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What’s the difference between shadow roots and root smudge?

What is a root smudge? Can you explain to me the difference between the shadow roots technique and hair smudging, please? Also, it would be great if you can teach me how to root smudge at home if it is possible. What to use, where to start, etc. Thanks! Mary.

A lot of our readers ask me to explain shadow root vs. root smudge differences. It is time to shed the light on these two techniques. So, what is hair smudging? Are smudge roots better than shadow roots? Read on to find out!

Root smudge and shadow rooting are both popular trends that are often used to finish other salon services, for example, hair lightening, balayage, gray coverage, etc. However, there are quite important things that differentiate shadow roots and root smudge, and you need to know them before going to the salon.

What Is a Root Smudge?

Hair smudging is a hair color technique where a dye or a toner/gloss is applied to the roots, and dragged down your hair, instead of just root tapping. This technique helps to blend the lighter and darker sections making the transition appear more seamless.

Root Smudge vs. Shadow Root

A root smudge is distinctively used to blur borderlines between the colors in your hair. It’s best for a blended root after foiling or covering gray hairs, especially for blondes.

On the other hand, the shadow root method is akin to color retouching. It uses customized gradient colors so your hair will appear more natural. However, the roots in the shadow root are quite defined compared to the shaft.

Root smudge utilizes a coloring style that’s more subtle than shadow root.

The shadow rooting is sometimes called the root tap, but the root tap is even smaller, up to 1 inch in size.

Root Smudge vs. Root Melt

These two terms are often used interchangeably. However, there’s a slight difference. Root smudging is excellent for softer merging of hair colors and highlights all around the head. Root melting is also great for transitioning highlights and colors so they can grow out the way they should, but it usually doesn’t touch the face-framing strands. Check out how it looks on brunette hair.

The Difference Between Balayage and Root Smudge

Balayage is the process of hair highlighting. It is not a style! The root smudge is the process of darkening the roots and dragging this darker shade down a bit. They can be combined within one hairstyle.

The 20 Best Root Smudge Ideas in Pictures

You have possibly already seen our article about shadow roots, and now you can check out the root smudge photos below and compare these two choosing the option that suits you best.

1. Blended Root Smudge Melt. Root smudging enhances your hair’s original colors. The darker and lighter colors will appear as if “melted” in a perfect combination. Your root smudge before and after pictures will stun you, we promise!

2. Root Smudge Platinum Blonde. The color is perfect for colder seasons but you can wear it throughout the year. Rock flawless hair while letting your mane take a break from harsh highlights.

3. White Blonde Balayage and Dark Root Stretch. Pair it with dirty blonde to get a high-contrast wonder. The lighter strands of your hair will brighten your face and frame it nicely.

4. Very Dark Smudged Roots and Blonde Streaks. Yes, not all root smudge options are subtle and dainty. This particular bold combination of dark and light hair colors will uplift your base and make your hair far more voluminous.

5. Root Smudging with Caramel Blonde Highlights. Get an exquisite and elegant hair color without high maintenance. Enjoy the sun-kissed warm tones in your hair all year round.

6. Root Extend and Beige Blonde Highlight Color. Smudge colors on 2/3 of your hair. It allows for easier maintenance as you won’t need to recolor often. Make a break from salon visits for at least 3 months with this solution.

7. Root Smudge on Short Hair. Smudging the roots is popular for short haircuts too. The highlights create texture and dimension, and the darker crown enables your new hair colors to become low-maintenance. Everything we need these days, right?

8. Blonde Highlights and a Dark Root Drop. The highlights reach the roots of the hair in this hairstyle. It assists in filling in a softer gradient so your hair can match the balayage or ombre style you have.

9. Platinum Root Smudge. Resort to smudging to keep your gorgeous platinum locks flawless without your roots appearing out of place. Extend the life of your attention-grabbing hair colors by blending in your roots.

10. Smudge Root Balayage. A soft balayage adds dimension to your hair without stripey highlights. Smudging will keep your hair looking more natural, so you don’t have to worry about visiting a salon often.

11. Hair Smudge and Layered Balayage Highlights. These highlights are a combination of warm and ashy tones to suit any complexion. Style it with loose curls to achieve a laid-back but still charismatic impression.

12. Root Smudge Ash Blonde. If you’re already sporting ash blonde tones or gray hair, you can show off your fashion-forward choices by using a darker root smudge on top.

13. Root Smudge for Gray Hair. If you’re after an edgier hair color, light gray or smokey blond will be perfect for your light brown or blonde hair. Salt-and-pepper root smudging also works well if you have to blend your first grays with the rest of your hair.

14. Smudge Icy Blonde Shadow Root. Chic and fashionable, smudging your roots allows you to set off your striking hair color. It also doesn’t take attention away from your brighter color shade and blends well with your overall style.

15. Root Smudge Brown Hair. Stay true to your brunette hair and choose a classic shade of brown to smudge on your roots. It’ll give your hair an appealing sun-kissed bronze touch.

16. Barely Noticeable Root Drag. It’s a method that mingles your original roots so that your hair color is based on your true shades. This way your original hair color grows out without frequent retouches.

17. Babylights with Root Smudge. Pick delicate accents to brighten your natural-looking bronde hair. It will leave your mane looking like it’s naturally kissed by the sun. Pair it with a soft transition of root smudge, and you’ll get more depth to your hair color.

18. Blonde Highlights with Root Smudge. Not sure what root color you want to use? You can try both your actual hair color and the color of your highlights to make your overall aesthetic more interesting.

19. Fine Hair Root Smudging. Smudging is specifically made to let your hair color and highlights transition seamlessly avoiding any clear lines or borders left by chemicals when your hair is processed and creating visual volume. This is especially desirable for finer hair types, as the hair volume in this case is crucial.

20. Root Smudge Blonde. This beautiful blonde hair looks natural but you won’t get such a gorgeous result naturally. So, resort to root smudge and well-blended highlights!

How to Do a Root Smudge at Home Step-By-Step

Can you root smudge at home? Any DIY root smudge will require you to find the best root smudge formula to make sure you don’t end up ruining your hair. Better consult your hair colorist. If a salon visit is impossible, follow one of the root smudge Youtube video tutorials.

The most basic steps to follow are:

1) Finding your perfect shade. Make sure that you choose something similar to the shade of your innate root and the base color. You can go 1 to 2 levels higher.

2) Smudging. Wear gloves and thoroughly dab the color at your roots and other layers. Smudge and blend the shades for a natural transition. Repeat the steps until everything is covered. While the roots are processing, put conditioner on your ends (so when you rinse your color later it doesn’t bleed into your ends).

3) Letting it set. Wait for at least 5 minutes to let everything set. Rinse, condition, and blow-dry your hair.

Root Smudge Blending. My 2 secret weapons for creating seamless blends when adding any kind of root tap/smudge/melt are @thewetbrush and @olaplex No.2 (@balayageandfoils)

To sum up, hair smudging is perfect if you want to keep your real hair color, make a seamless transition of highlights, or just darken your roots and the crown area. The root smudge hair technique will let you create more dimension and disguise any stubborn gray hair you want to get rid of.

by Donna Sullivan
Donna is a hairstylist with 8 years of experience. Ask her about any hair-related problem (haircuts, hairstyles, colorings, hair care) and get a pro advice!