Shape Shop: Inside the Architecture of a Haircut

Shape Shop: Inside the Architecture of a Haircut featured image
Nina Sinitskaya / Getty Images
This article first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Have you ever wondered why a trendy haircut looks great on a friend or celebrity, but doesn’t look quite right on you? Turns out, there are a few reasons why.

Valery Joseph, celebrity hairstylist and owner of his eponymous salons, says that, like most things, haircuts are not one-size-fits-all. “So many factors are considered when consulting with my clients on which haircut would be best suited for them,” he explains, listing texture, density and face shape as key elements.

“Haircuts can change someone’s face by highlighting or minimizing different features,” says celebrity hairstylist Jerome Lordet, noting that it can make someone look younger, or, unfortunately, older. “A haircut can be adapted or tweaked to complement different faces or achieve different looks.”

Hot Spots

A proper haircut begins long before your stylist takes out their shears. An understanding of facial anatomy is paramount. “It’s very important to understand face shapes, hair texture, how the hair falls, and if the client has cowlicks,” says Joseph. “We really analyze the hair.”

Some of the main areas a hairstylist should analyze before a chop include the forehead, cheekbones and jaw, Lordet says, noting that this will depend on face shape. “When cutting layers, depending on the hair type or cut, these points in the face can be general guidelines for length, and different haircuts can either highlight or minimize these parts of the face depending on your goals,” he explains.

Quick Fixes

From slimming the face to softening harsh angles, the proper haircut has the power to alter facial features you’d rather draw attention away from. For example, the look of a wide forehead can be minimized with face-framing layers or curtain bangs. “A strong, square jaw can be made more feminine with a softer cut, or strong cheekbones can be emphasized with a strong cut,” Lordet adds.

Color Theory

Hair color also plays a crucial role in creating the perfect look, and it’s also a process that’s never cookie-cutter. “Different face shapes and hair textures may complement certain color placements better, helping to enhance or balance facial features,” says celebrity colorist Casondra Kaeding, who takes every client’s facial anatomy into account before coloring their hair. “This helps me to strategically choose color placements to highlight their best features, and sometimes draw attention away from, or soften, certain areas.”

When analyzing facial shape for color placement, Kaeding looks at four key areas: the cheekbones, jawline, forehead, and eyes. “The cheekbones and jawline can be softened or sharpened depending on the client’s preferences through strategic color placement,” she says. Placement around the forehead can also impact the shape of the face, “directing attention to or drawing it away from the size of the forehead.” Considering eye color and brow shape “is also key in creating a look that complements facial features.”

Youthful Moves

We know long hair can be synonymous with youth, but Lordet says that very long, heavy, straight hair can sometimes drag a face down and age it, especially for those over age 50.

“For women who want to age gracefully into wearing long, graying hair, the right long cut is beautifully complemented with blending different blonde highlights into grays to create really natural-looking color,” Lordet explains. “Sarah Jessica Parker is a great example of a haircut and color being combined to age gracefully into graying with long, beautiful hair.”

Regardless of your color or cut, the ultimate sign of youthful hair is healthy hair. Use a reparative mask at home— Kaeding recommends her clients use K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask ($75) between appointments—to keep your hair looking salon-fresh.



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