How To Lighten Hair With Developer And Shampoo [The Process And Precautions]

To revamp your looks, lightening your hair can be a fun experience (if done rightly). 

Traditionally, the hair lightening or lifting process involves the use of bleach powder and hair developer. However, hair lightening is now not restricted to bleach and developer only, as there are a few other tried-and-true methods that work just as amazing. Combining hair developer and shampoo to lighten hair is one of the most popular ones. 

Yet, there is still a fair concern about whether this hack can achieve the same lightening effects as one would with the conventional duo. And most importantly, I how to lighten hair with developer and shampoo? We are here to talk you through all of these things!

lightening hair with shampoo and developer
lightening hair with shampoo and developer

How To Prep Your Hair Before Lightening

Before the actual lightening, you should build up the strength of your hair to minimize potential damage to your hair. Below are a few tips to follow:

Use Plenty Of Conditioning Masks

To help your hair get into its best state for lightening, it is advisable to treat your hair with conditioning masks.

This step can make a big difference between silky, lightened hair and straw-like dry, frizzy, and brittle strands.  

Oil Your Hair Regular

Essential oils such as coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil are your hair’s best friends. Within two weeks prior to the lightening, treat your hair with either of these oils three times a week for extra nourishment. 

Coconut oil is our darling when it comes to prepping hair for most chemical processes. The night before lifting your hair, we recommend applying a coconut oil mask to your hair and leaving it overnight. 

Wash Hair With Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Experts generally suggest not to wash hair two days prior since doing so can steal your hair of the natural oil sebum that serves as a protective layer for the scalp against chemicals in the developer. 

The last rule you should stick to is using shampoo labeled as sulfate-free for shampooing. While these formulas don’t create the same lather as their sulfate-based counterparts, they do so without stripping much oil from your hair while rarely irritating the scalp and causing allergic reactions. 

How To Prepare The Mixture

Which Developer To Use?

Hair developer, also known as activator or peroxide, is an essential component in any hair coloring process. Its main ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, which opens the hair cuticle to enable the color pigments to enter the fibers and color them. 

Hair developers come in different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. The higher the number, the greater volume of peroxide, and thus, the more lightening strength the developer has to offer:

10 Volume – 3% Peroxide

The 10 volume developer is the weakest and thus less damaging developer and can only darken the hair by one shade.

This volume is suitable for fine, thin hair that does not have enough strength to hold up to a more powerful volume.

With this developer, you can only go from lighter to darker with this developer, not vice versa.  

20 Volume – 6% Hydrogen Peroxide

Use this volume if you’re after 1 to 2 levels of lifting. It works well with thick tresses due to their greater lightening power, which also means that there’s more damage to your hair.

This is also the most common choice for covering 100% gray hair. 

30 Volume – 9% Hydrogen Peroxide

The 30 volume developer lightens up to 3 levels and lets more color pigments penetrate the hair shafts.

However, due to the higher peroxide concentration, it is inevitable to cause more damage to your tresses. Therefore, this developer is only suitable if you have less damaged hair and want a lighter hair color. 

40 Volume – 12% Hydrogen Peroxide

The 40 volume is not recommended to use without bleach. This developer is the most harmful to the hair strands and is only used when a greater degree of lightening is what you’re after. When mixed with bleach powder, this volume can offer up to 5-8 levels of lift. 

hair developer
hair developer

The choice of developer all comes down to the hair color you start with and the lifting you want to achieve.

For the most part, a 10 volume does not offer much lightening strength, especially when you’re combining it with shampoo, not bleach. So we suggest using either a 20 or 30-volume developer. 

You should not go beyond the 30 volumes. The 40 volume developer not only takes major experience to work with but the hair types that happily interact with it. So, leave it to the hands of the professional!. 

How To Mix?

  • Add two tbsp of the chosen developer into the bowl
  • Add the shampoo. Avoid going overboard with the shampoo, as it can excessively dilute the developer and compromise its effectiveness. Only use your daily lathering dose. 
  • This step is optional, but if you still feel the hair is quite dry for the process, add a small amount of conditioner to the mix. 
  • Give the mixture a good stir so the products can blend well to create a consistent paste.

How To Lighten Hair With Developer And Shampoo

Gather The Tools

Here are what you’ll need for the lightening job:

  • Hair developer of choice
  • Shampoo
  • A plastic bowl
  • Old t-shirt and towel
  • Hair clips
  • An applying brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Shower cap or plastic bag

Step 1: Do An Allergy Test

Make sure you do a patch test to know whether your skin is sensitive or allergic to the products. 

Apply a tiny bit of the paste and spread it to the section inside your elbow with a cotton swab.

Wait a few minutes (maybe 3)! Do not apply the paste if any reaction such as itchiness and redness occurs within this period. When finished, rinse the elbow with lukewarm water.

do an allergy test before lightening your hair!
do an allergy test before lightening your hair!

Step 2: Wet Your Hair

Wear old clothes that you don’t mind the paste staining. Wet your hair as you would when shampooing, and use a dry towel to soak excess water since the mixture works best with slightly damp hair. 

Step 3: Put On Gloves And Start Applying

After putting on your rubber gloves, apply the paste to your hair with a dye brush. 

If you’re spot-lightening, focus on those areas. For a full-head job, begin with the middle of the hair length and work toward the ends. 

