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Simple strategies that use facial structure to balance & enhance.

Ever walk into a hair salon armed with a magazine picture of a truly "great" haircut, only to leave an hour later looking ridiculous, even though the style was exactly what you ordered? If you've ever had that experience -- and many women have -- you may have fallen prey to a common misconception: A haircut, is a haircut, is a haircut.

When it comes to individuals, nothing could be further from the truth. Believing otherwise is like saying it's okay to put a picture of the Mona Lisa in a 1960s, psychedelic frame.

While the wrong frame can prove disastrous, the right one can transform a nondescript, simple picture into a refreshing piece of art and expound and enhance even the most extraordinary of portraits or scenes.

In the world of beauty, hair serves much the same role as does a frame -- it surrounds the picture, or face, and has the potential of illuminating desirable features, downplaying less-than-desirable ones and creating balance and symmetry.

Just as a frame should be chosen to complement a picture, a hairstyle should be chosen to complement the face that it surrounds.

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing the right hairstyle is the shape -- or structure -- of the face.

Faces typically mirror one of eight shapes --oval, square, round, heart, triangular, rectangular, diamond and pear -- and while each shape has its own unique beauty, it takes the right hairstyle (or frame!) to create the greatest degree of balance, symmetry and style.

Oval

When it comes to wearing a variety of hairstyles, those born with an oval face must have arrived under a lucky star.

This type of face -- which features a gently rounded hairline and a jawline that is only slightly narrower than the temples -- is considered the "ideal" shape because of its natural balance and symmetry. As such, it can pull-off any hairstyle with flair.

It's no wonder that many of the world's most successful -- and chameleon-like -- models have oval faces: They can switch hairstyles -- and looks -- with the greatest of ease.

Some people believe that the only thing a person with an oval face shouldn't do is cover up their "perfect" features with heavy bangs or too much "forward-brushed" hair.

Square

The hallmark of a square face is an equally square jawline and hairline -- two strong facial features that can lend a look of quiet determination and character to those who possess them.

The key to cultivating what many see as a look of nobility and mystique with this interesting face shape is to introduce an element of softness.

Wispy bangs, flowing layers, angles cut around the face starting at the cheekbone, and wavy or curly hair can all play a role in balancing the square-shaped face and showcasing its strength and beauty.

One of the keys to properly framing a square face is to create an illusion of length, which is one of the reasons why hair that's below the jawline -- and even past the shoulders -- is especially suitable. If the hair is to be worn above the jawline -- and some believe that it shouldn't -- the illusion of length can be created by adding height at the crown.

Severe cuts and styles -- such as straight bobs, thick linear bangs and even center bangs -- should be avoided with a square face, as they tend to add severity to the look.

Round

Like the square face, this "full" face -- which features a round hairline and chinline and marks its widest point at the cheeks -- benefits greatly from the illusion of length.

When dealing with a round face, it's best to create fullness and height at the crown, while keeping the rest of the hair close to the face to avoid adding any additional width to the sides of the cheeks.

Like the square face, those with round faces should avoid center parts and linear bangs -- although bangs brushed to the side are flattering. Haircuts that end at the chinline should also be avoided, as they will only emphasize the roundness of the face.

Heart

The objective of choosing a hairstyle for a heart-shaped face -- which is characterized by a wide forehead and a small, delicate chin -- is to create an overall balance by making the forehead seem narrower and the chin seem wider.

This is best accomplished with styles that add fullness to the lower part of the face. Chin-length bobs are especially flattering to those with heart-shaped faces, as are lots of full, wavy curls -- all of which create an illusion of width at the lower part of the face.

Those with heart-shaped faces should avoid styles that emphasize the upper part of their face, as doing so will only make them seem "top heavy."

Bangs, especially those that are brushed to one side, are ideal for helping break up the wide forehead that's typical with the heart-shaped face.

Triangular

As the exact opposite of the heart-shaped face, the triangular face is most narrow at the temples, slightly wider at the cheeks, and widest at the jawline.

The secret to flattering a triangular face is to create fullness at the upper part of the face, while drawing attention away from the jawline. One way to do this is by using lots of layers to create a top-heavy style that tapers off as it approaches the lower part of the face.

Rectangular

The rectangular face is long and slender, and as such requires a hairstyle that's built around width and volume -- two features that can de-emphasize the length of the face and create a more balanced look.

Rectangular faces look best in short- and medium-length hair, as opposed to hair that falls below the shoulders and makes the face appear even longer. Layers are also important for this shape of face, as they create volume and counteract the shape's natural "straight" lines with softness.

Side parts and bangs can help de-emphasize the overall length of the rectangular face; and it goes without saying that height at the crown should be avoided.

Diamond

The best way to approach a diamond-shaped face -- which is known for its narrow forehead and chin and very wide cheekline -- is to choose a hairstyle that adds width to the top and bottom of the face and makes the middle of the face, or cheekline, appear less prominent.

Wide, wispy bangs and a chin-length cut can help build width where it's most needed. Volume should be avoided at the cheekline, as it will only serve to emphasize the width of the face.

Pear

As its name implies, the pear-shaped face features a narrow forehead and a wide jawline and chinline. As such, it requires a hairstyle that draws attention to the upper part of the face by building width and volume and deflects attention from the middle-to-lower part of the face.

Full, layered looks that features height at the crown are ideal for the pear-shaped face. A classic shag hairstyle is suitable for those with pear-shaped faces, as is hair that's well past the jawline.

To determine your face shape, simply take a few minutes to analyse it in the mirror. Or, take this article or a few photos of models with faces you think are shaped like yours to your next salon visit, to discuss with the stylist. As the Greek philosopher, Aristotle so memorably said, "Know Thyself". And you're on your way to getting a hairstyle that really makes the cut!

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