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 fact, for years I styled my hair with the same sideswept bangs and long, beachy waves because I thought that was the only style that made my face look like anything other than a bowling ball. I sighed with longing at the sight of my oval-faced friends’ effortless ponytails and topknots, knowing that on me, these styles just wouldn’t look right.
But in reality, there are scores of hairstyles for women who want to slim and elongate their faces: updos, braids, ponies, and beyond. The key to making them work for you lies in the details. To find out exactly what those details are, we consulted Michael Sparks, celebrity stylist and co-owner of Malibu’s Cie Sparks Salon, as well as Heather Hall, owner and head stylist at Knstruct Salon in San Diego.
“Remember that softness around the face is key,” says Sparks. “To make your face appear slimmer, try to keep as much body and volume as possible. Tousled and wavy looks are essential. Avoid slick looks.” With Sparks’s advice in mind, we put together this list. Here are seven easy face-slimming hairstyles (no contouring required).
A versatile half-up style like this one transitions beautifully from desk to dusk (to brunch the next day). The look plays on softness around the face and height at the crown to create a slimming effect.
1. Start by applying an instant volumizer. Part your hair in the middle (or where your part naturally falls).
2. Use a 1 1/2– or 2-inch-barrel curling iron to create loose waves throughout your hair. Follow up with a texture spray for that extra-romantic tousled finish.
3. Back-comb the hair at your crown to create a bit of height.
4. 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.
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.
1. To style, apply a volumizing dry shampoo such as Dove Refresh + Care Dry Shampoo, Volume & Fullness ($5). 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.
2. Use a rattail comb to lightly tease hair at the crown.
3. 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.
4. Free a piece or two in front so it falls next to your face.
5. Finish off with a mist of Drybar The Sheriff Firm Hold Hairspray ($27).
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.
1. Apply a volumizing mousse to freshly washed hair, such as Alterna Haircare Clinical Densifying Styling Mousse ($38). Then blow-dry with a round brush.
2. Once it’s completely dry, gather your hair back into a low ponytail. (Pro tip: “Use your cheekbones to frame where the top of the bun starts,” says Hall.) Remember not to secure the bun too tightly.
3. Release several pieces of hair by either side of the face. Use a 1-inch curling iron to create gentle waves through those pieces.
4. 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. Then pin it in place with a few bobby pins.
5. 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. Try Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Finishing Paste ($4).
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.
1. 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.
2. 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 pony with volume at the roots elongates the face shape, lifts, and lengthens,” says Hall. Not to mention that the slimming hairstyle is effortlessly sexy and on trend.
1. To re-create, apply a root-lift spray to damp hair, such as Moroccanoil Root Boost ($29). Follow up by applying a salt spray from midshaft to ends, such as R+Co Rockaway Salt Spray ($26), to build texture and volume.
2. Rough up dry hair with your fingers. Then gently tease hair at the crown for height.
3. Create a messy side part, and gather hair to the opposite side. Braid regularly, and secure at the bottom with a clear elastic. Lightly tug the loops of the braid outward to make them fuller and messier.
4. Top the look off with a mist of Verb Ghost Hairspray ($16).
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.
1. Apply a shine serum to damp hair, such as O&M's Frizzy Logic Shine Serum ($30).
2. 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.
3. Once hair is blown out, part it in the middle. Tease the crown to create height.
4. 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.
5. 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 ($26).
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. The key to this style is parting your hair on the opposite side, which creates instant volume.
2. Use a 1-inch curling wand to wave 1- to 2-inch sections of hair throughout your entire head.
3. Rake through the curls with your fingers to tousle the style.
This story was originally published on November 2, 2016, and has since been updated.