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What Happens If You Put Too Much Developer Into Your Dye?


Ugly Duckling Color & Developer

Choosing the Right Developer Strength & Getting the Mix Right Are Really Important For the Final Color Result.

Bullet-Point Summary - Getting your Developer Use Right

  • Choose your developer strength according to the number of levels of lift you are trying to achieve.
  • The rules when using color are as follows:
    1. 20 Vol for 1-2 levels lift, blonde toning and grey hair coverage.
    2. 30 Vol for 2-3 levels lift
    3. 40 Vol for 3 levels lift and more.
  • The rules when using bleach are:
    1. 20 Vol for the regrowth area and for 1-2 levels lift
    2. 30 Vol for 3 levels lift and more, only for the lengths.
  • The rules for developer mix are:
    1. 1+1 mix for Ugly Duckling regular color
    2. 1+2 mix for Ugly Duckling toners and high lift colors
    3. 1+2 mix for Ugly Duckling bleaches.


1. What does the Developer do when I mix it with the Color?

The developer, also sometimes known as activator, is essentially hydrogen peroxide in a cream base.
The higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the higher "Vol" of developer: 10 Vol, 20 Vol, 30 Vol, 40 Vol.
The developer helps open the hair cuticle and activate the hair color.
If used by itself (ie without color or bleach) the developer will lift the hair color, but the color result will not be good.
For best results, you need to mix developer with a color.

2. What are the commonly used Developer Strengths?

10 Volume Developer...also known as 3%
20 Volume Developer....also known as 6%
30 Volume Developer...also known as 9%
40 Volume Developer...also known as 12%

The percentages above refer to the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the developer
The higher the concentration, the more "lift" the developer has.

3. So Which Developer Strength Should I Use? 

Use 10 Vol for level on level-on-level coloring and going darker.
Use 20 Vol for 1-2 levels lift, for toning blonde hair and for grey hair coverage.
Use 30 Vol for 2-3 levels lift
Use 40 Vol for 3 levels lift and more.

And if you are using bleach and trying to go significantly lighter, then use either 20 Vol developer (1-2 levels lift) or 30 Vol developer (3 levels lift or more).

Refer to the hair color chart below to calculate how many levels you need to lift by.

Hair Coloring Levels

First, figure out where your hair is currently.

Use the left side of the chart below to figure out what level your natural hair color (virgin hair) is on a scale of 1-10.
If you have lengths which have been previously bleached or colored, you can use the right side also to help you figure out the underlying level.

So for example if there is orange in your hair, you are at level 5 Light Brown. If there is a lot of yellow/orange, you are somewhere between level 6 and level 7.

Next, figure out what level you are aiming for.

If, for example you are going for a true blonde color, the answer would be either 9 or 10.

Finally, subtract the two numbers to figure out the level lift required.

Assume your regrowth is level 5. That would mean that you need to lift it by 5 levels.

Or assume. your hair is level 6 everywhere and once again you are going for a true blonde color level 10. That would mean that you would need to lift by around 4 levels.

Make sure you do this calculation for every part of your hair, because your regrowth could be one level and your previously colored lengths could be another.

So in the 2 cases above, the lift required is more than 3 levels everywhere, and you will need to use an Ugly Duckling bleach or high lift color.

4. Why Use 20 Vol Developer for Toning? 

Toning is level on level, so 10 Vol, Right?
Umm...not so fast!!
If you are toning at a dark blonde level or lower, you can go ahead and use 10 Vol Developer.
It will last less long than using 20 Vol, but the result will be OK.
But when you are trying to go blonde, using 10 Vol developer is unlikely to give you good results.
In general, 20 Vol opens the cuticle more, allows the hair's natural melanin to escape and deposits vibrant pigments much deeper than 10 Vol will do.
This is why 20 Vol generally produces more vibrant color results than 10 Vol.
Most Ugly Duckling stylists use 20 Vol in the videos that we put out on Facebook.
That is how they get those beautiful platinum and ultra white ash blonde results.

