Turns out, the secret to a great haircut is two-fold. Maybe you’re thinking a haircut is a haircut and what does it matter? Odds are, you’ve walked out of a salon unsatisfied. It happens, we get it. You go in wanting something and come out, freshly cut hair swinging, only to head home already dreading the growing out process.
When it comes to getting a haircut, sure you could just wing it, but why not be informed? As it is, we have all the info and we’re more than happy to share. The truth behind a great cut is this: first, you must consider your face shape and secondly, you need to choose a cut that works with your hair's texture.
Need a little more explanation? Don’t worry, we were kind of stumped too, because what does that even mean? How do you determine your face shape? What about texture? Thankfully, we got to ask top hairstylists, George Papanikolas from the Andy LeCompte Salon and Lorna Pollack from Kinloch Salon, all our burning questions. And these professionals from premiere NY salons definitely knew what they were talking about.
While it’s definitely fun to change it up and go for the unexpected, there’s something to be said for a classic, flattering cut. Think of it as your home base...you know this style works no matter what. Keep scrolling on down to learn more about choosing a cut that works for you—tailored to your face shape, specific texture and all.
Meet the Expert
The Six Main Face Shapes
The determining factors tend to be your forehead, cheekbones, and jaw.
- Oval: Usually the length of your face is more than the width, with the forehead being the widest part of the face. Papanikolas says this shape is usually considered the most desirable face shape.
- Square: The length to width is nearly one to one, equal lengths horizontally and vertically, with a strong angled jaw, and minimal curve at the chin.
- Round: The length and width ratio is about equal. Soft and rounded features, with flatter cheekbones, and the cheeks stand out as the widest part of the face. Similar to a square face shape with softer angles.
- Heart: Pointed Chin with a wider forehead and slimmer chin, usually in the shape of an inverted triangle
- Oblong/Rectangle: When the width of the forehead, cheeks, and jawline are nearly the same, or the distance from forehead to chin is a bit longer than distance ear to ear.
- Diamond- Usually defined by high cheekbones, a pointy chin, and a narrower forehead
Your Best Cut According to Face Shape
When it comes to the actual cut, both experts agree there isn’t always one definitive way to go, but instead, there are a few flattering and standard tips to accentuate features, and, as Pollack says, “move the eye away from other points of the face."
Though, you’re allowed to break the rules. You’re not taking an oath here. It’s all about finding your balance, she says.
- Oval can get away with almost anything as most styles typically work here, but according to Papanikolas, most flattering tend to be: long layers, shoulder-length waves, full fringe, layered bob or a side-swept pixie. Pollack is partial to a strong square bob which brings focus to your sharp jawline.
- Square needs to soften edges around the forehead and strong jawlines so wavy shags with wispy fringe, soft side-swept bangs, or long layers with fringe work best. If you want something shorter than an asymmetrical fringe, create softer angles, Papanikolas says.
- Round works well with a long bob, Pollack says, which draws the eyes down to visually lengthen the face. Papanikolas echos this, saying round faces do well with cuts that elongate the face, like long straight hair, long voluminous waves, shaggy bobs, and swoopy bangs with cropped sides.
- Heart shapes look best with blunt bangs and wavy layers or a chin-length bob with bangs. Soft angles in the front that start below the face help balance out the longer forehead, Pollack says. The key here, according to Papanikolas, is to keep the bangs narrow so that you can create the illusion of less width at the top.
- Oblong/Rectangle takes a similar approach to square faces. Soften edges and strong jawlines with layers, volume, and side-swept or feathered fringe. Long layers and angles add movement and texture to the hair.
- Diamond shapes can show off their high cheekbones with short-cropped hair, or keep it long with face-framing layers. Added bangs that hit around the cheekbone also accentuate this shape.
Bring in pictures of what you want your hair to look like. This helps ensure that the image in your head matches the one in your stylist's head, and together you can customize the look to a style that works with your features.
Working With Texture
Hair texture and type play a big role in finding your ideal style, Pollack says. It’s important to understand what your hair is capable of doing naturally and what you are willing to do to maintain a desired look, she says.
Both texture and volume are important to take into consideration and do help in adding width and height to your hair, but Papanikolas warns could be your "worst enemy" if you’re trying to elongate your face.
For example, if you have a round face and medium texture, you want to avoid round styles that will accentuate your features, Pollack says. Go for styles that keep away from accenting your jawline, and instead turn focus around to the neck and collar bone. While, if you were going for a shorter look, keep the sides short so as not to add to the roundness of cheeks and forehead, she says. “Adding height and fullness on top to move the eyes higher.”
Taking Hair Type Into Account
Fine: Generally thin hair should have the least amount of layering so keep things blunt and short. “My favorite would be a blunt bob with limited texture and layers to maintain strength in your length,” Pollack says.
