The Best Sideburns for Your Face Shape

June 27, 2013
Let’s talk sideburns and how to make them work for your face shape. Face shape plays a major role in determining your best hairstyles, facial hair, and glasses, and is just as important when choosing the right sideburns.

Sideburn styles are often selected based on a guy’s personality and what he likes, but going beyond preference by taking your face shape into account can maximize your appearance regardless of the face shape you have. With a little knowhow and a sharp razor, sideburns have the ability to add balance, dimension, and style to your face.

Sideburns are subject to fashion trends the same way hairstyles are. You may recall the days when Neil Diamond’s huge, bushy sides were all the rage. Or, not so long ago when they disappeared, leaving men’s faces void of any side hair at all. Well, I’m happy to see that sideburns are back in style, and although some styles are more popular than others, all are acceptable expressions of male style and individuality.

Regardless of the sideburn style, the general rule is they should be consistent with your hairstyle. You’re looking for balance and uniformity that blends the two together. So, if your hair is short, burns should also be short and close to the face, while long hair can accommodate longer, thicker sides. Let your hairstyle lead the way in determining the basic length and fullness. And if your hairstyle compliments your face shape, the sideburns most likely will, too.

Another factor to consider when choosing your best sideburn is the density of your facial hair. Be realistic and work with, not against, whatever heredity gave you. If your growth is sparse, opt for tapered or slim styles.

The lengths: short (between the top and the middle of the ear), mid-length (middle of the ear), long (between the middle and bottom of the ear), and very long (bottom of the ear and longer) are the general classifications when referencing sideburn lengths. Let me add that one should never go above the top of the ear with sideburns. It throws off the balance of the face, and technically… there is no sideburn.

The width, which can help enhance or minimize facial features, is an important component of the sideburn style. Unless a certain width is necessary to disguise flaws, like acne scars, or to visually accentuate facial features, like a narrow face, the width is typically relative to the style, or the man’s personal preference. That being said, the wider the burn, the more radical it tends to be, which could be an issue at the office. Conservative sideburns are normally no wider than one and a half inch. So, factor your lifestyle and job into the equation when determining your sideburn’s thickness.

Now, let’s take a look at the general guidelines to matching sideburns to face shapes.

Round Face: Slim the face with longer sideburns that add dimension and breakup the roundness. Start out at mid-ear level, and experiment with going longer if desired. Avoid bushy burns that only add volume to a full face. Short sideburns are definitely out for this shape, since they will also add to the fullness.

Square Face: To both compliment and offset a square jawline, go for a longer style that reaches the bottom of the ear. Longer sideburns not only add dimension, which detracts from the square face, they narrow it, as well.

Oval Face: Medium length sideburns that end around mid-ear compliment this face shape nicely. Avoid long styles that lengthen this shape and emphasize a prominent and sometimes pointy chin.

Oblong Face: Shorter sides help to shorten up this longer face shape. However, if the face is long and narrow, long, thick sideburns add width.

Heart Face: This one can be tricky, since short and medium sideburns can add to the width of the face at its widest. However, depending on the width and the style of the sideburns, these lengths can also narrow the face at its widest point. Longer, thicker burns can offset the narrowest part of this face by adding width at the bottom, but they can also draw the eye to the narrow jawline. I suggest you experiment with the different lengths and see which one suits your particular face. This face shape is best complimented by a beard, either scruff or full.

Triangle Face: Short to medium sides will add balance to a wide lower face. However, longer, tapered sides can help narrow the wide jaw. This is another face shape that looks great with a full beard.

Diamond Face: Medium and just above the mid-ear mark seem to compliment this shape best. Avoid bushy sides that can emphasize the cheekbones, making the face appear wider than it is. This face shape also looks great with a beard, scruff or full, which adds width to a narrow jawline and prominent chin.

These recommendations are just that, so try them and see what works for your face. Like I’ve said in other articles, individual facial features greatly influence the appearance of both facial hair and hairstyles; dispelling the one size fits all theory. You’ll never know which sideburn styles bring out your best without trying them.

Here are a few more tips to keep whichever sideburn style you wear looking sharp and stylish:

  • A good rule to follow is the longer the face, the shorter the sideburn, and the shorter the face, the longer the sideburn should be.
  • Do not use your earlobes as a guide for balancing sideburn lengths. Ears are often different sizes, which will throw the balance off, making the face appear uneven.
  • Use an imaginary line from one side of the face to the other for balancing sideburn lengths.
  • If that imaginary line doesn’t work, grab a piece of thread and use it to make a line.
  • Longer sideburns can help balance a long chin, regardless of the face shape.
  • Shorter sideburns help balance and accentuate a weak or short chin.
  • Do not try to disguise large ears with bushy sideburns. The result will be larger looking ears that stick out.
  • Do not wear bushy sideburns with longer hair, since the bulky sides will cause the hair to push away from your face.
  • Trim sideburns as often as needed. For some it’s every few days, while others can wait until they get a haircut. It depends on how quickly your face hair grows.
  • Always use a trimmer with a guard when trimming.
  • Include a professional sideburn trim every time you get your hair cut.
  • For those creative sideburns that require real skill to shape and design, find yourself a good barber instead of attempting it yourself (at least for the first time).
  • Discuss your sideburns with a knowledgeable hairstylist for professional guidance.
  • Horizontal, blunt cut sideburns help to square off the face.
  • Always comb sideburn hair in the direction hair grows.
  • Wash them daily with shampoo when showering.
  • And last but not least… when in doubt if a sideburn style compliments your face – ask someone whose opinion you trust.


Gentlemen, sideburns are an important aspect of style, grooming, and image. I urge you to try different styles to see which ones look best. Don’t wear the same style because you’re uneasy stepping out of your comfort zone. If you don’t like what you create, you can shave them off and start again tomorrow. That’s the great thing about facial hair! For more information on sideburns, catch my video Sideburn Styles | Best Sideburns for Your Face Shape.

by Aaron Marino

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