Can I Use Conditioner Instead of Developer?


The short answer is NO. You can’t use conditioner instead of developer. 

So, before we get in to the topic properly let me ask 3 important questions about hair developer.

1. Do you know about Hair Developer?

A hair developer is an oxidant cream product containing hydrogen peroxide. It is absolutely essential to use a developer while coloring your hair.

2. Do you know the purpose of hair developer?

Without hair developers, hair dye would have absolutely no effect. Because developers are the activators. It helps the color to penetrate in to the hair shaft and become permanent. Hydrogen peroxide which included in developer lifts the cuticle layer of the hair and depending on the strength of the activator the cuticle will lift more or less. So, it helps in opening up the hair cuticle, which allows the color to penetrate deep into the hair and last for a long time.

3. Why do you think that hair need developer?

The volume developer that you should use depends on the results you want to achieve. With hair dye, a low volume developer is enough to lift the hair cuticle just enough for the pigment to slip inside. But when bleaching your, hair you’ll need a higher volume developer.

Conditioner Vs Developer

Conditioner Vs Developer

Hair ingredients which included in hair conditioners, can help you to seal your hair cuticles while introducing moisture and protein into your hair. There are three main types of conditioners;

  • Moisturizing conditioners
  • Deep conditioners
  • Leave-in conditioners

Fatty alcohols, humectants, silicones, surfactants among other ingredients are contain in all of these conditioners. It will have even more ingredients and it’s depending on the type of conditioner. As an example, deep conditioners have proteins, amino acids, oils, esters, fatty acids, and other emollients. If you have dyed or bleached your hair before, you have probably experienced a hair dryness from the procedure and are looking for a more calming conditioner.

You cannot use conditioner instead of a developer as these two hair products have different hair activations. However, you can use industrial hydrogen peroxide or other store-bought oxidizers instead of the developer.

For a better understanding, read more about these two hair products to find out why you can’t use conditioner instead of developer and what you can use instead of conditioner.

Reasons You Can’t Use a Conditioner as a Developer

The peroxide that is in the developer activate the stuff that is in the color and they work in tandem with each other. Furthermore the peroxide opens up the cuticle on each hair strand and that is where the color and a pigment for the color gets deposited when we color treat. The two reasons you can’t use a conditioner instead of a developer as follows;

  • Their ingredients
  • Their nature

You can’t use a conditioner instead of a developer because these two hair products have different hair functions. This means that you cannot use the conditioner as a developer, because instead of opening the hair cuticle, the conditioner will further seal it leaving no room for lifting or coloring of the hair.



Suddenly, you can’t replace a hair developer, because the product was made for those two great reasons. Trying to replace it means that you want to get less satisfying results because no other hair products can do what that developer does. However, if you do not have a developer to use with your hair dye, you can try commercial hydrogen peroxide in liquid form instead of a cream developer.

Other than that, if you want to avoid the developer, you can use semi-permanent dyes that do not contain ammonia and do not require bleach to apply it. Also, there are several alternative products to lighten hair without bleaching.

Your only problem is measuring. Look, its maximum concentration should be 12% or you risk burning your hair. Alternatively you can use basic hydrogen peroxide liquid. So, the creamy hair developer you get from the store is the safest option you have. Because it is regulated and more stable, but it does not means you cannot use the industrial hydrogen peroxide.

There are so many options, all you need is to be the most stable. Another option is chemical oxidizers. The oxidizer acts in a similar way, activating the bleach, which combines with the melanin in the hair to break it down into smaller ‘colorless’ molecules. Oxidizers will be your last choice as they are not as clean and safe as hydrogen peroxide. Your final option will have to be using hair dyes that don’t require a developer.

But, keep this in your mind…! Your final option should include following things:

Plant-Based Colors:              Plant-based dyes start with plants such as henna and indigo. Red wine, tea, walnut and chamomile. These plant-based dyes are safer and do not require alkaline agents to activate them. All you need to do is mix the plant ingredients with hot water to make a paste. Apply to hair and leave it for about an hour.

Semi-Permanent Colors:                  These semi-permanent hair dyes are very easy to apply as they are ready to apply. They do not need developers and all you have to do is mix the colors and apply it to the hair. Oxidative processes and substitutes are not required.

Demi-Permanent Colors:                 This is a mixture of permanent and semi-permanent hair dye. Semi-permanent colors contain a mixture of color shades and undeveloped para-hair types. The precursors of the hair type are oxidants and must react with oxygen to grow. However, you don’t need the cream developer with a 6% concentrate. You can mix the dye with a weak hydrogen peroxide solution.

If I conclude this…

Now you know…You can’t use conditioner instead of developer. But there are also various options to change your hair color without traditional hair dye.

One last piece of advice and golden rule for your hair…

Before you using any of these products, think carefully about what you want for your hair.


  1. Can I dilute developer (or bleach) with conditioner?

    Yes, if you are diluting a bleach mixture, it is better to use shampoo. If you are using a color mixture, use conditioner. A couple pumps of either will dilute most formulations down by about 10 vol or 25%. of course the batch size is a consideration. But, it is recommend to consult a haircare expert or doctor, if you have any kind of hair care issue with you.

  2. Can I substitute a developer when I bleach my hair if I don’t have any developer?

    Without a developer, or hydrogen peroxide, you can’t break down the melanin pigments in your hair. There are a lot of questions you need to know.

    • Have you bleached your hair before?
    • Are you doing a retouch on your roots only or are you bleaching all over for the first time?
    • What product brand bleach are you using?
    • What color is your hair before bleaching?
    • What toner are you going to use?

    However, that’s not the most wonderful idea. There are certain bleaches and developers (different manufacturers) that put ingredients into their products which actually help maintain some semblance of healthy hair.

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