The ideal haircut is as elusive as your mood. But when you're struggling to figure out which types of hairstyles flatter you the most, a good place to start is by classifying your face shape as square, oval, round, or heart-shaped. Once you know the shape of your face, you can recognize other people with a similar face shape and compare styles to see what flatters and what fails.
Pictorial Examples From Old Hollywood
To show you how different hairstyles can make people with the same face shape look different, I've yanked some pictures of classic Hollywood stars from the public domain. "Old celebs?" you say. Sure, why not? Hair doesn't have to be modern and trendy to look fabulous. Some vintage hairstyles look great even today.
Among these 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s celebrity photos, you'll see examples of hairdos that look great, those that look less great, and those that are clearly hair-don'ts. Even if you can't bring yourself to ask the stylist for finger curls, you'll be inspired to get your hair cut and styled with a look that is attractive and flattering for you.
But remember, guys and girls, that whatever the hairstyling rules say, each face is different. Finding the right look is a trial-and-error process.
Poll: What Shape is Your Face?
Is This Advice Gender-Specific?
Nah. These hairstyling tips apply equally to male, female, and transgender individuals.
Gender-sense can, if desired, be tweaked with face shape theory. For example, emphasizing a square face shape might move it in a more masculine direction. Softening a square face shape might move it in a feminine direction.
Examples of the Square Face Shape
Hair Rules for a Square Face Shape
Square shaped faces tend toward a classic look.
In thin, square faces, the fine definition of the jaw and chin should be treated as an asset for both men and women.
In plump or blocky square faces, the rules generally say to elongate the lines and break up the symmetry.
- Use an off-center part to de-emphasize the geometric angles of a square face shape.
- Use a side part to frame a square face without de-emphasizing it.
- Try a short, layered boyish cut with a sweeping, messy fringe of bangs to add a feminine touch to a square-shaped face on a woman.
- If the chin and jaw together form a solid, intimidating block, de-emphasize the line by ending the hairstyle well above or well below.
- Square faces tend to look shorter than they are, so an emphasis point, such as curls or waves, midway down your face can help.
- For a longer option for a square-shaped face, consider a shoulder-length smooth wave, trimmed to a bouncy curl to move the eye away from the square jaw.
- Another longer look for a square face shape is tumbled curls such as Jessica Simpson wears. Ms. Simpson's hairdos either narrow her square face shape or soften the force of her strong chin with lots of curly waves.
Examples of the Oval Face Shape (Long and Thin)
Hair Rules for a Long Oval Face Shape
Long, thin oval face shapes are beautiful, with the straight lines on the sides and rounded chins. But they can often look too long and lugubrious with the wrong hairstyle.
- Oval face shapes benefit from hairstyles that widen the face and add a horizontal dimension. Think wave. Think body. Broaden your oval-shaped face by wearing styles that are round and fluffy.
- The length should be cropped at your jawline (midway down your face) or falling below your shoulder in ever-more-glamorous curls.
- If you have a very long neck, avoid buzz cuts or close-cropped styles that don't widen the face.
- Avoid styles that end at your chin.
- Avoid long, straight hairstyles. They make the oval face shape look mournful.
- Long bangs down to, or past, your eyebrows shorten a too-prominent forehead in a long face shape. If you have a forehead that's too long, try 'em. You'll like 'em.
Examples of the Round Face Shape
Hair Rules for a Round Face Shape
Round faces tend to look sweet and accessible. They also tend to look pudgy, even if they're not.
Those round face shapes that are short and squishy need a lot of help, while faces tending toward the heart shape allow for more flexible styles.
- Your hairstyle should draw the gaze away from the broadest part of your face, which is usually around the cheekbones.
- Try a long, straight look with bangs that end midway down your forehead (see the picture of Claudette Colbert).
- Wear your hair shoulder-length or longer, but not ending at your chin, which would emphasize the roundness.
- Wear your hair close-cropped or swept up away from your jaw to make your "sweet round face" look more elegant.
- Avoid short, fluffy, full-bodied styles that further round out your face. A boyish cut or a feathered look that ends midway down your face can help lengthen your face. (Ironically, for those with oval-shaped faces, the same look shortens and rounds the face.)
- Long bangs make your already-short forehead look even squashier. Very short bangs elongate your round-shaped face.
- Use an off-center part if you wear your hair long. The sweep down your face can disguise a round cheek. Jennifer Aniston is famous for her slightly asymmetrical styles that narrow her round face shape.
A Quick Note About the Heart-Shaped Face
Few people have a truly proportional heart face shape - broad at the top and narrowing in to a rounded, pointy chin, with neither a long nor short forehead, and neither a long nor short chin.
Meg Ryan is often touted as having a heart-shaped face, but the beautiful celebrity has quite a round face, and wears shaggy haircuts that sweep over her cheeks to disguise it.
A heart-shaped face is extremely versatile and ideal for maximizing your choice of flattering haircuts.
- Wear a jaw-length bob, a boyish cap in layers, a sweep of voluminous hair down your back, or a long, straight haircut. Even a close-cropped hairstyle is flattering to heart-shaped faces. So are bangs.
- A top-heavy look, with hair piled on your head or a big afro on top, can round out a heart-shaped face if the top is too flat.
How to Wear Your Hair
About the Celebrity Photos in this Article
These public-domain images from film screenshots and trailors are thanks to Wikimedia Commons. The photographs are in the public domain in the United States. Not all photos can be used in every country.
Dani on October 30, 2014:
Inverted Triangle face: Wide hairline and cheekbones, thin cheeks and pointed jaw
Liz on April 19, 2014:
I thought Marilyn had a heart shaped face especially since she had a widows peak.
sudeep on May 27, 2013:
my measurerments are forehead 16cm,cheekbones 15cm,jawline 21cm and length 21cm,so what is my face shape and what hairstyle suits me
Bikant Bhattacharjee on October 18, 2011:
I have a long face cut
Sophia on September 04, 2011:
I have a heart shaped face. My hairstylist says that layers, bangs and hilights look on hearties if they want long hair. My school has lice and I want to wear my hair up. How should i wear my ponytails to work out in if i cant part my hair or sleek it back and then do it? Any other simple updo's (ex. pigtails, side ponytail)?
Sam on September 04, 2011:
It's odd i have a boyish jaw and a square/rectangle face but i have really chubby cheeks. Ah i knew curls helped
Abbey on August 29, 2011:
I have an oval shaped head...but I can't find the best haircut for me all the girls at school have bangs that go to the side of their foreheads (meaning that they are long) and I have my hair that way to but I don't think that this is the best style for me, I have no idea what to do with my hair!
that style really is me....
Katie on August 13, 2011:
My face shape is a mix of oval/heart/square, my cheeks are a little chubby and I have a big forehead.
:) on December 05, 2010:
My face is oval but since I have chubby cheeks and my jaw line isn't very defined it has a tendency to look round.
It's the forehead that balances that out.