Root Smudge vs. Root Shadow vs. Root Melt: Your camouflage techniques with information about root smudge blonde, root melt blonde, root melt toner and root melt vs balayage

Root Smudge vs. Root Shadow vs. Root Melt: Know Your Camouflage Techniques

Dec 01, 2023Sharnee Rawson

The difference between root colouring techniques is unclear at first glance. This may become a problem when visiting your hairdresser to touch up your highlights, and you're faced with questions about root smudges, root shadows and root melts.  

To save your hairdresser explaining all three techniques during your next visit, we will help you broaden your understanding. We will also answer common questions about root smudge blonde, root melt blonde and root melt toner. We will even cover root smudge, root shadow and root melt vs balayage.

So, drop the excuses for your messy roots and learn the facts below!



Root Smudge Vs. Root Shadow Vs. Root Melt: Why The Confusion?

Natural and gradual colouring with subtle demarcation lines has dominated hairdressing trends in the last decade. There are many similarities between the main techniques, including:

  • Applicable to balayage and foliage techniques.
  • Reduce the intensity of the line between roots and highlights.
  • Achieved by blending the colour formula close to the hair root.

It's no wonder so many people are confused by the differences between root smudge, root shadow and root melt. Many people even consider root smudge and root shadow to be one and the same. However, if you want to follow the gradients for root blending techniques, here is the natural order of things: root tapping—root shadow—root-smudging— root (s)melting. 

It is wise to schedule a consultation before you refresh your highlights. Hairdressers usually have different techniques and colouring styles that mark their personal brands. So, each hairdresser can recreate the demarcation techniques in a slightly different way. 

Root Smudge, Root Shadow & Root Melt Vs Balayage

Camouflage techniques are a gradual transition from one shade to another from the roots. While you can use balayage to help create this effect, most people use the term balayage to refer to freehand painting highlights onto the length of the hair. This will leave behind a natural and sun-kissed appearance.



What Is Root Smudge?

smudged root is created by patting a slightly lighter colour to your roots so that they are fully covered while seamlessly blending with the highlights (balayage or other).

Root smudge for hair explained

The purpose of the root smudge is to create a softer transition from your bleached hair to your natural hair colour close to the root.

How To Do Root Smudging

Root smudging involves five steps:

  1. For a successful root smudge, the colour you choose for the transitional shade is key. It needs to be as close to your natural hair colour (maximum 1 to 2 shades lighter). What you can play with is the colour undertones. Go warmer and golden if you have grey hair or pick a cool toner shade if you want to eliminate brassy tones. 

  2. Dab the colour close to the root, at about ¼” along the hairline to cover all root hair.

  3. This is the most important step and where things could go wrong: use a dye brush or nitrile hairdressing gloves to smudge the colour down the hair to the point you reach the highlights, blending about half an inch from both ends to achieve the seamless transition.

  4. Leave it for 5 to 10 minutes and rinse your hair thoroughly. 

  5. Finally, flaunt your new root smudge!

How Long Does A Root Smudge Last?

One of the best features of the root smudge is how long it lasts. Unlike a normal head of foils, you do not need to worry about overgrowth quite so much. After all, darker roots are part of the look!

You can expect your root smudge to last up to two to three months without a touch-up.

Is Root Smudge Blonde Possible?

Many people think mixing dark roots into blonde hair is a recipe for disaster. Yet, root smudge blonde is actually one of the most popular looks! A careful hand will allow the lighter colour to mingle seamlessly into the darker colour without giving the appearance of accidental overgrowth.

If you're still uncertain, ask your hairdresser whether you could pull off a root smudge blonde. There's a high chance they will give a resounding "yes!"



What Is Root Shadow?

Although some people use shadow root and root smudging interchangeably, there is a difference.

Root Shadow for hair explained

Root shadow is a colouring technique that blends grown hair roots and hair that is coloured in a noticeably different shade. Usually, the root colour is much darker, and you don’t even need to have a full head of highlights.

How To Do A Shadow Root

Again, the colour choice is essential. A shadow root is more dramatic than a root smudge, so it is safe to go up to 2 or 3 shades in variation.

Apply permanent colour and wait for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the depth you want to achieve. Keep in mind a demi-permanent or semi-permanent colour is not always sufficient to blend the contrast.

How Long Does This Last?

We are happy to report a shadow root is deliciously low-maintenance. You can go 10 to 12 weeks between appointments! 



What is Root Melt?

Root melting, also called colour melting, is not just done at the roots. Your hairdresser can apply it further down the hair to correct (usually your DIY) colouring mistakes.

The purpose of melting is to de-intensify harsh transitions. However, it is usually done on wet hair to benefit from the porosity.

Root melting for hair explained

Although it may look simple to do these techniques at home, the opposite is true. The result may be uneven colour that is anywhere between clown streaks and losing the fabulous balayage transitions, so proceed with caution. 

How To (S)Melt Roots

Root melting is the effect of smudging the root to create a transitional lived-in colour. Colour will be blended to avoid harsh demarcation lines between colours. 

How Long Does A Root Melt Take?

Any type of colouring is a long process. Your hairdresser needs to examine your hair, choose the chemicals and begin applications carefully to get the best result with the least amount of damage.

Although root melts take up to 60 minutes, you should allow around 2-2.5 hours for a wash, cut and blowdry. Additional time may be necessary if you need extra services.

How Long Does A Root Melt Last?

Compared to a root smudge and root shadow, a root melt is one of the longest-lasting camouflage techniques on the list. You can last up to three months before needing touch-ups!

Is Root Melt Blonde Possible?

Just like root smudge blonde, it is also possible to create root melt blonde. This is popular for anyone who is tired of touching up their blonde hair every month. Even if you have the darkest roots, a good hairdresser can make root melt blonde work!



The Best Root Smudge, Root Shadow & Root Melt Toner

If you want to try some of the looks we have mentioned, check out our collection of toners. You can shop hair colours by Goldwell, Muk, De Lorenzo and more.

There are also plenty of hair colours if your current shade needs a refresh.

Final Thoughts: Colour Melting Trends For Colour Correction Mastery

There is no easy way around the issue. If you want root smudges, root melts or shadow roots, you need to know the differences between them!

We hope you have been taking notes about these hair colouring techniques, including our answers about root smudge blonde, root melt blonde, root melt toner and root melt vs balayage.

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