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Developer Doesn't Have a Brain

Developer doesn't have a brain

Listen to me, please, 10 volume doesn't give one level of lift, 20 volume doesn't give 2, 30 volume doesn't give 3 and 40 volume doesn't give you 4 levels of lift!!!

I know I know, this is quite contrary to what you may have been taught. I'm going to ask you to put your thinking cap on for a second here, with a question:

If I use a level 3N color, with 40 volume, on a client that has level 3 hair...will she end up at a level 7?

Nope. Not going to happen. Right? RIGHT.

But, if 40 volume gives you F O U R levels of lift, in theory, she "should" be at a level 7, right? WRONG.

Today's post is all about developers and why what you have been taught isn't all the way true.

Get ready, this might just have you questioning everything.

Let's talk developers! I feel like there are a lot of us who don't quite understand what a developer is, what it does, and most importantly how to use it FOR you.

First, I want to talk about the ROLE of developer in the hair coloring process (which is very different than the bleaching process).

The role developer plays in the coloring process:

- Developer is 1 of the 3 MAIN ingredients to make the hair coloring process happen. The other two main ingredients are an ALKALIZER + DYES.

- Developer is responsible for DELIVERING the dyes that are in a tube of color through the cuticle layers and INTO the cortex of the hair. Think of it like the gas in your car. Nothing is going to happen (with oxidative color) unless the developer is mixed into the bowl. Once those dyes have been delivered into the cortex, the developer helps activate the couplers and allows the dyes to band together so that we can see the color developing.

- Developer is also responsible for DEVELOPING those dyes. They're called dye intermediaries. The dyes are usually colorless chemical molecules and once they are exposed to developer and the oxygen that developer releases, they begin to DEVELOP into the colors that we see.

- Developer will fracture melanin + pigment. Remember, melanin is what gives hair its color. What the developer does with the help of an alkalizer (typically ammonia which softens and "opens" the cuticle) is break up that melanin into smaller pieces. Essentially, the developer pokes holes (remember, it's "like gas") in the melanin and cortical fibers of the hair. As more holes are created in the melanin, more and more light can pass through the hair making it appear lighter and lighter.

Here's the kicker, how much lightness you achieve and how much melanin you fracture is not ONLY based on your developer choice. It's also based on the LEVEL of color you use.

Maybe you've heard this before..."THE LIFT IS IN THE TUBE"

Lighter levels of hair color tend to have more alkalinity in them. (think of alkalinity as "lifting power")

So when you use a lighter level of hair color, you are giving the developer more "alkalinity" which will help in achieving a lighter result. Basically, what's happening is the developer releases more oxygen when it's mixed with a more alkaline product. The more oxygen it releases, the more melanin gets broken you a lighter undertone.

Regarding my question earlier, using a level 3 color with 40 volume on a natural level 3 client...the reason she will NOT get to a level 7 with the 40 volume is simply because a level 3 hair color has WAY more depositing abilities than it does LIFTING power.

The most important thing you need to consider is this:

The choice of which level of color you are going to use is JUST AS IMPORTANT as the developer.

Higher levels of developer naturally have more oxygen in them, so YES, using a higher developer WILL give you the opportunity to achieve more "lift" because there is more "oxygen to release" but it 10000000% depends on what level of color you mix it with.

Can I be very honest with you all?

I RARELY will use anything above a 20 volume when coloring hair. My 40 volume collects dust. Let me tell you why:

  • Most manufacturers test all of their color with 20 volume. It's an industry standard. I'll explain the relevance, shortly.

  • Remember when I said that developers fracture melanin + pigment? Yeah, well here's something to consider. It develops the dyes, but it also has the power to fracture them.

See, when I use a 30 or 40 volume with my color, what CAN happen is that the dyes in the bowl will get more sheer and I won't get as great of a deposit. Think about it. The manufacturer tests with 20 volume. 20 volume is what is needed to get the best dye development based on the manufacturer. So when I use a higher volume, I will not only get a brighter undertone, I may not get the depth of the deposit that I am looking for.

This is especially relevant with REDS!

But if you've been taught that 20 volume gives you 2 levels of lift, then how do you get 3 or 4 levels of lift with hair color? I use the law of alkalinity. I would much rather go in with a lighter color (there's a formula for this I teach in my FUNdamentals Course-Shop) than a higher developer. At the end of the day, developer doesn't have a brain. You have to think about what you're mixing the developer with, how alkaline is the color, what is the canvas you're putting the color on...etc.

There are so many nuances when it comes to coloring hair, but what we work with are chemicals. They don't know when to stop lifting or depositing. It's up to you, as the colorist and the professional to understand your canvas, your chemicals, the laws of color, and how to take all of that and make it work.

Check out the FUNdamentals Course-Shop for a deep dive into understanding the chemicals you work with and SO MUCH MORE!

Until next time,

Happy Hair Coloring


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