Shadow Roots

This week in our Blog we discuss shadow roots; a hair color technique creating a shadow-effect that transitions dark roots to lighter ends.

Shadow Roots

by Caroline Neuman

Transitioning dark roots to lighter ends


A shadow root is a subtle hair color technique that can completely change the look of a highlight or balayage. By transitioning color from dark roots to lighter ends (without the heavy contrast), it creates a shadow-effect, adding dimension and depth to the root area and offering a softer grow out with a more lived-in or natural look.


Shadow roots are used on any lightened hair – from icy blondes, caramel brunettes or the darkest, level-1 shade of black – blending the color down softly to lighter ends.

Sometimes applying highlights that go all the way to the roots can lead to a harsh line as the hair grows out. A shadow root would match the natural color or go a shade darker to have a more seamless grow out leaving guests happier with their hair for longer!

A toner or demi-permanent color is added at the roots and softly blended into the lighter toner color at the ends to create a cool contrast between base and ends. It can really make those ends pop when paired up against a darker or smokier color at the root.

If a more lived-in balayage look is desired, then the base color toner would be pulled down further to make the highlights appear already “grown out” or as though your hair has been naturally lightened by the sun.

Lighter pieces in the front can be left out of the darker toner for a money piece or pop of lightness around the face. It’s a quick extra step, which is typically added at the shampoo bowl.

The toner lasts roughly 4-6 weeks with proper color maintenance at home – about the time until another highlight is due.

A shadow root can also be applied to a blonde who is growing out their highlights and wants to soften that transition without having to apply color or lightener. It’s a quick and simple process so it’s great for people looking to update or refresh their lightened hair between services without taking too much time out of their day.

When it’s accompanied by a fresh toner with a different (usually lighter) toner on the ends, we call it a Tap and Tone – we’re tapping the root with our brushes with the base color and toning the ends.

A shadow root can also be added to a bleach and tone to soften the grow out. One of my favorite looks is when a cool natural shadow root is blended into a vibrant fashion color like lilac or neon yellow. It creates a cool contrast between natural and fashion and helps keep the look updated and fresh.

As chunky highlights are making their way back, a soft blended root can make them more current. We’re living in a period when people are venturing out and socializing less – as a result, many people are letting their hair grow out longer. A shadow root can really help hair grow into a more low-maintenance, worry-free style.

Unless a high maintenance blonde look is what you’re after (no shade, that’s a great style!) a shadow root can complement any highlight, balayage and bleach & tone done in the salon.

If you’re considering a shadow root, check in with a Grand Stylist for a free hair consultation. If you’re ready to book your next service appointment, consider using our online booking system or reach out to our guest relations staff to work with your schedule.

(303) 572-1435 | | @grandsalondenver


Caroline Neuman| Associate | Specialties – formulating bright fashion colors, color-melting

Originally from Austin, Caroline has called Colorado home since 2009. In her personal time, she loves horror movies, knitting & thrifting, a good cup of coffee, tarot cards, astrological birth charts, enchiladas and drinking beer in the park with friends (with 6’ of social distance).  Follow Caroline @hotroots66