What is a Base Breaker in Hair Color?

A base breaker lightens your roots.

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While “base breaker” sounds more like a military term than something that makes your hair look great, it might be your new best friend if you’d like to extend time between color treatments. A base breaker can be a pre-mixed or mixed application of hair dye that lightens your hair about one shade. Most stylists apply it to the roots you sport after a few weeks of growth -- everybody’s got 'em -- so you can refresh your hair color without going through the full dye process

Who Needs It?

If you dye or highlight your hair a few shades lighter than your natural hair color, you probably deal with some root regrowth. Unless you’re Sarah Jessica Parker and can get away with the roots, asking your stylist for a base breaker treatment can lighten your hair about one shade (the effect is subtle) to reduce the contrast between your roots and your hair. Because breaking the base doesn’t involve applying as many harsh chemicals to your hair, it can minimize breakage and extend the amount of time between your color treatments.

Mix It Up

Another term for a base breaker is a “soap cap.” Your stylist can mix up this seemingly magic potion that contains liquid shampoo to keep your hair soft while also lightening it. The typical combo for a soap cap involves mixing 3 ounces liquid shampoo, 2 ounces of 20-volume peroxide developer and 1 ounce of on-the-scalp oil bleach, according to Hairfinder.com. Once the ingredients are mixed, your stylist can work them in to your roots, or your whole head if you like. After about three to eight minutes, the mixture is rinsed away and you have less-noticeable roots (what’s not to like?).

Pre-Mixed Base

When your hair starts to grow out, your roots are known as virgin hair, meaning dyes or chemical solutions haven’t been applied to the hair. Hair product manufacturers have created a way to break this base without any mixing involved, which works really well if you want a fast lightening treatment. As an added bonus, manufacturers may add in moisturizers and other shine-inducing ingredients that can lighten your virgin hair growth by a shade.


Breaking the base can be a great pick-me-up for some hair colors, but it won’t work for everyone. If your hair has warm undertones, like a brassy red color after you dyed your hair blond, breaking the base will only make you look brassier. Instead of focusing on just the roots, your stylist may suggest a toner that can reduce brassiness and make your roots less showy.

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