A hair color that works with your roots is as elusive as finding a comfortable pair of heels. Enter shadow roots — the gorgeous, low-maintenance style that works with your hair’s natural color, even if your locks fall on the darker side. Rather than camouflaging your roots, the technique works with them so regrowth isn’t so awkward.
Shadow roots involve coloring the first 2 to 3 inches of hair from the scalp two to three shades darker than the rest of your hair to create depth and dimension, according to Chaz Dean, celebrity hairstylist and founder of WEN Hair and Body Care. Antonio Prieto Salon colorist Daniella Vassallo adds that the difference provides a lived-in effect.
Shadow Roots vs. Ombre
Think shadow roots are the same thing as ombre hair? Think again. The latter is much more dramatic. “[Ombre] gives you extremely dark roots and mid-shaft color [with] contrasting light ends,” says Dean. “It is a color technique that is not very forgiving as opposed to shadow roots, which are complementary and can be worn by anyone.” Vassallo points out that ombre is a solid, noticeably bold transition from dark to light, while shadow roots are more seamless and subtle.
Picking the Right Color
Finding the right shadow roots hair color depends on the individual. For traditionalists, Vassallo recommends only going one to two levels darker than your natural hair color. Opt for cooler or more neutral shades because hair dye oxidizes on the warmer side. A demi-permanent color works well since it allows seamless regrowth. Dean says a good rule of thumb is to start off subtly and progressively dive deeper into different color choices.
Just a quick scroll through Instagram proves shadow roots can be as intense and bright as your heart desires. Some rainbow hair fans contrast darker roots against vibrant hair colors. Others swap traditional shadow hair color in their roots for a bold (likely temporary) color. Think blue or purple “shadows.” The darker roots plus lighter, brighter lengths still result in a shadowed finish.
Whether you’re after something subtle or craving drama, there’s a shadow roots hair color for you.