your ultimate hair color results.

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