Root tapping vs root smudging: which root technique is best for you?

Dark roots are the way to wear colour right now. Whether it's rooty blonde balayage or this season's super hot muted copper tones, our Instagram feeds are loaded with hashtags about root tapping, root smudging, and the coveted 'shadow root' look. 

Paul Edmonds London senior colour technician Joe Savine is here to shed light on the top trending techniques for dying hair roots — smudging and tapping. What's the difference? How do they change your shade and your look? How do you know what to ask for at the salon? Never fear, Joe is here!

Book your colour service

What is root tapping

What is root tapping?

Root tapping is the process of carefully brushing a small amount of your natural colour onto the hair, very close to the roots. Joe says, "We use it to soften a classic highlight technique by tapping about 1cm or less of the root. 

"We'll choose a glaze several shades darker than your lengths and ends or one that's a close match to your natural root colour. The glaze will wash out over time, creating a much softer look."

Tapping gives maximum colour with a touch of natural root, making it great for people who want an all-over shade without the strain of high-maintenance upkeep. Better yet, root tapping only needs touching up every 10 to 12 weeks, making it a budget-friendly approach to full colour.

What is root smudging?

What is root smudging?

To create a root smudge blonde, your technician will use a colour application technique that creates a root shadow. Smudging helps blend the line of demarcation from your natural roots into your highlights or balayage. Your colour technician will apply a light shade onto your darker roots and 'pull' it down towards the lengths of your hair. The effect is a slight darkening, more commonly known as a 'shadow root'. It's a great technique for anyone wanting a balayage with dark roots.

"When root smudging hair, we darken using a colour after a highlight surface. You can smudge 1-3 inches," says Joe. "The final result appears darker at the root and lighter through mid-lengths and ends — we'd leave out the face framing pieces to give 'pop'."

See the full colour service menu

Which technique should you choose?

Which technique should you choose? 

The first step in deciding which root technique to request is to book a consultation with a colour expert. They'll assess your hair type, texture, condition, and current colour situation to find the best solution for you. In most cases, they'll ask you about your budget, lifestyle, and the look you want to create. 

Book a colour consultation

"The technique you choose will depend on where you want the colour to start and how much of a lived-in feel you want to achieve," Joe says. "If you want a more lived-in feel, you'd go for a smudge, and if you want your colour closer to the root, go for a tap. If you want it really lived in, ask for balayage because it doesn't go up to the root."

In some cases, your colour technician will use a blend of several techniques to create a custom colour for hair roots. 

Root techniques with the top shades for AW22

Root techniques with the top shades for AW22

Joe says the versatility of root tapping and root smudging means they can be adapted to work for both warm and cool tones. If you've been considering one of Joe and Paul's top 3 hair colour trends for AW22, these two balayage techniques might be a great option to customise the look. 

Joe says, "we're all about adaptability and individuality here at Paul Edmonds London. Whatever you'd like, we can make it work for you."

Colour maintenance

Don't want to visit the salon every couple of weeks for a touch-up? Joe and the rest of the colour team have treatments and techniques to help refresh and restore your shade without needing a full colour service.

"All colour techniques and shades can be refreshed," he says. "Glazes can be done in between appointments to rejuvenate the colour; you can even do a root tap/smudge four weeks after your original colour appointment."

You can also protect your freshly coloured locks by swapping to a colour-specific home care routine. Joe and the team recommend the Shu Uemura Color Lustre range and Kérastase Chroma Absolu to protect from fade and brassiness.

Got your heart set on a dark root or a lived-in look? Book a consultation with Joe and the team, or book your colour service now if you're a regular colour client at the salon. These are two techniques we think you'll really root for!