If you apply the mixture from tip to root all at once, the roots will become lighter than the rest. It is because the heat emanating from your scalp will force the mixture to work faster and more actively.  

start applying the paste
start applying the paste

Step 4: Cover Hair With A Shower Cap

Right after you saturate your hair with the mixture, you should pop on a shower cap (or a plastic bag or something similar). This locks in the natural heat from your body and speeds up the lifting process. 

Step 5: Now You Wait

The processing time for the mixture should be around 30 minutes. Never go beyond 30 minutes if you don’t want to wreak havoc on your hair.

In the meantime, lift the shower cap and check the hair periodically to see if the hair reaches the desired level. 

Step 6: Rinse With Warm Water

Once your hair reaches the level you desire, or it hits 30 minutes, it’s time to rinse the paste off with lukewarm water.

Don’t use too hot or cold water, which can further damage your hair in its already weak, damaged state. Make sure you get rid of all the paste. 

rinse your hair with lukewarm water
rinse your hair with lukewarm water

Step 7: Let It Dry

Air dry your hair and see the final look! 

Aftercare Tips For Lightened Hair

Load Up On Moisturizing Oil

After lifting your hair, keep moisturizing and nourishing your hair with oil. A healthy dose of either avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil can help your hair quickly restore to health. 

Here’s how to use some of the most common moisturizing oils on damaged, lightened hair: 

Coconut Oil

  • Apply a small amount of coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner. This method is especially recommended for coarse or curly hair as your hair strands can greatly benefit from the oil without appearing greasy. 
  • It is ok to leave the oil in your hair overnight. To remove coconut oils, shampoo and condition your hair as usual. 

Olive Oil

  • Try to not overdo it when it comes to olive oil. Only use 1-2 tbsp for fine and short hair and ¼ cup for thick and long hair. 
  • After massaging the oil into the hair, you’ll need to wrap your hair around a shower cap and let it sit for 15 minutes. Comb through the hair to distribute the oil further before rinsing it out.

Avocado Oil

  • Avocado oil is quite versatile, which can be used as a hair mask or hot oil treatment. 
  • If used as a hair mask, it should be left on your hair for as long as 3 hours to yield the best results. 
  • For hot oil treatment, first place the jar of avocado oil in hot water to heat it up before messaging it into the freshly washed hair. Let it sit for around 20 minutes before washing off. 
apply nourishing oil on hair
apply nourishing oil on hair

Avoid Heat Styling

Your hair is already in its fragile state, so using hot tools only adds up to the toll. If you’re in desperate need and cannot skip heat styling, make sure you use a heat protection spray.  

Use Deep Masks

You should treat your hair the same way as if it were bleached. Lightened hair is dried–out hair, so you should lather on a repairing, deep hair mask once a week.

Drench your hair strands in the mask, and pay special attention to the ends. 

Here’s how to do a moisturizing mask for post-lightening hair:

Coconut Oil + Olive Oil

  • Mix ½ tbsp of melted coconut oil and 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  • Apply a generous amount to your hair, especially to your hydrated ends.
  • Cover your hair with a shower cap and wait for 1 hour.
  • Then, wash with your everyday shampoo and rinse well. 

Olive Oil + Honey

  • Whisk 1 tbsp of honey with 3 tbsp of olive oil until you achieve a smooth consistency. Add more oil, bit by bit, to the mixture if you feel it sticky.
  • Wash your hair with shampoo as usual and let it thoroughly air dry. 
  • Then, section the hair into manageable chunks and start applying the paste.
  • Again, wrap your hair with a shower cap and let it sit for 30-90 minutes.
  • Then, rinse your hair well with warm water and adhere to your regular shampooing routine. 

This treatment works best if applied twice a week on dried-out hair and once a week on oily strands. 

Avocado Oil + Olive Oil

  • Scoop out half of an avocado into the bowl and mash it until it’s lump-free and silk smooth.
  • Add a half cup of olive oil, and stir well.
  • Shampoo your hair as normal before applying the paste to damp strands.
  • Cover it up with a shower cap and wait for around 30-45 minutes.
  • Then, finish up with rinsing and conditioning your hair. 

Depending on how hydrated your strands are, you can use this treatment once a week or once a month. 

Avoid Sunlight And Chlorine Exposure

It makes sense to protect your already damaged strands from the brutal sun’s rays. Wear a hat, at least when you’re out and about in the sun. You can take a step further and apply a special SPF product to your hair. 

For pool lovers, here are a few things you can do to protect your freshly lightened hair: 

  • Pre-rinse your hair with water
  • Apply your conditioner or oil to expel the pool water
  • Wear a shower cap
  • Rinse away all the chlorine with shampoo after your swim

Can You Lighten Hair With Shampoo Alone?

Yes, it’s possible to lighten your hair with a hair-lightening shampoo. This product is ideal for people looking for a gradual, slight change in their hair color with minimal damage. 

However, a little effort and effort will go a long way when using hair-lightening shampoo. It typically takes several months for you to notice the color change (and the change we mean here is usually by one level).  

The Bottom Line

How to lighten hair with developer and shampoo? We hope this guide has walked you through essential steps while attempting to lighten your hair at home with these products. 

While it’s crucial to follow the right procedure when you are spreading the mixture onto your hair, it’s equally important to get your hair happily ready for the process and restore it when everything is said and done.

Jessica

I am Jessica Coles, a hairstyling and trends expert who also holds a master's degree in cosmetology. I am one of the leading hair care experts who has been offering support round the clock.

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