Everything You Need to Know About Hair Contouring

Yes, this is a thing now.

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(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

Loosely defined, contouring is an outline bounding the shape of something else. In beauty, we're most familiar with the term in the context of using makeup to perform optical illusions on our faces—defining the cheekbones, jawline, and nose. (Merci beaucoup, Kim Kardashian.) But it's 2015 and regular contouring is so last year. Now there's a new canvas for contouring: our hair. Yes—we can quite literally sculpt our faces thanks to meticulously placed highlights and lowlights.

We chatted with one of the pioneers of the trend, Marc Trinder, a UK-based stylist and art director at Charles Worthington, to decode the hair contouring technique.

"By using light and dark tones to create shadow and depth on the face, as well as applying color in specific areas of the hair, you can completely alter either an entire face shape or specific areas," explains Trinder.

While it is, in fact, quite similar to facial contouring, it takes the tailor-made approach even further. "It's completely bespoke to each individual," says Trinder. "We experiment with different color for different face shapes to see what tones might elongate or create a more oval shape on the chin, for example."

To contour your visage to perfection at your next color appointment, here's a breakdown of what to ask for according to your face shape.

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(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

Round faces generally have strong bone structure, so light tones are applied around the hairline, from ear to ear, while darker tones are painted underneath the ears and lower ends of the hair. The former brightens and elongates the face, while the latter gives the facial shape more of a point.

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(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

Consider the oval face a one-size-fits-all as it not only suits most styles and colors—it's basically the perfect shape for hair contouring. To accentuate it even more, always look to add depth with color, thick texture, and shine.

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(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

Deeper tones are applied to the root along the part and micro-highlight pieces are threaded from above the ears to the ends of the hair, creating an angular and slimming effect on the face.

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(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

Square-shaped faces have wider facial features, so multi-tonal layers of light and dark are applied to the corners of the face and around the jawline and temples, which softens lines and add more depth.

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(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

The heart shape is kind of like an inverted triangle, with the face tapering towards the chin. To create a more ovular shape, lighter pieces are woven around the jawline and ears to soften the bottom half of the face.

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Your Hair Needs Beauty Sleep? (Yes, and Here's How to Do It Right)

6 Super Sneaky Ways to Hide Your Roots Between Appointments

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Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.