Hair Contouring: The Weird New Color Trick You Need

find your shape

by mary kozelka

Thanks to the Kardashians, we’ve all heard of facial contouring, the makeup technique that helps you shape the face while enhancing or minimizing certain features. After viewing countless YouTube makeup tutorials, it’s hard for us to deny the effectiveness of the technique. Always wanted severe cheekbones? Grab your contouring pen and 10 minutes later, voilà. It just works. So, when we heard about the coloring technique called hair contouring, we were intrigued. Could coloring your hair really change the shape of your face in a drastic way?

We caught up with color expert May Post, who earned her stripes at Frédéric Fekkai in New York, and now bestows gorgeous color on her clients at Maxine Salon in Chicago. Turns out, Post is a huge believer in hair contouring, and she gave us the download on the technique. Post describes hair contouring as a way to enhance (or de-emphasize) facial features, using depth and tone. The highly customized look is based on the particular features a client wants to address. But how does it work?

“Darker tones shorten and narrow the face due to the absorption of light, lighter tones elongate and lengthen due to the reflection of light.”

Post insists that hair contouring is the real deal, explaining that the effects will draw the eye toward or away from the facial features hence, contouring your facial shape and structure. As we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the traditionally sought-after and conventionally beautiful facial structure is oval.

“Symmetry is typically desired. The oval face shape is preferred because everything is proportioned and there is nothing to balance. Contouring helps achieve that balance,” Post says. 

So what about those of us with a rounder face? (Think: the gorgeous Chrissy Tiegen.) “Round and square face shapes are both best suited with lightness at the top of the head to elongate the shorter shape.  Darker shades around the sides will help shadow and shorten the width on the sides.”

Post emphasizes that this trend isn’t about “fixing” her clients or drastic makeovers. It’s about making clients feel their best. “They were already gorgeous before they walked through the door. This is just going to emphasize the good, and may take the glare off any insecurities.”

As with all coloring trends, hair contouring is not a one-size-fits-all trend, so it’s important to talk this one through with your stylist. “Depending on the features my client would like to emphasize (or de-emphasize), skin tone and eye color, I will literally hand pick the color for each client. No two hair contouring appointments are the same!” 

Click through for a slideshow of celebs that have used hair contouring to their advantage, with advice from Maxine Salon’s Colorist Rex Jimieson.

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

For a round face, you want to highlight the center of the forehead and from there downward. Be careful not to over-highlight a round face, and make sure there is depth on the top so that the front highlights really stand out. 

Photo by Danny Martindale/Getty Images

For a long face, a fringe or bang is often present to shorten the appearance. Do not highlight the bangs, but rather start them at or just below the end of this area.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

For a square face, depth in the perimeter is key. Go for volume and heavy balayage highlights, just keep it an inch or so from the root.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

For a heart-shaped face, you want depth near the cheekbone and lightness near the top of the forehead and corners of the jawline. Go for a S'ombre with heavy highlights through the bottom and softer ones near the top, just be sure to avoid the side hairline.