‘Shadow roots’ aka smudging is the hair colour trend that will take you through autumn and winter

Written by Rebecca Cox

Shadow roots are in and experts say, this hair colouring technique is one the chicest and most low-maintenance colour trends for the season ahead. 

If you can’t afford to get your hair done right now, fear not! You might actually be on the cusp of one of 2021’s biggest trends. Slightly more refined than your bog-standard lockdown regrowth, shadow roots are one of the chicest and most low-maintenance colour trends and will see your through from autumn into winter. Here, two of the country’s top colourists give us their take on the trend and why it works for everyone, 

First, we fell in love with balayage, the easiest way to add a little light into your locks, no touch-ups required. Then, reverse balayage came on the scene, with roots being darkened rather than the tips lightened. 

For autumn/winter 2021, ‘root smudge’ or  ‘shadow roots’ are pegged to be a big low-maintenance trend. So, if you’ve become a little attached to your root regrowth, but you want something more polished for the return to the office, or for party season, this one is for you.

What are shadow roots? 

“Shadow roots are created by blending colour through the roots to lift the hair half a shade lighter, which creates softness and a seamless regrowth,” explains Jo Hansford, award-winning hairdresser and celebrity colourist. “You can then highlight or lowlight the rest of the hair as usual.”

It’s often known as smudging or colour melting, as it helps to give the hair a seamless journey into regrowth, avoiding that harsh root line a few weeks post-salon visit. But Siobhan Jones, L’Oréal global ambassador and founder of Creative Balayage, explains that you can get creative with this trend. “How far down the hair the gloss or tint is smudged will be dependent on how much dark to blonde you would like to see. This would be diagnosed by your colourist depending on your hair cut, face shape and image reference. You can opt for a colour that mimics your natural colour, or you can change it up by making it warmer, cooler, lighter or darker than that.”

How are shadow roots different? 

Still not sure how it differs from your current (undoubtedly beautiful) overgrown roots? “When having a root smudge, it’s purposely placed, which means you are able to create contouring and framing with colour that can shape your hair, and define your features,” explains Siobhan. “Longer grown out roots can edge that bit closer to a root smudge but are often lacking the seamless blend and shine that you would get from this technique.”

One of the best things about the shadow root hair trend is that it works on every hair colour, type and texture. “I like to aim for around three levels difference between the roots and the ends, to ensure a good enough contrast,” says Siobhan. “However, if you were wanting something more subtle or dramatic than that, there is no reason why you could not adjust this. Most haircuts can have a form of shadow root. However, the length of it would need to be adjusted to suit the hair length and cut it is on.”

One last thing. “Little tip: if you are opting for a shadow root for the first time you may find that the depth may fade quite quickly after that first appointment,” explains Siobhan. “I would set a plan to book your first two appointments closer together to top the colour up. The more times you have it done, the less it will fade.”

“This trend creates a seamless regrowth, so the roots are not as visible, and the hair is blended into the highlights or lowlights. It looks very soft and natural,” says Jo Hansford. With salons back in full swing after all lockdowns have been lifted, this is the perfect transition style; particularly if you think you might miss your untamed mane, just a little, post-apocalypse.  

Shadow roots hair inspiration

Images: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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