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Shadow Root Hair: The Newest Low-Maintenance Hair Trend

Are you looking to spruce up your hair color without getting too bold or high maintenance? Consider a shadow root hairstyle to add depth to your existing color without starting a cycle of frequent touch-ups. 

The trend focuses on darker roots that blend into lighter strands for a natural yet striking look that’s incredibly easy to maintain. From what makes this style a trend to how you can create a versatile style at home, we’ve got you covered.

What is a Shadow Root?

Shadow root hairstyle
Shadow Root Hairstyle

Shadow root hairstyles go by a range of names, including smudging, shading, color melting, or stretching, but they all refer to the same timeless trend. Darkening your roots adds contrast and depth to set off the lighter shades.

While this look is common with balayage highlights, it works with any shade. It also means you don’t have to dye your entire head or commit to regular follow-ups for touching up the color.

Pros and Cons of Shadow Root Hair

Here are a few pros and cons of shadow root hair to think about before beginning the process.


  • It lends a sense of depth and complexity to hair
  • Works well for people with naturally lighter hair color
  • It helps blend harsh lines between highlights and lowlights
  • Requires minimal hair maintenance


  • It might not be suitable for every skin tone, hair color, or hair type
  • Not ideal for thinning hair
  • Frequent dying can lead to damaged roots

How to Do a Shadow Root at Home

shadow root process

Achieving the perfect shadow root look can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with hair styling. However, by following these simple steps and using the right products, you can create a stunning shadow root hairstyle in no time.

Step 1: Choose a shade two shades darker than your natural hair color.

Step 2: Apply the dye evenly throughout your roots, making sure not to get any on the rest of your hair.

Step 3: Leave it to set for around 30 minutes before rinsing it off with cold water.

Step 4: Blow dry or flat iron as desired and style accordingly.

Consider using a toner to enhance the color and make it look more natural. Don’t forget to follow up with a deep conditioning treatment to nourish your hair.

How to Maintain and Touch Up Your Shadow Roots

shadow roots maintenance

One of the main selling points for shadow root hairstyles is how low-maintenance they are, however, you can prolong the time between touch-ups with proper daily care.

  • Choose a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner with nourishing ingredients, like argan oil, to keep your hair healthy.
  • Avoid overusing heat-styling and brushing too vigorously because both can further weaken your hair and cause breakage.
  • Wear loose hairstyles, like loose braids, that show off your color without stressing the strands.

When it’s time for a touch-up, follow the process you used initially. Though some people still do touch-ups every four to six weeks, many people wait longer because the style works that well.

Since you don’t need to lighten your hair again, you only have to touch up the roots, meaning you can focus on keeping them relatively dark. It’s possible to pick up a root touch-up spray in a similar shade to cover the new growth and stretch the time between dye jobs.

Browse the hairstyles below to see if your perfect fit is in there. You’ll certainly find something that you like.

Messy Golden Curls

middle part blonde hairstyle with shadow root

Messy hairstyles are popular as they give a carefree and naturally fabulous look. This golden hue helps add to the natural appearance.

There are some perfectly formed curls towards the front here. However, the back is left freer with flyaway hairs and a wavy texture. The roots are almost black.

Thick Blonde Curls with Dark Roots

curly blonde hair with shadow root

Dark brown that’s almost black is a very common shade in the shadow root look as it adds the most depth. 

Curly hair like this definitely needs a lot of depth to help define where the parting in your hair is. Here there’s a middle parting and these small, tight curls with lots of volume fall into the face and down the shoulders and back.

Sleek Straight Champagne Blonde Locks

champagne blonde hair with shadow root

Long locks in one solid shade of blonde can often wash you out. Adding a shadow root like this helps bring depth back into your look.

It helps you look very natural with a defined hairstyle. The overall shade of the rest of the tresses makes you look glamorous.

Blue and Black Half Up Space Buns

blue space buns with shadow root hair

It’s not just blonde hair that looks great with your natural color showing. All hair colors look fabulous with this trend.

As you can see here, black and blue go incredibly well together. Even more of the darkness is visible thanks to the hairstyle. It’s half up and pulled into little space buns at the sides of the head.

Chic Bob with Side Parting

short blonde hair with shadow root

Bobs are a great hairstyle to wear in summer. They let you have your hair very free without the risk of it getting too tangled. That’s great due to the summer vibes that shadow roots produce.

Pairing both of these amazing hair trends will truly set you apart.

Loose Wavy Hairstyle

wavy blonde hair with shadow root

Waves always look incredibly natural and carefree when they’re loose like this. The very top of the hair strands appear straight, but the rest is wavy. Some of the waves are pulled over to one side of the head to add volume and fun to the look.

Most of the hair is blonde, and it’s almost black towards the parting. This creates such a dynamic and lively style.

Straight Light Blonde with Blunt Ends

straight blonde hair with shadow root

Very light blonde has been a wonderful trend for a couple of years now. However, it can often make you look very plain when it’s straight and all in one tone.

