Get Your Whiskers on: The Right Razor Cut for Your Face

man with beard

A few swipes of the blade can highlight your best -- and distract from your, well, less than best -- facial features. Here’s how.

The hair on your face can work the same kind of magic as the hair on your head: The right cut can make you more handsome; the wrong one can emphasize your flaws.

“The general rule with facial hair is that you want it to offset the shape of your face and the size of your features,” says Eddie “Champ” Hall, owner and head of faculty at Champ’s Barber School in Pennsylvania. “If your face is long and skinny, a chinstrap beard can create the illusion of width; if it’s round, a goatee will help draw the eye down and make your face appear longer; if it’s square, a circle beard can help soften the jawline.”

And when it comes to trends, it’s not always the best idea to take your cues from Hollywood. The Van Dyck look (a mustache and pointy goatee -- think Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler) was all over the red carpet at last year’s Oscars, but it’s not a look everyone can pull off.  

Here’s how to get the look you want:

Circle Beard
Looks like: A small chin beard that connects around the mouth to the mustache, creating a circle or oval shape. Also referred to as a “door knocker.”

Good for: Square faces. This style helps soften the jawline and adds curves.

How to get it: “In general, you want to grow a lot more hair than you think you’ll need,” says Cori Randall, New York City-based hairstylist and instructor. “Grow a full beard, 2 to 3 inches in length, and then shape it down using clippers, making sure the outside lines are sharp and even and line up with your smile lines.”

Looks like: A small chin beard resembling the facial hair on a billy goat.

Good for: Round faces, especially those with double chins, because it helps draw the eye down and make the face appear longer.

How to get it: “Completely shave the cheeks and upper lip,” says Hall. “Then shape the area around, and slightly under, the chin into a desired patch of hair.”

Looks like: A mustache combined with hair on the chin (basically a circle beard, minus the connection between the two patches of hair).

Good for: Square and oval faces, to add curves.

How to get it: “Just like the circle beard, you’re going to need a lot of hair to work with,” says Randall, “so you’ll need to grow it out for a few weeks.” Then use a razor to completely shave off the cheek area and the connection between the chin hair and mustache.

Van Dyck
Looks like: A mustache and a separate pointed goatee. It’s named after the 17th-century Flemish portrait artist of the same name, who often sported the look and used it in his paintings.

Good for: Square and oval faces, to add curves.

How to get it: “Again, this is a look where you’ll need to grow out a full beard before you trim it down into shape,” says Hall. When you have enough hair to form a slightly longish goatee, “shave the cheeks until you have a circle beard, then carefully remove the connection between the two patches of hair and continue removing hairs until you get your desired shape.”

Looks like: A line of facial hair that extends from the sideburns and runs all the way along the jawline.

Good for: Round and oval face shapes, to introduce lines and angles.

How to get it: Shave the cheeks, upper lip and chin area, leaving a strip of hair along the jawline. “Start out by leaving a wider strip of hair than you think you need,” says Hall. “You can always narrow it down to a desired width later on.”

Soul Patch
Looks like: A small patch of hair -- circular, square or triangular -- located directly below the lower lip above the chin. The look was made popular by beatniks and jazz musicians in the 1950s and ’60s.

Good for: Any face shape, to add character and style.

How to get it: “The key to creating this look is absolute symmetry,” says Randall. “Shape it slowly from both sides, using your chin and mouth as guideposts.”

by Jessica Lothstein