Brassy Hair

Brassy Hair

Take a look at the pictures above. It's a very typical case.
The hair is really very brassy in certain areas and actually dark blonde in others.
As a hairdresser you should really be using bleach to lift up the dark parts first. That would be the correct thing to do.
You could instead use Ugly Duckling's Intense Pearl Blonde toner with 20 Vol & that would work too. 
What would not work is to tone with 10 Vol on this type of hair.

5. Why Use 20 Vol Developer for Grey Hair Coverage? 

So when I am doing grey hair coverage, that's level-on-level. So I use 10 Vol, Right?
Umm...once again...not so fast!
If you have 25% grey hair or less than 10 Vol will be OK.
But once again, the fact that 10 Vol developer does not penetrate deeply into the hair cuticle will penalise your end result.
For more than 25% grey hair, we recommend 20 Vol rather than 10 Vol.
You will be softening the cortex more and depositing color pigments deeper, not just coating the outside.
The hair color will also last longer that way.

6. How Much Developer Should I Use for Ugly Duckling Color, Toner & Bleach?

The recommended mix ratio for Ugly Duckling Color is 1 part color to 1 part developer for most of our colors.
The recommended mix ratio for Ugly Duckling Toners (Intense Pearl Blonde, Intense Silver Blonde, Pearl Blonde Toner, Silver Blonde Toner) is 1 part color to 2 parts developer.
The recommended mix For Ugly Ducking High Lift Colors (anything beginning with the number 100) is also 1 part color to 2 parts developer.
The recommended mix for Ugly Duckling Bleach (Brilliant Blonde), is 1 part Brilliant Blonde to 2 parts developer.

7. If I use More Developer Will I Get More Lift?

No, it does not work like that.
Whatever strength you use, the mix should always stay the same. 
People sometimes think they can put in more developer to achieve greater lift. Not true. 
You can add in a little more developer if you want a runnier mix in order to work fast. 
You can also add in a little less developer.a thicker mix in order to do balayage techniques.
Both these cases are explained more fully later on.
But in general, if your hair is too dark and you want to lift a lot, you need to adjust the developer strength as above, not the mix.
If that does not give you the lift you are looking for, the answer is to use high lift color or bleach, not add in more developer!

8. How Should I Get the Color & Developer Ratio Right?

Experienced colorists can get the developer mix right by just pouring in & looking at the mix - but we don't recommend this!!
In general, it is better to measure using a professional mixing bowl or kitchen scales.
If you are new to coloring, we suggest you use weighing scales. Set the scale to zero with an empty coloring bowl on it.
Then add in your color into the bowl and weigh again, so you know exactly how much you have out in. 
Do the same when you add in the developer.
You can also measure color off of the percentage of tube squeezed. For example, Ugly Duckling color tubes contain 3.5 oz.
So if you are using a whole tube of Ugly Duckling color, you need 3.5 oz of developer. (1:1 ratio)
If you are using a whole tube of Ugly Duckling toner or high lift color, you need 7 oz of developer (1: 2 ratio)

Toner & Developer Mix

Ugly Duckling Intense Pearl Blonde Toner with 20 Vol Developer in a 1:2 mix.
This ratio will give you a smooth, creamy mix which will give you good product saturation.

9. Does More Developer Make the Bleach Mixture Stronger?

No, it will not do that. All bleaches are designed with a certain mix in mind.
Ugly Duckling bleaches function very well with a 1:2 mix and will give you the lift that you need.
For the root area and for 1-2 level lifts, use 20 Vol developer and in most cases that should be perfect.
For higher lifts, use 30 Vol developer. Re-apply if necessary if the hair is very dark.
With Ugly Duckling bleaches you should never have to use 40 Vol developer & we don't recommend it.

Bleach & Developer mix

Ugly Duckling Brilliant Blonde mixed with 30 Vol developer in a 1:2 mix.
This fairly runny mix will be easy to apply, give you good product saturation & will enable you to work fast.

10. What Happens If I Put Too Much Developer In The Dye?

Your mix will be more wet, & more runny.
If it is way too runny, you may end up lightening the hair, but not depositing enough color. It will end up thinner, flatter and last less long.

