How to do a shadow roots on short hair?

bob cut or medium length cut

Shadow root is one of the latest hair color trends, and I believe there are two basic reasons why.

  • The first is that it’s a style that requires less maintenance compared to other techniques.
  • And the second that – as opposed to balayage, for example – it works perfectly in short hair.


 I think it’s about time that short haircuts also had a fun way to play with different lighting and shades. 

And of course, I didn’t miss the opportunity to innovate some of my clients’ looks with this technique – the ones who weren’t afraid to tests the waters with something new.


Last week, Adriana visited me at the salon. She’s one of my most loyal customers and isn’t afraid of change. When she told me she wanted to do a balayage in her hair around her shoulders, I suggested she try a shadow root.

She wasn’t sure at first, which was understandable, because having such a strong contrast between the roots and the rest of the hair was a little scary for her. But in the end, she decided to go for it.


 The results were incredible; the dark contrast between the roots and the rest of her hair gave it greater volume, as well as a fresh and natural touch to her features. 


So if you’re thinking about innovating your look, keep reading, because I’ll tell you:

  • How to choose the right tone for a shadow root
  • How to apply the dye to get a perfect shadow root


You have two options: be cutting-edge and wear a perfect shadow root in your short hair, or continue with your traditional style. What do you choose?


How to choose the perfect tone for your shadow root

modern cut

In order for the shadow to be perfect, the most important thing is for you to decide on the shadow tone in relation to the base tone. This technique’s success depends on it. Here, you’re looking for absolute contrast.

There are other similar techniques in which hair goes from dark to light such as balayage or ombré, but the distinction is natural, with a difference of only 2 or 3 tones maximum.


Of course, the tone you choose for your roots will depend on the base tone you have in your hair. That’s why you should always start with your base color to later choose between 5 or 6 darker tones. Some even chose to apply black 1 right away.

For you to pick the right tone, I recommend these options to apply to the roots, keeping your base color in mind.


If your hair is a light color:

  • Light brown 6, you can apply a black 1
  • Dark blond 7, you can apply a black 1 or dark brown 3
  • Blond 8, you can apply a black 1, dark brown 3, or brown 4


If your hair is a very light color:

  • Light blond 9, you can apply a dark brown 3 or brown 4
  • Platinum blond 10, you can apply a dark brown 3, brown 4; or if you’re looking for an extreme contrast, you can apply a black 1.


Other dye tones:

  • If your hair is any shade of gray, I recommend black 1.
  • If your hair is a fantasy shade such as fuchsia, turquoise, or violet, I also recommend black 1 for the shadow.


Now, if you don’t want to apply a tone as dark as black 1, you can opt for dark brown 3.

As you can see, always follow the basic rule that your root color should be 4, 5, or even 6 tones darker than the rest of your hair.


 But it’s also extremely important to know that for the shadow to be perfect, you need to apply dark dye to a maximum of three centimeters from the root. 

Don’t forget that with this technique, you’ll be able to darken your roots without touching the rest of your hair.

Have you touched up your roots before?


Then you’ll have noticed that the roots are only 1 or 2 centimeters long, and these are followed by 3 centimeters of hair that is newer than the rest.

To be able to achieve a shadow, you should only apply dye to the roots WITHOUT TOUCHING THE REST OF YOUR HAIR.

This point is even more important if your hair is short.


Even if the technique is the same, a shadow root in short hair must be more limited than with long hair.


For example:

  • If you have shoulder-length hair and you do a shadow root to your ears, your hair will be half dark and half-light.
  • But if you have hair down to your waist, a shadow to your ears won’t be as obvious due to the length of your hair.


In order for your shadow to look perfect in short hair, don’t get too excited, and respect those 1 or 2 centimeters of the root.

Now that you know what color to choose for the shadow and where to apply it, let’s see how to do the technique.


How to correctly apply dye to achieve a perfect shadow root

Once you chose a dark dye tone, now you can start applying the technique.

What materials do you need?

  • A dark hair dye kit.
  • A rat-tail comb.


Step 1: Preparing your hair

As you’re applying a shadow to short hair, you need to untangle your hair well. Make sure you have no knots whatsoever.

I recommend that you part your hair in the middle to expose your root and better visualize where you should apply the dye.


Step 2: Preparing the mix

Inside the dye kit, you’ll find everything you need. Now you just need to combine the developer with the bottle of dye until you get a homogenous mixture.

It’s always a good idea to use the applicator bottle that comes with the kit since it will help your precision when applying dye to the roots.


Step 3: Applying the dye

This is the most important part, and although it’s quite simple, take extra care here to not stain the rest of your hair.

Apply the dye to the roots of your hair using the applicator brush, and with the help of the pointed comb, comb the dye 1 or 2 centimeters maximum, repeating this throughout the roots of your hair.

Why should you comb the dye?


Because the teeth of the comb will give a little irregularity to the line you make with the dye, making the root and rest of the hair blend together perfectly.

This is very important since if you don’t comb the dye there will be a clear line between the roots and the rest of the hair which won’t achieve the effect you wanted.



When you finish applying all the dye to your roots, you should let the mix sit in your hair for about 30 to 45 minutes.


Step 4: Rinse

After you’ve let the dye sit in your hair, rinse it with plenty of warm water and apply the post-color treatment included in your dye kit, leaving it in your hair for 5 minutes.

When your hair dries, you’ll see the difference and how the shadow revitalizes your short ‘do.



To maintain it, you should apply dark dye every time your hair grows; when your roots get to 4 or 5 centimeters, you should renew your base color.

So, in the end, what tone will you choose to achieve a perfect dark contrast between your roots and the rest of your hair?

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