Adding a dark greyish brown around the parting helps it appear more like a natural color with a lively style. This ensures the straight locks and blunt ends still look great.

Black and Pink Curls

pastel pink shadow root hair

Pairing sweet colors like pink with dark ones like black always creates a look that’s very appealing, cute, and bubbly. This shoulder-length hairdo has large curls that pull the locks away from the face. There’s a steady growth of dark roots on top.

Balayage Ombre Hair with Dark Roots

balayage ombre hairstyle with shadow root

Ombre hair is usually done by having dark hair that then transitions into a lighter color like blonde. However, here the ombre is made with a medium tone of blonde and some platinum. The dark roots add a third color into the mix.

Medium Length Blonde Waves

ash blonde hair with shadow root

Sometimes the shadow is formed by just a hint of roots. Other times the growth is more substantial like it is here. Almost the entire top of the head is covered in darker tones. An ash blonde shade is applied to the rest of the gently wavy hair.

Large Fluffy Waves with Volume

shadow root ice blonde hair

If you have very thick hair, then adding fluffy waves can make it super appealing. Sweeping the hair back over the head also adds some volume that makes you look like a model.

Here the roots are brown so they blend in very well with the light blonde shade.

Long Bob with Heavy Bangs

shadow root long bob with bangs

If you’d like to create a mysterious vibe, then a haircut that has heavy bangs will work well for you. This one has the bangs obscuring almost half the face.

The rest of the hair is thin in comparison. A natural dark shade is heavily visible underneath the lighter one.

Black and Silver Wavy Balayage

silver blonde balayage hair with shadow root

Contrast is very important if you want to create an eye-catching hairstyle. You can do this by pairing dark and light colors in a balayage. Silver tresses stand out strongly against the dark section towards the top of the head.

Rose Gold Wavy Balayage

rose gold balayage hairstyle with shadow root

Rose gold is a very popular hair color for looking chic and girly. Here’s a dark version of it paired with black shadow roots.

There are waves all over the head to keep a natural-looking texture. It’s a great everyday look.

Purple and Blonde

You don’t have to keep your natural roots showing to create the shadow look. Here it’s done by pairing dark purple with pale blonde.

The dark purple transitions into a lighter shade of purple to create a smooth change between the two colors. 

Wavy Blonde Hair with Full Bangs

medium blonde hairstyle with shadow root

Bangs add an interesting element to this hair trend. As you can see, the shadow stops before creeping into the bangs so the bangs are fully blonde.

Black and Red Balayage

red balayage hair with shadow root

It’s a well-known fact that black and red hair together perfectly. They create such a fierce and fiery look. You can also covet a mysterious vibe using these shades.

Pairing them together in a balayage and forming styles like this will have all the eyes on you.

Vivid Purple Balayage

purple balayage hair with shadow root

Purple is another shade that looks mesmerizing with black. Deep purple tones like this make you look powerful and edgy.

All eyes will be on you in every room you walk into. The voluminous waves and balayage style help add to that effect. The dark shadow roots add further appeal.

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Here are a few commonly asked questions and answers about shadow root hair.

How much are shadow root hairstyles?

A shadow root hairstyle typically costs around $100, but you could pay up to $300 depending on your hair, the professional, and the color scheme you choose. It’s possible to save by handling the dye job at home.

Root smudge vs. shadow root – What to choose?

Choosing between a root smudge and shadow root depends on your hair and the desired outcome.
Root smudging is best for covering gray or blending stark contrast from foil highlights.

It’s softer and looks a bit more natural. The shadow root trend creates more of a gradient effect, making it more versatile. It’s also more obvious on longer hair styles.

How often should I do a shadow root?

It depends on your hair, the color, and personal preference. Some people stick to the four to six-week touch-ups while others stretch it to six to eight weeks, or when the roots become visible.

However, you may be able to extend touch-ups to ten or twelve weeks if you go with a dye job that blends with your natural hair color.

Should I do a shadow root on wet or dry hair?

Start your shadow root dye job on dry hair to ensure a more even color. Applying dye to wet hair can dilute the color and cause an inconsistent result. However, toning is best done on damp hair, because it’s easier to work with and helps blend better.

Will shadow root damage hair?

While any chemicals on your hair can cause damage, shadow root styles are less damaging than other options. They require less frequent touch-ups and don’t always need all-over dye, meaning fewer chemicals on your hair.

It’s one of the best options for people hoping to grow out their hair color without causing more damage.

How many shades darker does a shadow root need to be?

Shadow roots should not go more than three shades darker than your natural hair color to avoid awkward banding. Keeping it closer to the natural base color helps the effect last longer and reduces the risk of damage during touch-ups.

Does a shadow root bleed?

A shadow root can bleed or transfer slightly onto surrounding hair during application or if not rinsed thoroughly after processing. However, the bleeding should stop once you fully process and rinse out the color.

Can shadow root cover gray hair?

Yes, a shadow root is one of the most effective options for gray coverage. The darker root color can help blend the gray hair with the rest of your hair, creating a more natural-looking result.