11. Are There Any Cases Where it is a Good Idea to Deliberately Put in Extra Developer?

Putting in more developer will give you a runnier solution.
This is helpful when you want to saturate the hair (cover the hair with product) really really well and evenly. You will get a more even color result and you will tend to avoid patches.This is particularly important in full head applications.
A runnier solution will allow you to work fast. This may be an important factor when your client's hair is long and you want to give all the hair the same processing time roots to ends.
Very often, expert colorists tend to go with a runnier solution for the above reasons. Many of the artists who produce video tutorials for Ugly Duckling do actually use fairly runny mixes (See below)
Even when going with a runnier solution, aim at a maximum mix of 1:1.5 for Ugly Duckling Color and 1:2.5 mix for Ugly Duckling Lighteners (Brilliant Blonde) and toners. Any more and you may be compromising color results.

12. What Happens If I Put Too Little Developer in The Dye?

Your mix will be too dry, and you won't be able to saturate the hair properly with product and you may also get uneven and patchy color results.
You will not be lifting out enough of the hair's natural melanin.
This will mean you may end up with darker hair than you wished for.

13. Are There Any Cases Where it is A Good Idea to Deliberately Put in Too Little Developer?

It will help if you want to do a balayage technique (free painting with dye brush) and you want to position the color accurately and not have any product dripping off the brush.
Balayage artists tend to work with thicker color mixes. This helps avoid putting on too much product in one go and thus avoid visible lines of demarcation.
It will also help if you are looking to do grey hair coverage and your client has difficult to cover grey hair. You will get a darker color result, but you will be able to improve grey hair coverage.
Even when going for a less runny solution, aim at a minimum mix of 1:0.8 for Ugly Duckling Color and 1:1.5 mix for Ugly Duckling Lightener (Brilliant Blonde) and toners.

14. How Long Will Developer Keep?

You need to discard your developer bottle within 12 months of opening.
In any case, in a busy hair salon developers will not last that long!
Care needs to be taken to always store developers (and indeed, color) in a cool and if possible dark place where it is not exposed to sunlight.

15. Do I Need to Match the Developer Brand to the Color?

As long as you are using a good quality cream developer, you will be fine.
You don't need to match the developer to the color.


Choose your developer strength according to how many levels you need to lift.
If you need to lift by more than 3 levels, you will need to first lift using a high lift color or bleach, then tone.
Only use 10 Vol for less than 25% grey coverage and going darker.
For anything else 20 or 30 Vol should be the natural choice.
Don't try to short-cut the coloring process by either using a higher developer strength than you should be using, or by pouring in more developer than you should be using - we guarantee you that that will not work!
Instead, follow the coloring rules we have provided and you should get excellent coloring results - especially when you use Ugly Duckling products!

Video of a Bleach & Developer Mix Followed by a Color & Developer Mix

Watch this video to the end: you will see both a bleach mix as well as a color mix (10.2 Extra Light Cool Blonde)
Both mixes are in line with what we at Ugly Duckling Color recommend: 1:2 for the bleach and 1:1 for the color.
Please note that the colorist, Elona Taki, is an experienced colorist and she is pouring in her developer by sight.
Once again, we don't recommend this for new colorists.
But please do observe the mix results, which are great, and please do try and get these mix results when using Ugly Duckling products.

Hair by Elona Taki.

Video of a Toner & Developer Mix 

In this short video, you can see the application of Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V with 20 Vol Developer.
The stylist, Ashley, has done a mix of 1 part toner to 2 parts developer - which is what we recommend for toners.
It allows you to work fast - and in this case, our model's hair was super long and we needed to work fast.
The toner sat on our model's hair for about 20 minutes in total.

Hair by Ashley Betancourt.

Video of Ugly Duckling Hair Color 10.1b Color & Developer Application.

In this video, the stylist Brittney is applying 10.1b which is once again a color.
The mix here is 1 part color to 1 part developer.
You can see the thickness of consistency that our stylist got with this mix.
The color was left to process the full 30 minutes in order to get the full richness and intensity of this very unusual blue based ash blonde color.

Hair by Brittney Perez.

Looking for your personalized guide to developer choice (including full recipe)? Then go here.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.