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Everything You Need to Know About Shadow Hair

Shadow hair is a solution to in-between color. Colorist Robyn Sweeney, who has been credited as creating the toning technique, explains it originally sprung out of the balayage trend. Now a must-do on its own, shadow hair adds insta depth while extending the longevity of your color. “Clients wanted less maintenance and more natural looking color,” she explains of the perks of toning down highlights. Here’s everything you need to know before you get shady.

“I shadow tone almost all of my clients, whether their hair is blonde or brunette,” says Robyn, noting that shading is ideal for anyone (read: everyone) that wants their highlights to look subtler as they’re growing out. “It’s especially ideal for clients that want to feel very blonde but don’t want the harsh line that you would get from the old school highlight and tone method,” she adds.


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Shady Lady

If you’re game to give shadow hair a whirl, emphasize to your stylist that you want your highlights to look as natural as humanely possible, and definitely not streaky or stripey at the root. As Robyn explains, stress that you’re looking for “a soft blend from your natural color to your desired level of lightness and a very soft grow out.”


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Tone it Down

Shadow toning is super customizable, which is great because everyone can throw a little shade. To make sure your color resembles Robyn’s creations, ask your stylist to place the shadow tone between 1-3 inches from the root. “I typically find it best to choose a tone that’s about one to two levels lighter than their natural color and at least one level deeper than their highlights,” she says on finding your color match. Robyn relies on Redken Shades EQ for shadow toning. “My favorites are the N, P, GB and NB series. I also use Wella Color Touch and Illumina when I’m looking for a tone that has more depth and that’s not quite as translucent as shades.”


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Color Extender

Shadow toning is built around being low maintenance—your your roots are meant to melt into your color. This becomes clear especially around the 6-week mark, when you’d typically have to head back to the salon to re-do your highlights. Shading buys you an extra 2-6 weeks before a touch-up trip becomes mandatory. “I’ve found that by the time your shadow tone begins to lighten up after about 6 weeks, your roots have begun to grow and that shadow tone becomes a soft gradient from your root color to your highlights,” says Robyn.

All winter highlights should include some shading – we love the seasonal colorspo HERE.


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