Shadow root vs balayage

Surely, you have heard about the hair coloring technique that once broke the internet—the balayage. 

But you have also heard about an increasingly popular hair coloring technique that is slightly similar to balayage — the shadow root technique.

I assume that you are here to know how the two techniques differ. I am glad to help you with that.

In this article, you will learn about the following:

  • What’s the difference between root shadow and balayage?
  • What does a shadow root do?
  • How to bleach hair with shadow root
  • Are shadow roots worth it?
  • What is the difference between balayage and root smudge?
  • Shadow root balayage
  • Shadow root vs Root smudge

What's the difference between root shadow and balayage?

What's the difference between root shadow and balayage

Balayage and shadow root are two different hair coloring techniques.

Balayage involves hand painting the hair in sweeping motions to achieve a natural sunkissed look. Essentially, balayage focuses on painting the hair with a lighter shade.

Meanwhile, root shadowing involves dyeing the roots of light-colored hair with a shade that is darker than the rest of the hair. 

The balayage and shadow root results may look similar because both techniques aim for a smooth transition from dark roots to a light-colored shaft on dyed hair. 

These techniques, if done correctly, give depth and dimension to colored hair with no obvious demarcation lines.


What does a shadow root do?

Root shadowing is a hair coloring technique that is all about the smooth transition from darker roots to lighter ends, which creates the illusion of a shadow

Shadow roots are achieved by brushing the dark dye from the roots to the rest of the hair to create a fading illusion. 

To ensure that there will not be a solid line where the dark roots end and light hair begins, the stylist will drag the brush unevenly–closer to the roots in some areas, further away from the roots in others. 

In short, shadow roots give a seamless transition from the roots to the tips. The darker shade of the roots provides more depth and dimension to the overall hair color.


How to bleach hair with shadow root

How to bleach hair with shadow root

To achieve a shadow root look, it is best to start with hair bleached up to the roots, then apply the shadow root technique as a final step.

It is easier to apply a darker shade from roots to mid-length than to use highlights from mid-length upwards.

So, if you already have a shadow root and want to bleach your hair again, it is better to bleach your hair all over then redo the shadow roots afterward.

Start by formulating and applying the bleach as usual, and make sure it covers your hair from roots to tips.

After bleaching, you can apply the color formula that you want for your roots. 

It is advisable to pick a shade closest to your natural hair color so that there is no clear demarcation line once your hair grows.

Before starting on your shadow root, make sure that you divide your hair in thin and even sections. This is important to ensure full coverage of the roots. 


Using a flat brush, distribute the dark dye from the roots to the mid-lengths of your hair. 

Begin dyeing the hair at the back of your head, near the base of your neck, then work your way upwards.

You can control how far from the roots you want the dark shade to be. But, to achieve a more blended look, you would have to drag the brush a bit further in some areas.

Some people prefer light strands to frame their face. To achieve this, keep the dye closer to the roots as you slowly reach the top of your head.

As soon as the color settles, apply a hair toner to help neutralize any unwanted brassiness. This is the final touch to create the result you’re aiming for.


Are shadow roots worth it?

Quick answer: Yes.

Shadow roots are worth it because they are much cheaper and easier to do than a full highlight touch-up. It saves you time and money in the long run.

You do not need to worry whether root shadowing suits you or not because apparently, it suits everyone regardless of hair length and hair color.

Root shadows are definitely a safe style that can complement even the most vibrant hair color.

Also, shadow roots are low-maintenance. You can grow your hair out without having to dye it regularly because the growth will not be noticeable. To keep your shadow root from fading quickly, sulfate-free shampoo is the key.

If you are the type of person to ride with hair trends, root shadows are perfect for you because they are 2022’s newest hair trend. While this might not be super important, it might convince you to get your shadow roots done.


What is the difference between balayage and root smudge?

Again, balayage is a dyeing technique in which the stylist hand-paints the hair in a sweeping motion to create a graduated, natural-looking effect. 

Root smudge is the final technique used after highlighting and washing the hair. This involves brushing a toner or gloss to the roots to smudge or blur the demarcation line.

It is often used after a foiling technique to create a more seamless transition to the lightened part of the hair.

A hand-painted balayage gives more depth and texture to the hair because the dark and light tones are scattered evenly. 

Meanwhile, root smudge literally blurs the line where the dark tones end and the light tones begin. The rest of the hair remains a plain color.


Shadow root balayage

shadow root balayage

A shadow root balayage is achieved by combining root shadowing and hand-painted balayage. 

With this, you can get the depth and volume that the balayage offers and the smooth transition from dark roots to light ends that a shadow root provides. 

In short, you get the best of both worlds!

Also, with the balayage technique, the stylist can frame the face in such a way that the hair color highlights and contours one’s facial features.


Shadow root vs root smudge

A root smudge and a shadow root are, in essence, similar techniques. Both techniques are used in different ways to achieve different results.

The goal of both techniques is to give the clients an unobvious demarcation line from the dark roots to the light tips. But how do they differ in application and result?

Root smudges involve applying a color formula to the roots of the hair and blending it with the color of the shaft. This creates a short but smooth transition from dark to light tones.

This technique is best for clients who underwent foiling procedures. Since it is impossible for the foiling technique to give a gradient-like look to the hair, stylists need a finishing technique like the root smudge to smoothen the demarcation line.

On the other hand, shadow roots involve applying a color formula from the roots to the mid-length. Sometimes, the color formula is brushed to different hair lengths to achieve more depth.

This creates a longer transition from the dark to the light colors.

The shadow root technique works best for clients who want to maintain low-maintenance hair that does not demand frequent salon visits even when it grows out.

CHECK OUT: How to maintain balayage


Before you go, here are some takeaways!

As a client, you have to recognize that there are tons of techniques that your stylist can use on your hair. Knowing the difference between various hair techniques matters!

You must know exactly what results you want and what technique to use to make it happen. This way, you can avoid misunderstandings with your stylist, which, trust me, happens very often.

It would be best to thoroughly discuss with your stylist before the procedure for fewer chances of regretting your look and wasting precious time and money.

Last Updated: April 15, 2022

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