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How hair contouring can help give a face lift

Be it the supermodel blowout, or mermaid hair, it’s all about contouring with the right layers

Emily Ratajkowski at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on 12 September
Emily Ratajkowski at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on 12 September (REUTERS)

Underpainting like model Hailey Bieber or contouring like entrepreneur Huda Kattan, and chiselling your face with the help of make-up isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Fortunately, a flattering haircut and colour can do an equally good job of enhancing your cheekbones and jawline, and framing your forehead.

In fact, this year’s trendy haircuts are all layered contour cuts for every face shape. Be it the layered 1990s’ supermodel blowout, facing framing fringes from the 1970s or even mermaid hair, this year has been all about contouring with the right layers, regardless of the era the hairstyle originates from. Here are some tricks and tips to help you:

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Curly versus straight 

Long straight hair may look more beautiful but it can also be shapeless and unforgiving, dragging down your features, says Audrey D’Souza, the national creative director at Lakme Salon. “By breaking the length with some shorter pieces around the face or a long, grown-out fringe, we can make the hair sweep out over the forehead to frame the eyes and have sections that curve around the ears to accentuate your cheekbones.”

Statement-making cuts will do all the work and require low-maintenance styling, according to Megha Sonawane, creative stylist at Looks Salon, Mumbai.

“There are ample options like shaggy layers, blunt fringe and retro styles... We are doing updates on vintage bobs, bangs and long cuts. Layers can give life to curls, especially for short styles. Add lots of layers and a voluminous set of bangs for curly hair, whatever you think of fringes, curly hair hairstyles go well with front ringlets, especially when you need to balance your bone structure or direct attention to your eyes,” says Sonawane.

For fine straight hair, a blunt haircut is the way to go. Excessive layers will only cause fine hair to look thinner, so resist the urge to get choppy layers, says Sonawane. She suggests keeping all the layered weight at the bottom for your hair to appear thicker and fuller. “Blunt cuts look amazing on straight hair but don’t be afraid to add a slight wave to enhance texture and movement,” she says.

D’Souza likes to create a little root lift at the parting and crown to enhance the shape of the cut and your cheekbones. “All hair textures are unique and need to be cut and styled differently as per the face shape. Enhancing the natural textures will frame the face and contour it well,” she says.

According to D’Souza, contouring can be done with hair colour as well. “Hair colour for contour combines dark and light shades to highlight your best features and give it a 3D effect. This technique is a combination of free-hand application and careful positioning of depth and definition around the face. The darker section of your hair gives the face a slimming effect whereas the highlighted strands help to define the best features of the face,” she explains.

Style it right

Face-framing layers are one of the most flattering, slimming haircuts that not only contour the cheekbones but also the jawline, says D’Souza.

For thin, long hair, long layers add volume and allow flexibility while styling.

“Ask your hairdresser for long layers at the back and smooth, graded layers to frame the face. You can balance the layers with long bangs that can be styled to either side or straight,” says Sonawane.

Consider your personal style when choosing layers, though. Long layers that blend with one another look smooth and sleek, while a long shag hairstyle looks more undone and messy. A short haircut is great for virtually any face shape, says Sonawane, as it can highlight your features and create depth and dimension on thicker hair types.

“Short hair works for all hair types and textures, and they lift up the face. There are so many ways to style a short hairstyle whether you are in for a bob, lob, shag or pixie cut,” says Sonawane.

Curly face-framing pieces, on the other hand, create a shadow that can make your cheeks look super sculpted, says D’Souza. If you are scared to chop it short, she says that the “fail-safe style that snatches the face but still gives hair that texture is a slicked back messy bun that was also seen all over the ramps this season.”

Dhara Vora Sabhnani is a Mumbai-based journalist.

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