How to Pick Your Perfect Hair Length

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Short Hair, Medium or Long: Which Style is Most Flattering on You?

Scarlett Johannson, Audrey Tautou and Evan Rachel Wood. Getty Images

If you are considering a hair length change but are baffled by your choices, here's a secret tip: try on a wig. Try on several wigs. You'll quickly learn what lengths flatter you most and which ones work best with your face shape, body type and personality.

You may even learn that your personality changes with each hair length. Maybe you become sassier with short hair, sultrier with long. In any case, it's a fun test.

Yet a wig won't tell you everything. Here are five factors to consider when choosing your best hair length:

  1. Your hair texture
  2. Your face shape
  3. Your personality
  4. Which cuts you are drawn to
  5. Your lifestyle

How Hair Texture Affects Hair Length

If you have normal hair that's not too thick and not too thin and air dries nicely, skip ahead. Hair texture won't matter for you when it comes to hair length.

But if you have fine hair, frizzy hair or super curly hair, read on.

To score a haircut that won't be high maintenance (hello flat-ironing hair every day) or super unflattering (hello hair that falls like a limp rag), consider these basic rules.

  1. If you have fine, thin hair, you probably don't want to grow it very long because it will fall flat and even the most expensive mousse is not going to give it body.
  2. Fine, thin hair looks best cut to the chin or shorter. Layers will help add body, but too many layers can also thin out hair too much. Make sure your stylist doesn't go heavy on the razoring.
  3. If you have thick, curly hair, the longer you go, the better your hair will fall.
  4. You frizzy and curly girls likely want to avoid the Christmas tree look (wide on bottom, lean on top). To do this, have your stylist cut in layers so the thickness isn't at the end. 
  5. Curly hair can really be a hassle worn short. Although Audrey Tautou's curly hair cut in a pixie may make you cry foul on that rule.

There are six basic hair textures (fine, straight, wavy, coarse, curly and frizzy) and with each one comes a slew of rules. 

Why Your Face Shape Matters

When it comes to hair length, your face shape really only matters if you have a super obvious face shape that's either round, long, square or heart-shaped.

If you aren't sure what your face shape is and your friends can't figure it out, either, chances are you don't need to worry about it and you can skip ahead.

But for those with strong face shapes, knowing what's flattering can be super helpful. For example, Rihanna has a long face. Rihanna changes her hair more than any other celebrity. She wears it short, long, shaved, chin-length and in a rainbow of colors.

Yet here's the thing: her hairstyles are always flattering. Of course it helps to have a bevy of stylists on hand, but she also knows what looks good on her. Here are some hair length rules for some face shapes:

  1. Long faces should avoid long hair, unless they have curly hair, which adds volume to the sides of the face.
  2. Shoulder-length cuts look good on everyone, no matter their face shape.
  3. Everyone can wear a pixie, however, if you have a long face, don't spike the top or blow it up into a pompadour, leave those looks to your round-faced sisters, who need to add height.
  4. Avoid a bob that hits at the chin if you have a round face, it will only make your face appear rounder. Go for a long bob instead. And side swept bangs add angles to your face which offset the roundness.
  5. Beware of hard angles, square faces! Soften your look with layers, waves and curls.
  6. Heart-shaped faces should avoid any cut that hits at the their pointiest spot: the chin. Longer is better.


How Personality Should Play a Factor in Hair Length

Your personality can be reflected in your haircut. Can you even imagine the singer Pink in long, flat-ironed hair like Gwyneth Paltrow? No way. Pink was meant to rock the pompadour. Just as Anna Wintour wears her signature power bob for a reason: it connotes power.

Short hair connotes strength, independence and in some cases, like Audrey Tautou's, adorableness.

Medium-length hair can be sexy, fun or even athletic. It can be trendy and versatile and can be the least high maintenance of the three lengths. Wear it up or wear it down. Wash it and let it air-dry or primp and curl it into the perfect wavy lob.

Long hair can be cheerleader-in-a-ponytail cute or bombshell sexy. It rarely screams, "I am a professional, powerful woman," however. If you are looking for jobs or want to start a new career, you can keep your long hair, but you might consider chopping to a length that's closer to your shoulders rather than your rib cage.

Why You Should Listen to Your Gut

Choosing a hairstyle based on the cuts you are drawn to is a great rule of thumb because if you feel amazing in your hairstyle, that confidence will radiate outward, drawing people to you instead of repelling them.

Your Lifestyle Plays a Factor

Believe it or not, short hair can be high maintenance, mainly because you have to get it cut every four to six weeks.

If you are the wash-and-go type, then you should pick a hairstyle that will air dry beautifully. If you like to primp, then consider a hairstyle that's versatile and can be curled, worn wavy or flat-ironed straight. If you're a busy mom or live in a hot climate, a ponytail will be your best friend.