An Expert Explains How to Contour Hair

Latest Color Techniques Used By Your Stylist

How To Contour Hair With Highlights And Lowlights

15 December 2017
woman getting highlights
Jelani Addams Rosa

Jelani Addams Rosa

Associate Editor, Hair.com

As an employee of L'Oréal, Jelani brings her knowledge and passion for hair care to Hair.com. Before joining the Hair.com team, she spent time at Celebuzz, Seventeen, and Cosmo for Latinas.

When beauty industry historians (it’s a real profession, trust us) look back on the 2010s, one word will define the beauty trends of the decade: contour. The rise in popularity of contouring has permeated every facet of the beauty industry. You can contour your face, your cleavage, and even your abs. Not to be left behind, hair contouring is the new contour must-have.

What exactly is hair contouring? How does it work? Who is hair contouring ideal for? To get the answers to all of our burning questions, we reached out to George Papanikolas, Matrix celebrity stylist and brand ambassador. Papanikolas broke down everything we wanted to know about how to contour hair. Once you learn, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.

What does it mean to contour hair?

Just like the traditional face and body contouring we’ve come to know and love, hair contouring is a technique in which a stylist uses highlights and lowlights to create shadows and depth on the face. These shadows are used to help build the illusion of your desired face shape.

Stylists experiment with different colors for different face shapes to see what tones might elongate, minimize, and ultimately create an idealized oval shape.

George Papanikolas

While an oval face is often thought of as the ideal shape, you can ask your stylist to contour your hair however you see fit. In other words, hair contouring can highlight the things about your face that you love and hide the things you’d rather not put on display.

What should you ask your stylist for if you’re looking to contour your hair?

There is no specific science to achieving the perfect hair contour because no two faces are the same. A stylist that knows your hair and face should be able to suggest a contour plan they believe would work best with your face shape.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to hair contouring, how a stylist contours someones hair is typically decided by the shape of their face. Papanikolas explains what ladies with these common face shapes should expect.

Hair Contouring For Round Faces

If you have a round face, your stylist will likely concentrate your highlights and lowlights around your hairline.

“Generally you apply light tones around the hairline, with darker tones underneath, and behind the ears and lower ends of the hair to soften the round face.”

Hair Contouring For Square Faces

If you have a square shaped face, your stylist will focus your highlights and lowlights near your jawline.

“Strong layers of light and dark shades are applied to the corners of the face and jawline, which softens lines and add more depth. This helps narrow wide features.”

Hair Contouring For Heart-Shaped Faces

If you have a heart shaped face, dark roots are the key to a successful hair contour.

“A deeper root color blended into a soft ombre of lighter pieces from the ears to ends soften the bottom half of the face helping to create a more oval shape.”

Hair Contouring For Diamond-Shaped Faces

If you have a diamond shaped face, highlighting above your ears and the ends of your hair is crucial.

Deeper tones in the crown and along the part, with soft delicate highlight pieces blended from above the ears to the ends of the hair, creating an angular and slimming effect on the face.”

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