Shadow hair, also known as shadow-toning and shadow root hair, is the latest hair color trend that we’re totally loving. In addition to being gorgeous and subtle, shadow root hair is also super easy to maintain. Is there anything better than that? What’s more, this low maintenance highlighting technique is ideal for those who love the idea of highlights but want a more natural-looking, cost-effective option. Here’s everything you need to know about it—from how to get this hair color to how to maintain it to the best hairstyles for your newly colored locks.
WHAT IS SHADOW ROOT HAIR?
The shadow hair highlighting technique involves using a hair toner or gloss that matches the color of your roots, then applying it to the mid-lengths of your hair to create the illusion of natural highlights. This highlighting technique will not only allow your highlights to appear more natural, but it also allows you to go quite a while between touch-ups. This technique is often combined with two other popular highlighting techniques: balayage and babylights. (Want to learn more about balayage and babylights? Check out our articles, Balayage 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Highlighting Technique and What Are Babylights? How to Do This Popular Highlighting Technique.)
If you’ve done any research about shadow root hair, you’ve probably come across color melting and the phrase ‘shadow melt’ as well. So, what’s the difference between shadow root hair and shadow melt hair? The latter is simply a variant of the former. Color melting is a coloring technique that blends highlights with your base color, for a “melted” effect, so to speak. In other words, making it hard to tell where one color starts and the other ends. Shadow melting is the same concept—giving the shadow roots a melted effect so that they seamlessly blend in together.
HOW DO YOU GET SHADOW HAIR?
Since this highlighting technique involves the strategic placement of both a darker dye and highlights and (as you can tell) involves some specialty coloring techniques, this hair color is best left to the pros. If you want to be adventurous and attempt shadow hair at home, you'll need a permanent hair dye in a shade that matches your roots and an at-home highlighting kit.
DOES SHADOW HAIR HAVE TO INVOLVE MY NATURAL HAIR COLOR?
No! You can choose to dye your roots and have your shadow-toning done with a hair color other than your natural hue. Keep in mind, while this will look equally as gorgeous as matching your roots, it will no longer qualify as a low maintenance look. Opting for an unnatural color means you’ll need frequent touch-ups when your roots grow in.
HOW TO MAINTAIN SHADOW HAIR
Creating a hair care routine that caters to your color-treated hair is the best way to maintain your color. First off, try using a sulfate-free line, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Repair & Defend Shampoo, L’Oréal Paris EverPure Repair and Defend Conditioner, and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Repair Remedy Balm. Additionally, turn down the water temperature every time you suds up your strands—washing with too hot of temps can strip your strands of their natural oils, which will cause your new color to fade faster.
Shadow root hair can also have a tendency to become brassy over time. If you notice orange or yellow tones appearing, try using a purple shampoo. Even better, a purple shampoo and conditioner system, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Brass Toning Purple Sulfate Free Shampoo and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Brass Toning Purple Sulfate Free Conditioner.
HOW TO STYLE SHADOW HAIR
Not sure how to wear your newly highlighted ‘do? Below, find three hairstyle ideas that pair perfectly with shadow hair.
SHADOW HAIR HAIRSTYLE #1: LOOSE WAVES
Waves are undoubtedly one of the best ways to style shadow hair as they’ll help emphasize the dimension of your shadows and highlights. The best part is, you don’t need to pick up a single heat tool to get the look! Spray the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle AIR DRY IT Wave Swept Spray throughout towel-dried hair, braid it, then unravel your braid once it’s dry. Your mane will be left with natural-looking, loose waves. It’s almost too easy!
SHADOW HAIR HAIRSTYLE #2: THE FISHTAIL BRAID
A fishtail braid is not only a super cute (and impressive) braided hairstyle, but it will also showcase the different shades that make up this highlighted hair color. A little rusty on fishtailing? No problem—read our article, Our Easy Fishtail Braid Tutorial, for a step-by-step guide.
SHADOW HAIR HAIRSTYLE #3: SLEEK AND STRAIGHT
Equally as stunning as wavy or curled locks, super sleek, straight hair will highlight (pun intended) the intricacy of the shadow hair highlighting technique and show off how beautifully it blends with your natural hair color.
Editor’s tip: Before letting your straightener near your strands, be sure to use a heat protectant. Try the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle SLEEK IT Iron Straight Heatspray for 450-degree protection and a sleek look that lasts.
Calling all brunettes! Want more hair highlighting advice? Head over to our article, Best Highlights for Brown Hair to Add Movement and Shine.