Medium: A variation of lengths are possible here, Pollack says. Adding layers or texture is ideal to help with movement and minimal weight removal.
Thick: Styles can vary depending on texture or type of hair. You can get away with tons of layering, as long layers help with weight removal, debulk density, and help with day-to-day styling.
Consider the Upkeep
Finding a style that works with your lifestyle is key. Pollack recommends getting your haircut every 3-4 months. If you’re a client who sees your stylist every 6-8 months, she wouldn't recommend getting a high maintenance look.
Like a pixie or blunt fringe, both experts note shorter cuts tend to be more high-maintenance and require more love than a long layered haircut. Longer hair and a feathered fringe tend to be more forgiving and can be stretched out, Papanikolas says.
Also, consider what you are willing to do at home to maintain the desired look and style. “What products you might need to achieve your look and how often you are willing to come into the salon to maintain the look,” Pollack says.
While big cuts are best left to the stylist, and there are proven timelines on how often you should be getting a haircut, there are a few ways to maintain a certain style or length at home. From cutting your own bangs to trimming split ends, it is possible. Just make sure you keep a steady hand and go forth with confidence.
Styling and maintenance are important, especially if you are doing something against your natural texture, Papanikolas says.
Questions both experts say you should ask yourself include:
- How often are you willing to visit the salon to maintain this desired look?
- What are you willing to do at home in terms of products? Heat style? Wash and go?
- Are you ready to blow-dry and flat iron your hair once you cut it into a bob if you have naturally wavy hair?
- Is the cut still versatile with your natural texture on the days you don't style it?
Papanikolas says that unless you plan on having to tirelessly style your hair, these are important considerations.
Bangs: Cut, Texture, and Forehead Length
The debate has seemingly gone on forever but bangs are a big deal, okay! The supporters champion the fringe, while naysayers hark back to childhood photos and ill-advised at-home chops. While we don’t recommend impulse bangs, (Yes, the fleeting urge does overtake us every once in a while. Say, like, every autumn!) it’s important to acknowledge that certain styles do work better depending on your face shape.
Round: Side Swept
Square: Wispy fringe
Diamond: Side Swept fringe
Rectangle: Side-swept with feathered fringe
Heart: Blunt and narrow
If you have a longer forehead and want to distract from that area, bangs may very well be your best friend, as they can hide a big forehead. Pollack says adding a chic blunt bang should do the trick. (Though big foreheads are totally in. As the owner of one myself, I’ve learned to embrace the extra room.)
Short foreheads work better with a soft, side-swept fringe, which Papanikolas says provides a lengthening effect or the illusion of such. Pollack seconds this saying, “If your forehead is smaller, I would recommend keeping things light and soft so the bangs do not completely take over your face, therefore making your face look smaller.”
Consider hair texture and hair patterns like cowlicks before deciding on a bang. Pollack says: if you consider your hair unruly with strong growth patterns in the front, be aware bangs might be more maintenance on a daily basis when it comes to heat styling/products. (Which I can attest to. As a strong cowlick owner myself, bangs became more of a hassle than the breezy chic update I’d been hoping for)
Papanikolas tends to only recommend blunt bangs to clients with straight hair, saying, otherwise they become a time-consuming task, while side-swept bangs can be more forgiving and versatile.
Another thing to consider: how often you’re willing to get a trim. Pollack suggests leaving it to the professionals. Schedule a trip to the salon every few weeks to keep up the desired fringe length, she says.
Do's and Don'ts of Going Short
Don’t: Go into a short haircut thinking it will not require any styling.
Do: Play with texture. Just because it's short doesn't mean it has to be one straight style all the time, Papanikolas says. Short hair is a great way to play with waves and different texture products. “I love a dry spray wax like Biolage R.A.W. Texturizing Styling Spray ($5) which gives a light texture with a clean feel,” he says.
Don’t: Just wash and go. It works for long hair, but Papanikolas warns this method can turn out looking like ‘an animal on your head’ for people with short styles.
Do: Have fun! Papanikolas says short hair is a great time to be bolder and experiment with color.
A Universally Flattering Style
If there’s a universally flattering haircut out there, it seems to include soft layers no matter what.
Pollock mentions a bob, which is easily adjustable to fit everyone’s face, from adding bangs, to added texture, and length. Papanikolas says a shoulder-length cut with soft layers works on most people and face shapes. “It's one of those cuts that you can't really go wrong with,” he says.
Or, try out a long layered haircut, which Pollack says is a great way to spice up your hair if you aren't “ready to do a big chop". Plus, added angles in the front, which can vary in length, easily works for every individual face shape.