Skip to Main Content

Blurring the Lines: How To Get Gorgeous Shadow Roots at Home

by July 08, 2021

root shadowing

Image by Madison Reed

If you have been relishing your ombré or balayage look but are wondering where a stylish gradient can take you next, look no further than a shadow root.

Root shadowing (also called root shading, stretching, color melting, or just downright beautiful) is a perfect option if you want to try something new and leave traditional single-process hair color behind.

What is Root Shadowing?

Root shadowing is a low-maintenance hair color technique in which a darker shade is applied directly to the roots giving a soft, seamless contrast. It’s a great way to refresh your look and give your hair color depth and dimension. Root shadowing is often seen with balayage highlights (like blonde, highlighted hair with dark roots), but it can actually be done with any hair color.

shadow root made at home

Why You Might Want to Root Shadow

Sure, you could go for a plain old root touch up to refresh your brown hair or your light blonde highlights. Or, you could try a simpler approach with root shadowing. 

Root shadowing is budget-friendly, low-maintenance hair color at its best. Since it’s a blending of dark roots into lighter hair color and the look is intentionally “lived-in,” you don’t have to touch up your roots every few weeks, saving you both money and time.

Root shadowing lets you embrace your forever-growing roots rather than rally against them, which cuts down on the amount of time spent coloring your hair. Plus, you get to avoid the stark “growing out” phase if your natural color is significantly darker than your highlights. 

Hair care for shadow root hair is super simple, too. A sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner should suffice, and can help keep your shadow hair color from fading too quickly. 

Can You Achieve a Root Shadow at Home?

Is it possible to shadow roots at home and to do it perfectly? In a word—YES. You don’t need a stylist or an expensive trip to the salon to pull off a shadow root. But, there are a few important things to keep in mind when adding dark roots to blonde ends or creating a subtle ombré effect in your brunette locks. 

When choosing a shade for your shadow roots, consider your natural hair color. Opt for a dye that’s in the same tone family (warm, cool, neutral, etc.) for best results. If you’re unsure how to pick the best shadow root hair color, chat with a licensed colorist so you can color with confidence. You can even book a free virtual Video Color Consultation

hair color application at hair color bar_madison reed

Free Color Consultations

Visit a Hair Color Bar

Learn More

What Shade Should You Use for Your Shadow Root Hair?

While root shadowing makes most people think of blonde hair with dark roots, it’s truly a universal and highly customizable hair trend. Here’s how to do dark roots and balayage with any hair color.

How to Have Dark Roots with Blonde Hair

Not sure what to use to cover dark roots on blonde hair? This will depend on how dark your natural hair color is. Consult with a professional colorist to ensure you don’t get color that's too dark. You’re going for a subtle “bronde: look—not a stark, obvious contrast between a platinum color and a too-dark brown. 

Blonde shadow root made at home

Shadow Roots for Brown Hair

If you’re a brunette, go deeper with a cool dark brown shadow root. Or turn up the intensity with black hair color for your shadow roots. 

Subtle Shadow Shades for Red Hair

Even redheads can take advantage of a sultry shadow root. Choose a rich cinnamon hue and let your dark root melt into your favorite fiery shade. 

Gray Root Touch Up with a Darker Color

Not a fan of the silver hair poking out from your blonde? Instead of bleaching your roots, choose a darker root shade to add depth and hide those pesky grays.  

How to Color Hair: Dark Roots to Light Ends

You’ve looked through all the dark root hair color ideas, chosen the look you want, and bought the dye. Let’s get this home salon experience started! Here are our tips on how to do a shadow root at home smoothly. 

1. Use the right supplies. If you’re doing your own root shadow, we recommend using a bowl and brush (not the applicator bottle), and keeping the root color as close to your natural color as possible. Using the pointed end of the brush, be sure to carefully section thin slices of hair to get to the roots. 

2. Remember: brush technique matters. Rather than having a severe line where dark roots end and lighter hair begins, you want your colors to blend gradually for subtle ombré hair. To achieve a soft transition, use the broad, flat side of the brush to apply your mixed color, dragging the edge of the brush further down in some places. 

3. Finish strong. Once the color has had time to process, shampoo and condition your hair. Then, we recommend applying a cool hair toner to neutralize any overly warm tones. This can help create a subtle, deep shadow effect rather than too-bright, yikes-worthy hot roots.

Show Off Your Shadow Roots with These Easy Hairstyles

You did it—achieved your perfect shadow root color. Once you’ve enhanced your blonde hair with dark roots or blended your roots in with your balayage, it’s time to show off your hard work. Here are a few hairstyle ideas that showcase the depth in your hair.

- Curls: Wavy or curly hairstyles showcase more dimension of hair color than straight hair. Accentuate your gorgeous shadow root handiwork with some curves.

- Braids: Start a french braid or fishtail low on your head to let your shadow roots shine.

- Low updos: Confining your gorgeous roots to a top knot? No thanks. Show off the blend of colors in your hair with a low bun or simple chignon.

Get Expert Stylist Help When Coloring Your Shadow Roots at Home

Coloring your shadow roots from home doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Reach out to our Color Crew for pro colorist advice on which shade is right for your hair, as well as tips and tricks for root shadow application. 

On our blog, you can also find out information on how to fix a bad hair dye job.

shadow root on brunette

Find the Perfect Balayage!

Create Your Root Shadow

Go Now

Originally Published: 9/5/2018

Updated: 7/8/2021