Hairdressing Peroxide :
also known as cosmetics grade hydrogen peroxide V10, V20, V30, and V40

I went on a shopping trip today to a local beauty supply store. Was I out looking for the latest in salt scrubs or mousse? Nope. I was out to visit the hairdressing peroxide for sale.

Peroxide is called Developer

The first thing I learned is that the peroxide at the beauty store is called “developer”. I think it is used along with some other stuff (“activators”). There were a number of other products nearby that had a hodge-podge of stuff in them.

V40 hydrogen peroxide for hairdressing

If you'd like to know how to use peroxide on hair, here is an article about how hairdressers use peroxide for lightening and coloring hair.

According to the label, the peroxide I bought is used with bleach, tint, and toner. (Yes, I bought some peroxide! All for “research”.)

There are 2 types of developer for sale: “liquid developer” (which is plain clear hydrogen peroxide), and “creme developer”. The creme developer is white (as opposed to clear) and it has oil and several other ingredients, in addition to hydrogen peroxide. I certainly would not consider buying the “creme developer” to use around the house – there’s way too much other stuff in it. (Guess which kind I bought?)

What does Volume mean?

If you want to shop for hairdressing peroxide, you’ll want to note that it is that it is sold by VOLUME rather than by PERCENTAGE. (Volume is also called “volume strength”.)

Volume is the amount of oxygen that is contained in a given amount of peroxide. For example, 3% hydrogen peroxide is V10 or 10 volume, because it will release 10 times it’s volume in oxygen. One pint of 3% hydrogen peroxide will release 10 pints of oxygen as it breaks down. Gee, now there is something to think about. Of course, V20 will release twice as much oxygen, 20 times its volume. This is getting pretty fantastic, and we are only up to 6% hydrogen peroxide here….

V10, V20, V30, and V40

The peroxide for sale at beauty stores will have the following labels: V10, V20, V30, V40. Some brands may also say the percentage of peroxide along with the volume. Some may not.

This VOLUME...... contains this PERCENTAGE
of hydrogen peroxide
10 volume or V10 3%
20 volume or V20 6%
30 volume or V30 9%
40 volume or V40 12%

Cosmetics grade peroxide

The peroxide in these products is cosmetics grade hydrogen peroxide. So, what’s that mean?

I have found multiple sources that say that cosmetics grade peroxide contains “high levels” or “extremely high levels” of stabilizers, but I have not found what the stabilizers are that are used. The reason for the stabilizers is to reduce the breakdown of the peroxide (into water and oxygen). Cosmetics grade peroxide is relatively dilute (low concentration) and needs to have a relatively long shelf life.

Because of the stabilizers, I would not use hairdressing peroxide for anything relating to people, plants, or animals. I know that some people do use V40 to feed to plants, for example. I’d rather use food grade peroxide, without the stabilizers, for that. You could use it to clean your floor and mirrors (but eventually everything goes back to the environment).

Bargain hunting…..

So, what are the prices like for cosmetics grade peroxide?

The prices are kind of odd, in that it’s about the same price for V10 as it is for V40. Usually you would expect to pay much more for something that is 4 times as concentrated, right? This seemed really funny to me! But this appears to be standard for hairdressing peroxide.

Well, if you are price shopping, here is how the price compares to buying 3% peroxide:

BRAND and concentration % hydrogen peroxide Retail price - 1 pint (US$ Aug 2007)
Price per pint of 3% (US$ Aug 2007)
Ms. Kay Dioxygen 10 vol 3% $3.49 $3.49
Ms. Kay Dioxygen 20 vol 6% $3.49 $1.75
Ms. Kay Dioxygen 40 vol 12% $2.99 $0.75
Clarioxide 20 vol 6% $3.49 $1.75
Clairoxide 30 vol 9% $3.99 $1.33
Clairoxide 40 vol 12% $3.49 $0.87

Compared to buying 3% peroxide at the drugstore, buying V40 is a bit cheaper. A pint of 3% at the drugstore costs around $1.50? Maybe under a dollar, on sale? It’s not a lot of difference either way.

By the way, I buy 35% food grade peroxide in large quantities (15 gallons). The cost works out to about US$1.50 per gallon of 3%. That is, after I dilute it from 35% to 3%, the cost is about $1.50 per gallon. And then I use food grade for everything. Much easier than trying to keep track of which one has which stabilizers in it. So, buying food grade peroxide does not necessarily cost more.

Other things I learned from the label

“For professional use only.”

It’s made with deionized water. (One brand lists the ingredients as “deionized water, cosmetics grade hydrogen peroxide” – the other brand didn’t list ingredients.)

The “Ms. Kay” 12% peroxide has an expiration date of Dec 2008 (It is August 2007 as I’m writing this.)

Cautions listed: strong oxidizer, causes irritation, effects may be delayed, not for medicinal use, avoid contact with eyes or skin. If irritation occurs, flush with water. In case of eye contact or ingestion, get professional medical help. Store in a cool place out of sunlight. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.

That all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Another brand said to keep the bottles in a cool place, out of sunlight, as they might burst in heat. That also sounds reasonable. (And, yes, I have heard bottles can burst! If the peroxide starts to break down, there’s all that oxygen in there. So keep it in a cool place and out of sunlight.)

Spray bottles from the beauty store…

While I was at the beauty supply store, I bought some nice spray bottles. I’ll use these for 3% peroxide for housecleaning, and also a much more diluted peroxide for spraying a fern.

spray bottles from the beauty supply store

Return from hairdressing peroxide to the home page for using hydrogen peroxide ...

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