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Shadow Roots: What They Are + Inspo + FAQ

It’s our absolute pleasure to introduce you to shadow roots! Never heard of the term? No need to worry, because we’ve prepared an extensive guide that breaks down this latest hair trend. It’s packed with useful info about shadow roots, from descriptions to visual ideas and must-know tips. Let’s get to it!

flirty wink hair flip and shadow roots
via Giphy

What is Shadow Root Hair?

So, first things first – what are shadow roots, anyway? As the name suggests, shadow root hair involves blending out the tone of your roots to create a shadow-like gradient into your main hair color.

Back in the day, the tiniest sign of grown out roots was enough to make us schedule a touch-up appointment. Today though, the hair gods have listened to our prayers and blessed us with both the acceptance and encouragement of dark roots. So much so, that it’s now a full-fledged trend. What a time to be alive!

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How to Do Shadow Roots:

To obtain shadow roots, hairstylists typically use the balayage coloring technique. Oftentimes, the roots are darker than the rest of your dyed locks, hence the use of “shadow”. However, this is not mandatory and, as a matter of fact, there are multiple ways to rock shadow roots.

If you’re not into the dark top and light bottom approach, you can experiment with bold colors for each section. Alternatively, you can reverse the whole process and go for light-colored roots. In the end, you can stick to the basics and work with your natural hair color for a stress-free look.


The possibilities are endless! So why merely describe them when we can show you a ton of awesome shadow root hair ideas?


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30 Shadow Roots Ideas to Inspire You!

1. Subtle Shadow

Many women choose shadow roots as the detail that pulls their entire hairstyle together. More often than not, their end goal is a subtle introduction to the star of the show – their body of dyed hair.

If this is the case for you, concentrate the shadow effect on the very base of your roots without extending it too much into your strands. To get that melted gradient we all adore, ask your colorist to work in some of the main dye color into your roots.

2. Long Dark Roots Ombre

On the other hand, plenty of girls prefer using the opposite approach. In other words, they want their roots to be long and bold for an ombre hair outcome.

Here, we recommend choosing the natural route for your top color. In doing so, your locks will continue to grow seamlessly, completing the ombre as you go. The secondary color is all up to you.

3. Creamy Coffee

The beauty of shadow roots is that the technique allows you to blend a variety of pretty shades from a common palette. Just an example is this natural-looking earth tones approach.

For a creamy coffee dye job that looks just as mouth-watering as it sounds, combine a selection of warm and cool browns. If you’re a natural brunette, you can use dark brown or black for the shadow portion. As for the body, mix highlights and lowlights to add volume and movement to your tresses.

4. Shadow Roots with Bangs

No matter what types of bangs you have (or plan on getting), rest assured that they’re compatible with shadow roots. In fact, the coloring method can make your fringe pop by giving it a creative and original edge.

If you have longer bangs, go for a half-and-half style. It would mean prolonging the shadow midway through your fringe, at around eyebrow level. The result is a stunning gradient that brings attention to your eyes.

5. Face-Framing Shadow Root Balayage

When defining the concept of shadow roots, we explained that the go-to execution method is balayage. Nonetheless, you can apply the same coloring principle throughout the body of your hair. Start with dark roots and get progressively lighter towards the tips.

To further spice up the hairstyle, throw in a pair of contourage highlights. The technique consists in dyeing two frontal strands of hair on each side for a face-framing effect. It’s a highly flattering choice for gals who part their hair down the middle.

6. Auburn Color Melt

It’s no secret that auburn hair is a trend that has withstood the test of time and adding shadow root coloring can add personality to any auburn dye job.

Take the process a step further by choosing two distinct shades of auburn for the lower area. Whether through balayage or ombre, melting the auburn variations will have an eye-catching impact.

7. Buttery Balayage

Many brunettes opt for darker roots for consistent hair growth. At the same time, women with lighter hair can stick with equally lighter roots to match their natural hair tone.

A gorgeous solution is a full buttery balayage. Pick a hue that’s about two or three times lighter than your natural color and apply it to the primary body. The resulting hairstyle will be both practical and radiant.

8. Ashy Shadow Roots

If you thought that gray hair was just a fad, know that the ashy trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. You can still rock silver, charcoal or ash brown hair with full confidence knowing that it’s still very much in style.

