All About the Base

To break or not to break, that is the question. And it’s a good one, too, because breaking the base—the process of blending or “smudging” natural roots by one level or less before a highlight—can leave hair lighter and warmer (and leave plenty of colorists flummoxed!).

Typically, the technique is performed on very dark or extremely ashy-toned hair, and is a way to avoid breakage caused by overlapping lightener every time you foil. But when to do it, and HOW to do it, can cause even a seasoned pro a few moments of uncertainty.

So let’s clear things up today by getting to the root of the matter…

What should you use? I’ve seen a lot of formulas designed to break the base over the years, but Joico has managed to nail the technique in a very advanced way: Their product—Base Breaker—lifts quickly (in 10-15 minutes) with great control and without the addition of hair-weakening ammonia. You simply intermix the product with equal parts of 20 volume cream developer, process at room temperature, rinse, shampoo, and condition. It’s truly fabulous and consistent.

When should you use it? Sometimes, I’ll have a blonde, highlighted client who’d like to be just a tiny bit lighter and brighter without a drastic change. So prior to foiling, I apply Base Breaker and process for 15 minutes. The results are gentle and give me lots of control over the finished color. The technique is also an option for brunettes and redheads who have dimensional color.

Warm or cool? How to control it? You can forget the hard-to-remember recipes and endless fiddling… Base Breaker comes in a Cool version, which is a great option for clients who dislike the inevitable warmth of the traditional formula. I use it on brunettes when I’m concerned that lightening the hair will result in too much of a red undertone (the dread of many dark-haired clients!). It’s also perfect for blondes who fear becoming overly warm/golden—with them, I’ll actually mix Base Breaker Regular and Base Breaker Cool for a perfectly neutral lift.

What about grey? Here’s where I like to go my own way, by “coloring” the base with a demi (no lift) shade and THEN highlighting the hair. It gives me flattering, interesting, natural-looking shade coverage and grows out so gracefully.

Need more info about this base-ic topic? Shoot me your questions… I’m always here to help!

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