How to Do a Shadow Root


Woman with Shadow Root
@kenraprofessional via Instagram powered by Squarelovin

Few women’s hairstyles are as trendy in the post-pandemic era as the shadow root. This no-fuss ‘do has been rocked by many trend-setting hair icons, including Lucy Hale, Hailey Baldwin and Margot Robbie, and it’s not hard to see why everybody loves it. It’s chic, effortlessly cool and low-maintenance to boot. What could be better? Mastering the technique is a great way to make sure you’re on top of the latest and greatest hair trends for your clients.

In this guide, we’ll go over how to do a shadow root using professional hair color and the very best techniques.

First, what is a shadow root?

Experienced stylists will have no trouble understanding why clients are racing to book appointments for a shadow root. This fashionable color choice embraces the natural hair growth process, which means easy maintenance for your clients. It features darker roots that seamlessly transition into a lighter shade, creating a naturally “grown out” look that stays gorgeous for months.

With a shadow root, also sometimes called a “root smudge,” the color change is much more gradual than the more dramatic ombré looks that dominated the hair scene in the past. Stylists can experiment with the length, depth and color of both shades, which allows them to create a custom and unique look depending on the client’s needs and preferences.

Woman with Blonde Hair
@alternahaircare via Instagram powered by Squarelovin

The best part? Because the style is meant to mimic the look of grown-out hair, it’s often considered much less maintenance than a full color treatment. As we all know, keeping naturally dark hair a lighter shade can be a chore and constant upkeep is required if your client wants blonde from root to ends. This makes the shadow root appealing to those who want to cut down on time and costs associated with hair styling.

The shadow root is most often done with dark roots and lighter ends, but it can work with a variety of color combinations, even pastels. Of course, the further you stray from the client’s natural base tone, the more maintenance the style will require.

Shadow Root Tutorial and Tips

If you’re looking to add this technique to your services menu — and trust us, you should! — make sure you have a plan in place to ensure the best possible results for your client. Here are the steps to take when applying the shadow to any guest.

  1. Choosing the Right Color — Color is a huge part of the process, and you’ll only be able to determine what’s right for your client by starting with a thorough consultation. Every client is different, but there are some important things to keep in mind when creating the shadow effect. Here are some tips to ensure that you get it right:
    • If your client likes their natural root shade, don’t darken or lighten it. A glossing treatment will help liven up their natural shade without altering the color and keeping it natural will minimize maintenance. Take a look at our salon hair care products for shine and gloss solutions.
    • If your client wants to alter their root shade, be sure to formulate it slightly darker than the client’s natural base color. Don’t go too dark, as you’ll have to lighten these strands during touch-ups, which could cause damage and banding.
    • Make sure to use complementary colors on the root and the ends for the most natural transition. In other words, don’t use a cool, ashy blonde on the ends if you’re going for warm roots or vice
  2. Applying the Color — For the best results, make sure you’re applying color to the root in an even way that creates that natural, grown-out style. Working from the neck, parcel hair off in thin sections, starting with the back and moving through the sides and front. Apply the color at the root using a brush and swift, downward movements.
    • It’s best to apply horizontally in the back and vertically in the front and sides to create a nicely framed look.
    • Consider going a touch darker on the bottom and mid-section roots to reflect the way that natural sunlight may affect hair color.
    • Create a natural transition, diffusing color seamlessly, by working through the color with a comb.
    • Leave the hairline for last in its own section so you can paint it exactly how you want, creating those perfect final showpieces.

Woman getting hair colored in a salon

Last, but not least: Don’t forget to educate your clients on how to care for their new color. Using top-quality professional hair care products and practicing proper hair maintenance will help ensure that hair grows out gorgeously and maintains its beautiful coloring until their next visit.


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