For ashy shadow roots, approach the coloring in steps. Begin with black roots that have the faintest tint of charcoal in them. From there, blend out to a medium gray. To top everything off, use any lighter tone of gray for the main part of your locks.

9. Chocolate and Caramel Blend

Any food or drink inspired hair color always ends up being a visual delight. For instance, honey brown hair is to die for. But what if you mixed more than one delicious tone at a time, such as chocolate and caramel?

With a warm medium brown base, you can leave your roots as long as you like. Next up, melt them into an equally warm copper shade. Although still on the natural side, the color combo will really stand out.

10. Highlights and Shadow Root Hair

Most of the time, highlights are an inherent part of balayage coloring. For a bright, outgoing, and adventurous hairstyle, pair darker roots with platinum blonde streaks.

11. Shadow Roots with Colored Bangs

While the first shadow roots bangs idea is obviously pretty, we don’t want you to limit yourself to just one option. Make the most of your fringe and take it to the next level with a full extra color, especially if you have shorter bangs.

To do so, all you have to do is continue the shade used for your roots all the way through your bangs for a two tone hair.

12. High Contrast Shadow Roots

The funkier your approach, the greater the chances of getting a one of a kind hairstyle. Also, in many cases, contrast is the key to reaching this result. Contrast comes in different forms for different people.

One girl could be drawn to a sleek monochrome look with a black and white hairstyle. Another can prefer an unconventional mix, like the burgundy roots and powdery silver body shown above.

13. Dark Roots, Colorful Hair

If you’re in the mood for a dreamy hairstyle, go for pastel hair colors! There are loads of shades to inspire you – from cotton candy pink to baby blue, velvety lavender, and beyond.

Where do shadow roots come into play? The trick here is to use darker roots – and with a dual purpose. Firstly, a dark base will emphasize the rest of the pastel. Secondly, it adds a natural touch by easing into the candy tone.

14. Blue Roots on Black Hair

Conversely, you can go the other way around and reserve your roots for a lively color. Royal blue is just one example out of many, but feel free to choose any color of the rainbow.

In this case, you’d be better off with dyeing your hair either black or white to make the top shade pop. If you’re still testing the waters, use a coloring product that can be rinsed out.

15. Seasonal Shadow Roots

To each their own, but we believe that autumn comes with some of the most exhilarating colors possible. With reds, oranges, and yellows galore, fall hairstyles are a great source of both style and color inspiration. The dark roots and faded red-orange hairstyle above will help are just the start!

16. Pastel Roots

We’ve presented pastels as an idea for the bottom section of your hairstyle, but what if we were to turn things upside down? Pastel shadow roots aren’t a common sight, but they’re certainly a breathtaking one.

If you decide to use pastels for your roots, we recommend dyeing the lower locks platinum white. Just like in the case of vivid blue roots, a non-color canvas will highlight the vibrant key area.

17. White Roots

As we move forward with more and more fabulous shadow root hair ideas, it is easy to see that pretty much anything goes. The white canvas we just spoke about can be switched up for the roots section and work just as well.

Although counterintuitive for harmoniously growing out your hair, white roots are a super fresh way to embrace the color melting trend. As a side note, we suggest a bright or pastel secondary shade to complete the look.

18. Fiery Blend

Got that fire in your soul? Bring it forward from the inside out with a fiery shadow root balayage. All you need is a set of intense red roots, flowing yellow locks, and a skillful transition from one hue to the next.

To make the balayage even closer to fire, consider adding some orange between the two main colors. If not, the crimson-yellow combo will still look exceptional.

19. Sandy Shadow Roots

If warm and rich hues inspire you but you’re not down for mixing them, a single eye-catching tone will suffice. You can select yours in accordance with your natural hair color.

For example, let’s say you have naturally dirty blonde hair. Sunflower yellow is an alluring choice for sandy shadow roots. It will also blossom into a beautiful ombre as your hair grows.

20. Neon Roots

When world-class pop stars like Billie Eilish debut black hair with neon roots, you know it’s a trend to keep an eye on. While far from being a conventional color combo, it’s perfect for a girl with a bold and fearless personality.

In addition, highlighter colors are all the rage right now. Aside from lime green, you can also look into hot pink, fluorescent yellow, or neon tangerine as alternatives.

