Styling your hair according to trends is the fun part, but not every messy half-bun or sleek, high-gloss ponytail works for every face shape. The struggle to find flattering hairstyles for full cheeks and round faces is, as they say, real. In reality, there are scores of hairstyles for women who want to slim and elongate their faces: updos, braids, ponies, and beyond.
Ahead, find 20 hairstyles that help slim your face — plus tips from the experts.
Meet the Expert
- Michael Sparks is a hairstylist and the co-owner of Tabb & Sparks Salon in Santa Monica, California.
- David Lopez is a celebrity hairstylist and and Kenra Professional Ulta Ambassador based in New York. His clients include Ashley Graham, Tiffani Thiessen, and Hailey Bieber.
Face Framing Layers
One of the most flattering, slimming haircuts for any face shape is face framing layers. "Face framing layers that follow the contours of your cheekbone and jawline will always give you an instant 'hair contouring' effect," says Lopez.
Myth: Girls with full faces can’t pull off a ponytail. While it’s true that a straight, slicked-back pony exaggerates round features, a gently teased style with wavy texture and a slight side part is a slimming hairstyle that’s ultra-flattering. To style, Sparks says to apply a volumizing dry shampoo such as Dove Refresh + Care Dry Shampoo, Volume & Fullness ($15). Then, create a slight side part and wave hair all over (starting from about eye level) using a 1 1/2– or 2-inch-barrel curling iron.
Use a rattail comb to lightly tease hair at the crown and pull hair back into a mid-height ponytail and secure with an elastic. "Gently yank the hair just above the base of the ponytail forward to create more volume on top," Sparks explains.
Free a piece or two in front so it falls next to your face. Finish off with a mist of Drybar The Sheriff Firm Hold Hairspray ($27).
According to Christina Bosque, hairstylist for Rita Hazan, long faces look great with shoulder length to medium length hair. "Layered bobs styled with texture to add volume and width to a long face shape is ideal," she says. You can amp up the volume with My Amazing Full & Thick Shape Building Spray ($15).
A voluminous topknot or ballerina bun creates a vertical illusion, lengthening your face for a slimming effect. "Worn slicked back or paired with those same trusty face-framing tendrils, you’ve got yourself an easy, becoming hairstyle," says Sparks.
Pull your hair up into a nice high pony. "You can release a couple pieces of hair around the face on either side if you prefer a more undone look," he adds.
Then, coil the pony around itself until you have a nice big bun, and secure it to your head. "Unless you're working with a lot of hair, be careful not to make the bun too tight. Volume is your friend."
“A messy, beachy braid with volume at the roots elongates the face shape, lifts, and lengthens,” says Heather Hall, owner and master colorist at Knstruct Salon in San Diego, California. Not to mention that the slimming hairstyle is effortlessly sexy and on-trend.
To re-create, apply a root-lift spray to damp hair, such as Moroccanoil Root Boost ($28). Follow up by applying a salt spray from mid-shaft to ends, such as R+Co Rockaway Salt Spray ($16), to build texture and volume.
Rough up dry hair with your fingers, then gently tease hair at the crown for height. "Create a messy side part, and gather hair to the opposite side. Braid regularly, and secure at the bottom with a clear elastic," she says. Lightly tug the loops of the braid outward to make them fuller and messier. Top the look off with a mist of Verb Ghost Hairspray ($18).
If you want an instant slimming effect without the help of a professional stylist, Lopez suggests trying a deep side part. "Line up the part with the arch or tail of your brow and slick the lighter side back behind the ear." You can add some lift at the hairline with a lightweight hair spray, like Kenra Professional Platinum Dry Setting Spray 15/20 ($25) for instant softening.
Going for a more formal look? This effortless low bun is your answer. Face-framing waves break up any roundness while still looking upscale enough for a wedding or black-tie affair. Start by applying a volumizing mousse to freshly washed hair, like Alterna Haircare Clinical Densifying Styling Mousse ($38). Then blow-dry with a round brush.
Once it’s completely dry, gather your hair back into a low ponytail. Remember not to secure the ponytail too tightly.
Release several pieces of hair by either side of the face. Use a 1-inch curling iron to create gentle waves through those pieces.
Hall recommends using your cheekbones to frame where the top of the bun starts.
"In the back, coil the ponytail around itself to create a bun, and secure with a small, clear elastic. Gently yank the bun outward to make it fuller," she says. Then pin it in place with a few bobby pins.
Finish by warming up some smoothing balm or paste between your fingers and gently running it over the top of your head to tame any flyaways. We like Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Finishing Paste ($3).
