Hair provides a casement for the features, enhancing or minimizing by creating balance or emphasis. Often, a haircut is focused on getting the right shape –– long or short, sleek or voluminous –– but just as important is the space left behind. This is what artists call “negative space.” In a haircut negative space is not empty; instead, it is the area that is given to the features. Usually, it is easy to see poor composition ––  hair hanging low over eyes shortens the face, too many strands on the cheeks is an aging effect –– whereas styles that are carefully composed often just look right. But if you know what to look for, you can understand the art form. And for a lot of people, it is simply a matter of finding the confidence to soften problem areas with diffused lines, rather than trying to hide them with bulky hair. Meanwhile, you can draw attention to your best assets by giving them the space to shine. To see celebrity examples of using negative space in good and bad ways, click style notes.  –– Laura Martin

Image 3-16-13 at 9.54 PM

Bangs: The blunt narrow fringe shown on the left side of the image above, shortens Rachel McAdams beautiful face, makes her cheeks look pudgy, and, worst of all, ages her. In the right-hand image, a soft side-swept bang makes a remarkable difference. Creating space at the temples to show off her perfect bone structure, she looks younger, trendier, and her face appears elongated.


Lines: Keira Knightly’s strong jaw looks harsh against the sharp line of the bob pictured on the left. The long front and low volume have a foreshortening effect and make her cheeks look flat. The look on the right creates space at her jaw and softens the strong line by framing it with a wave. A side part and faux bang create a lengthening effect by minimizing the width of her forehead.


Balance: Asymmetry works well on most faces because it downplays the slight variations between the two sides of the face, but balance is key. The look on the left has too much space on one side of the face with a closed, unflattering line on the opposite side. Rihanna’s second photo has very different shapes on each side but balance is achieved with parallel tips that fall to the cheekbone. The shape of the bang also creates the illusion of a rounder forehead.


Special thanks to Laura Martin, senior educator at ARROJO cosmetology school, for sharing professional hairstyling advice with Style Noted 

Share →