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Hair Cutting Tips

Determining the shape of your face and communicating with your hairstylist can ensure haircut happiness.

If you have hair, you’ll eventually get it cut—unless you’re singer Crystal Gayle. The problem, as every woman knows, is that poor communication between client and stylist can make you look like a Chia Pet. That’s why Hallmark actually came out with a “condolences on your haircut” card series some years ago.

Understanding your face’s structural composition and scheduling a consultation with your stylist are the best ways to ensure a perfect cut. Your stylist will take into account your face shape, lifestyle, hair texture and hair condition, among other important factors, before making a recommendation.

About Face

Each of us has a specific face shape that dictates which styles will look best on us. You can identify your face shape—round, oval, square or long—by looking directly into the bathroom mirror and tracing your reflection with a grease pencil. Which of the four shapes best matches your drawing?

If your face is round, you want to minimize fullness, and the most flattering styles will keep hair off your face. This will emphasize your cheekbones, jaw line and eyes. You can wear long or short hair, but it’s often advisable to add layers to create volume at the top of your head, which elongates and slims the face. Make sure hair isn't too full on the sides, as this will only serve to accentuate the roundness you’re trying to downplay.

With an oval face shape, you can go short or long, but keep your hair an even length. Too many layers create excessive volume. Oval faces tend to be on the small side, and high-volume hair can be overpowering. Long, wispy bangs are generally flattering.

If you have a long face, avoid the popular bob hairstyle, which draws attention to facial length—particularly in the chin area. Also stay away from short bangs and excess volume on top. You can create volume on the sides with a layered cut, which will produce the illusion of fullness.

If you have a square face, don't cut your hair too short. Layers, accompanied by volume on the top and sides, soften your look. Length in the back generally works, as do bangs—as long as they’re soft and subtle.

Get a Consult

Your stylist can show you different cuts in the photo books she keeps. Pay close attention to how much care and maintenance each style requires. Explain your daily routine and how much time you are willing to spend on your hair. A good stylist will ask about lifestyle: whether you are active in sports, your workplace dress code and how hectic your morning schedule tends to be. If, for example, you have only a limited amount of time to get ready for work and march the family out the door, a style that requires 60–90 minutes of prep work will add stress to your life.

If a stylist tries to talk you into a cut that you know, in your gut, is wrong for you, don’t be shy or feel intimidated. Be clear about your concerns. If you feel you aren’t being heard, ask to speak with the salon manager or change salons.

Make sure your stylist—particularly if this is your first appointment—examines your hair before rushing you to the shampoo station. She needs to assess your hair’s condition when it’s dry and styled “your way.” Agree in advance how much she will cut off before scissors approach your head. The actual number of inches isn’t the issue; it’s the visual acknowledgment that counts. Ask her to demonstrate with her fingers how much she plans to cut so you can intercede before any final decision is made.

Terminology can present another problem. Stylists have their own vocabulary and lingo, and their definition of “choppy,” “chunky” or “one layer” may mean an entirely different concept to you. To avoid language barriers and translation troubles, tell the stylist in your own words—not the fancy terms you’ve picked up from a magazine—what you want. Even better, bring her a photo of the look you want—or even what you don’t want. You may like one model’s bangs and another model’s layers, so multiple pictures also help communicate your desires. The more information—visual or otherwise—that you provide, the easier it will be for your stylist to envision the cut you seek.

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