It seems counterintuitive but sometimes bringing all your hair up can, in fact, make your face appear slimmer. "Line up the angle of the ponytail with your cheekbone and top of your ear to create a clean symmetrical line that will give an uplifted effect," says Lopez. To get an even more "snatched" finish, he recommends using Kenra Professional Platinum Glass Spray 6 ($24).
Princess-inspired hair was a trend we saw a lot of last summer, and with its perfectly imperfect texture and lift at the crown, it has all the makings of a face-slimming hairstyle. Start by applying a shine serum to damp hair, such as O&M's Frizzy Logic Shine Serum ($50). Then, blow-dry hair with a small round brush, leaving strands of hair wrapped around the barrel for 20 seconds and setting with a cool shot.
Once hair is blown out, part it in the middle and tease the crown to create height. "Take large sections of hair from above each ear, gently gather them to the back of your head, and pin. Make sure the sections drape down softly over your ears," says Hall.
Finish off by lightly curling the ends of your hair with a 1-inch curling iron, and set the style with a mist of flexible-hold hair spray. Try Living Proof Flex Shaping Hairspray ($27).
Like we mentioned, adding width and volume to your hair can help balance out your face shape. Shaggy layers are great for this, as you can easily play up the texture with different styling products for added body. Try Ouai Matte Pomade ($24) to achieve this style.
Short hair can be slimming as well, as long as you have tons of texture and fullness, which make your face look smaller in proportion. To re-create, apply a dry texturizer from mid-shaft to ends. We recommend Ouai Texturizing Hair Spray ($26). For hold, follow up with a mousse such as Moroccanoil Volumizing Mousse ($28).
Then, use a 1-inch curling wand to wave 1- to 2-inch sections of hair throughout your entire head. Rake through the curls with your fingers to tousle the style.
Parting your hair on the opposite side allows for instant volume with this style.
If you have a heart-shaped face, turn your attention to the pixie cut. "Pixie cuts are extremely flattering if you’re bold enough to go for it! Adding a textured side bang will slim the forehead area and balance out a heart shaped face," says Bosque.
As far as hairstyles that make your face look thinner go, long hair is one of the easiest options. "Long hair instantly slims most face shapes. Think about getting semi-permanent hair extensions to speed up the process," says Lopez.
Those with an oval face shape can consider themselves lucky. "Oval face shapes can carry a lot of different hairstyles," says Bosque. That said, she recommends adding a full fringe to your cut. "It's great for masking a more prominent forehead." Adding long layers is also a great idea to accentuate your favorite features, like high cheekbones and full lips.
If you're somewhere in the mid-length area, Lopez says to ask your stylist to cut the back a little bit shorter for an A-line bob that'll create the illusion of elongation around the face. "Want to really get the most out of it? Rock it sleek and straight with a center part," he says.
Swooping, soft, face-framing curtain bangs are a great way to add structure and clean lines to a rounder face, according to Lopez. "Make sure you ask your stylist for the fringe to be able to softly open up around the tail of the brow for an eye elongating effect."
To soften and slim a square face shape, short to medium-length hair styled with waves will help balance out your face. "Adding wispy layers also makes it much easier to get volume at the crown, which will give the illusion of a longer slimmer appearance," Bosque explains.
“Remember that softness around the face is key,” says Sparks. Voluminous waves are a universally flattering and slimming style. “To make your face appear slimmer, try to keep as much body and volume as possible. Tousled and wavy looks are essential."
Round face shapes should stay away from short, choppy layers, since this will only accentuate your wider face. "Longer length with long, flowing layers tends to be the most flattering," Bosque says.
Half-Up Half-Down Waves
A versatile half-up style like this one transitions beautifully from desk to dusk (to brunch the next day). Start by applying an instant volumizer, like Paul Mitchell's Invisiblewear Pump Me Up Texture Powder ($6) and then part your hair in the middle (or where your part naturally falls). "Use a 1 1/2- or 2-inch-barrel curling iron to create loose waves throughout your hair. Then, follow up with a texture spray for that extra-romantic tousled finish," says Sparks.
Back-comb the hair at your crown to create a bit of height. Take a 2- to 3-inch section of hair from either side of your head (above each ear) and pin them loosely to the back of your head so that the pieces drape down toward each ear. "The magic of this style is that it doesn’t have to be precise or symmetrical."
Does added volume help slim down a face?
Volume can be great to create the illusion of a slimmed-down, but it's all about placement. Loose waves, for instance, will serve the purpose rather than oversized ringlets, which can actually round a face out.
What's an easy way to create the illusion of a slimmer face without a visit to the salon?
Simply switching your part (i.e. creating a deeper side part, rather than a center part) can create the look of a slimmer face.
Will layers help a round face appear slimmer?
Short, choppy layers can actually serve to round out a face — longer and looser layers (at the ends of the hair) work better to slim the face.