21. Red Roots

If you’re more of a goth girl, there’s nothing better than a black and red hair color melt. The easy way to go would be to pair red locks with black shadow roots. Or, step out of the comfort zone by reversing the colors for a black mane with cherry red roots.

22. Tri-Level Ombre

Consider incorporating shadow roots into a complex, three-level ombre? You can use any color palette, but frosted purple is definitely a great example to keep in mind.

To get the look, start off with black roots that have a subtle violet tint. After that, blend out to a plum transition area, then to a muted mauve. From there, continue with lavender until you lighten your locks to white tips.

23. Peekaboo Highlights with Shadow Root

If you don’t already know about peekaboo highlights, be prepared for love at first sight. They’re an aesthetically delicious addition to any shadow root hairstyle.

What makes peekaboo highlights stand out is that they literally peek out from underneath your hair. You can make them daring or subtle, whichever you like best.

24. Box Braids with Shadow Roots

Any woman can slay with a shadow root hairstyle, regardless of their hair type. They’re so adaptable that they can even be integrated into protective hairstyles such as box braids.

If you have a lively vision for the colorway of your braids, you can make it work with a smart transition from your natural color. If the braids are extensions, use your natural hair as the shadow root foundation.

25. Purple Roots with Pink Hair

If you’re aiming for that characteristic shadow gradient, pick tones that pour into one another with ease. Purple roots that drip into pink locks are an example, but orange to yellow or green to blue are just as pertinent.

26. Rainbow Shadow Roots

Can’t make up your mind in terms of shadow root hair colors? The rainbow is yours to take advantage of. You never have to settle for just one tone – numerous shadow root shades are more than welcome.

To make your rainbow roots shine, apply the same muffled shade principle to your remaining hair. We recommend white or silver.

27. Glitter Roots

Glitter roots are temporary, fun, and useful when you’re feeling apprehensive about permanent root changes. Aside from serving as a color test, glitter roots are also a cool idea for a memorable party hairstyle.

28. Shadow Roots on Short Hair

Shadow roots work terrifically on any hair length. If you ever had any doubts that you could pull them off with short hairstyles, now is the time to set your distrust to the side.

If you have a pixie cut or an even shorter haircut, know that shadow root hair can help lift and shape your choppy locks.

29. Long Hair with Shadow Roots

Having long hair allows you to use the very base of your strands for the shadow effect, but you can also stretch your roots out as long as you’d like. Given the generous amount of length you have to work with, you can pay special attention to the fine gradient.

30. Natural Grown Out Roots

Last but not least, this perception-changing trend will help women let their hair grow out naturally without even using the shadow coloring method.

To remove touch-up stress from your life altogether, go all-natural and let those roots settle in just the way they are. There’s a good chance nobody will even notice the difference.

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Tips & Tricks for Gorgeous Shadow Roots Hair

Now that you’ve filled your tank with all the inspo you could hope for, you’ll surely be eager to get shadow roots ASAP. However, there are still a few aspects to consider if you want your shadow root hair to meet your expectations (and even exceed them).

shoulder shadow roots hair pride and flirting
via Giphy

Work with a colorist

Low maintenance is supposed to be one of the major benefits of shadow roots. It is. But don’t mix the subsequent easy upkeep with the process of getting them.

Shadow root hair is so popular is that it provides a smooth transition from one hair color to the other, as opposed to naturally grown roots. If you don’t want your roots to end up looking like a hot DIY mess, ask for professional help.

Go natural

If your goal is to cut down on maintenance, use your natural hair tone. For instance, if you have light brown hair, don’t choose mocha, black, or any significantly darker hues for your shadow roots.

Buy a pigmented shampoo

Due to the extended amount of time from one dye appointment to the other, the colors in your locks can start changing. More specifically, they might take on that much dreaded orangey tint.

Nevertheless, a pigmented shampoo can help prevent this. For blondes, we recommend purple shampoo, whereas brunettes should opt for the blue version.

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So, What is YOUR Hair Motivation?

All in all, shadow roots truly are a dream come true. For one, there is no better solution for less frequent salon visits and easy maintenance. On the other hand, it can be a fun way to play around with exciting new hair color combinations. Either way, the advantages of shadow root hair are innumerable, to say the least.

Will you be trying out shadow roots the next time you check in with your colorist? If so, which approach will you be taking? Subtle or dramatic? Tell us all about your plans in a comment below!

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