04/25/2013 10:12 am ET Updated Jun 25, 2013

Designing Your Perfect Cut

The architecture of a good haircut comes down to simple geometry: an understanding of how different shapes, lines and angles work together and fit into each other. Cutting hair involves constructing an initial shape and length, then customizing that shape to a client's face, body and hair texture.

The shape of the haircut comprises the length and the overall outline of the cut. Layering is done within that perimeter, in much the same way that a sculptor chisels detail into a mold or a painter adds shadowing and dimension to a simple pencil sketch. The lines, length and layers can soften, strengthen, camouflage or emphasize specific facial features. Since your hair is quite literally framing your face, the right cut has the power to improve and enhance it, or even modify its appearance to a certain extent.

A line in the haircut can be the bottom length, the bang or a layer that ends at a specific point. This is where the eye of the beholder will go. If I want to bring attention to a specific feature, I will put a line there. If I want to soften or downplay something, then I make the pieces a little bit longer in that area so the eye is directed downward and away from it. I never cease to be amazed at how much a few shorter pieces strategically positioned throughout a haircut can change a woman's look.

The perimeter is the outside line of a haircut. It includes the bottom length, the sides of the haircut that hit the face and even the bottom edge of the bang. The bottom length can fall at the nape of the neck if the hair is cropped short or it can rest above the shoulder in a classic bob line (which typically sits just below the ear to one inch above the clavicle bone). Longer lengths can hit just past the shoulder or can fall lower down the back.

Every woman has a length and shape that will be the most flattering for her face and neck. That being said, the range of options and possibilities is vast. You don't necessarily have to have a certain length because of your face shape, height, hair texture or age. These rigid notions are limiting. Instead of being locked into a prescribed look, I prefer to define the rules around a client's desires.

Women always ask me, "How long do you think my hair should be?" "Should I grow my hair out?" "Would it look good short?" You may actually already know the answer. After growing out bad haircuts and learning from past mistakes, I bet you have a pretty good idea of what works for you and what does not. While you may not know exactly the look you should have, most women are pretty clear, even if intuitively, about what they do not want. It is important to listen to your own voice and trust your instincts, as well as to convey those ideas to the person who is about to cut your hair. Often women say, "I'm afraid to speak up." Don't be! By communicating your desires you are providing the hairdresser with essential information. We want you to be happy with the haircut and you are the one who has to live with it.

There are six important factors that come into play when I am deciding how to cut a client's hair:
1. Wish List: Her personal preferences and desires about how she wants her face and hairstyle to look.
2. Hair Texture: The density of her hair and how curly or straight it is naturally.
3. Beauty Lifestyle: How she prefers to style her hair and how much time and effort she wants to put into it.
4. Personality: Her sense of style, confidence and how she presents herself to the world.
5. Face and Neck: Her facial features, as well as the length and skin condition of her neck.
6. Body: Her height, weight and silhouette.

For more information on designing your perfect cut, along with illustrations and photos, please refer to Chapter One in Eva Scrivo on Beauty: The Tools, Techniques, and Insider Knowledge Every Woman Needs To Be Her Most Beautiful, Confident Self.