Is It Possible to Lighten Hair With Developer Alone?

What does hair developer do by itself? If you’ve scrolled through our site before or you simply know a thing or two about hair dyes and hair bleach, you’re most probably aware of the role hair developers play – they are what opens the hair cuticles so that the bleach or hair dye can have a stronger effect.

What if you use a hair developer alone, however? Can it lighten your hair to a noticeable degree by itself or is it going to be more or less pointless?

Will developer lighten hair without bleach?

So, can 20 volume developer lighten hair by itself? Or maybe volume 30 or 40? The simpler answer you’ll hear from most people is that hair developer doesn’t lighten your hair by itself as it’s just a “vehicle” for hair dyes and bleach into the hair.

And while that’s technically true, the simple act of opening your hair’s cuticles can have a slight lightening effect even by itself, especially if you apply some light heat from a hair drier or simple sunlight.

However, we must stress that you should NOT go overboard with either the hair drier or the developer itself! Keep the hair drier on a light setting, don’t spend too much time in the sun, use a volume 20 hair developer t least at first as volumes 30 and 40 can be too damaging, and don’t apply too much of it either. It’s an understandable impulse to use some extra product to “strengthen” its effect but that’s not how hair developer works – putting too much of it will only burn your hair and scalp but it won’t open or lighten your hair any further.

How to lighten hair with developer and shampoo?

Here’s a trick that’s much more effective than using only developer and not nearly as damaging as combining the developer with bleach – mix shampoo and developer. This combination is perfectly capable of removing permanent hair dyes or safely lightening hair by about a tone.

All you need to do is mix two tablespoons of volume 10 or 20 hair developer with a daily dose of shampoo. Then, wet your hair in the shower and towel dry it so that it remains slightly damp. Then, using plastic gloves and a brush, start applying the mixture to your hair, strand by strand. Start from the middle and go down to the ends, then return to cover the hair near the roots.

After that, simply cover your hair with a shower cap and wait somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes, while checking your hair’s color every 5 minutes. Then, just rinse your hair with warm water.

Can you lighten hair with developer and baking soda?

You may have heard that baking soda can help lighten your hair when used together with a hair developer. That’s technically true as the baking soda will alkaline the hair developer and make it more effective. However, we absolutely do NOT recommend trying this comb as baking soda is very damaging to hair, especially with the developer opening its cuticles. Either try the shampoo method above or go with the more standard hair dye or bleach methods.

Categories Boldbarber hair advice
  • Roseanna Page Reply

    I am going for an ombre look with a purple/rasberry/and a light pink at the ends. My question is this, I don’t normally bleach my hair, I usually just dye it. This time to get the effects that I am after I bleached my hair, I only left it in for about an hour (I had no burning sensation or anything) but after I had rinsed it out and put the brassy conditioner that came with it my hair still has a lot of yellow in it and some orange spots. I really didn’t want to “Bleach” my hair again, so I was wondering if the developer method would work just to finish lightening up my hair so that I am able to do that bright ombre look that I was going for?

    • boldbarber Reply

      You can always give it a try, however, it doesn’t mean you should. It’s hard to fully understand your situation without seeing it, though, have you tried buying a different toner? While it won’t make your hair lighter, it will do neutralize yellow and orange undertones and make it look overall better and more even. You can also go to a professional to fix your hair.

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