Bangs are no substitute for BOTOX. But, if your haircut evolves as you age, it can do a lot to keep you looking good (by minimizing fine lines, OBSCURING certain facial changes and, yes, even making you appear thinner).
As a Seattle Hair Stylist working out of an up scale private studio I see a wide range of clients of all ages. As I’ve been cutting and coloring hair in Seattle for nearly 20 years now I have a number of clients I’ve been seeing for over a decade. It’s been a pleasure to help women work through style changes that come in the 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. I don’t do hair for just 20 something model-esque women. Most of my clients are normal human beings… just like you. Everyone has features they want to play up and those they want to draw attention away from. When you’re in your teens and twenties, you can get away with a lot of different styles. It’s generally in your 30s and beyond that you have to start thinking things through a bit more.
Weather you end up coming to me or another stylist, here are some tips for getting the very best out of your hair at any age.
These are good hair years for most women. Follicle diameter continues to increase until you hit your 40th birthday so your hair may actually feel thicker and healthier now than it did in your twenties. Even some early graying can work to your benefit. Many women go through a gorgeous pre-gray stage where some pieces are coming in a little bit coarser and wavier. It’s easy to style and has a little extra volume
For those reasons—and also because the thirties is a time when many women come into their own, personally and professional, this is when you have the confidence and the looks to make big changes. You can go short; you may go bold with color. You can be experimental. With few wrinkles or complexion woes to deal with, you may also be able to carry off a strong blunt or geometric cut.
With your lifestyle and physiology working in your favor, now is also the time to give up bad hair-care habits from your twenties. Health-wise, you’re likely at the top of your game. You’ve moved out of the partying ways of your twenties and are taking better care of your body. So start working on good habits, like weekly conditioning treatments. And get a cut that complements your body type and your features instead of the style your friend has. If you’re petite, think about a sleeker look that won’t overwhelm your figure; if you have a wider frame,create balance with layers and volume. And pay attention to any texture shifts that may develop during the pre-graying stage. Because hair becomes wirier as it grays, if you’ve always had fine strands, you may be able to switch to lighter styling products and lower heat settings on tools as your hair gains body and fullness. But if your mane was coarse to start with,you may need more emollient stylers.
Your biggest physiological challenge may come with pregnancy. Your hair will become thick and lustrous while you’re pregnant and start temporarily shedding three months after birth or breast feeding, You may want to take advantage of your fuller hair with longer, layered cuts that balance out the body’s swell. But don’t make the mistake of chopping it all off after the baby comes. That can sometimes make thinning look worse. Instead, to camouflage the shedding, add layers and bring up the length a little. That will also distract from any sleep-deprivation-related puffiness in your face.
My clients in their forties frequently say, ‘My hair just isn’t the same.’ And they’re right. The changes—wrought by declining estrogen—are subtle, but they’re there. Both diameter and density decrease in your forties. So if you’ve always had more hair than you can manage, this gradual change may feel like an improvement. I’ve had some clients tell me that suddenly their hair behaves better but those who started with less of a mane may be less thrilled… from at least as many clients I hear ‘My part is a little wider. My ponytail seems less full.’
Whatever style you wear, thinner hair tends to look better worn in longer layers,which add volume. And if you’ve never colored your hair, you may consider starting. Color coats and bulks up your strands.
In this decade, hair may also become noticeably drier as scalp sebaceous glands produce less oil. Women who have battled limp, oily hair may find themselves enjoying a new era of manageability. Suddenly you’re not getting the greasies. Your hair is a bit coarser and holds a style better. This means if you were reliant on hairspray, you may be able to stop. And instead of styling with gels, you can use lighter foams. However, if your hair was already dry, it’s probably time to switch stylers. Chances are, you’ll need to upgrade to creamier styling products like creams and waxes.
Changes in your hair may be accompanied by more obvious changes in skin and figure. Fine lines start appearing and in your mid- forties,as your metabolism slows, you may also notice extra weight around your middle. If that’s happening, you can use your cut to elongate your frame and create softness around the face. A little length is more flattering. A severe cut can become harder to pull off unless you add some layers, which act like soft-focus lighting, drawing less attention to facial lines while simultaneously creating the effect of extra body. Modified shags and styles with soft waves are good options. A little asymmetry can be your friend (e.g., switch from a center part to one that’s on the side). And bangs can grow a bit longer and get swept over to the side.
Another way to balance a figure that may be widening:Grow your hair longer. A woman who once had an over-the-ear cut might consider a short bob, and a woman with a short bob may graduate to a shoulder-skimming one. For at least some of the consultation, make sure you get out of the stylist’s chair and stand up in front of the mirror while you talk with your stylist about your cut. If your weight is shifting, your cut should be, too.
By now, the changes in hair, skin and body are more overt. At some point, you’re going to be in peri- or actual menopause, and the hormonal changes really kick in. Your hair follicles are shrinking, and the change has become noticeable. You may also see short, fine hairs near the temples and hairline. What does this mean for your cut? You need to be gentler with your styling. Cut back on heat tools and use lower temperature settings. Do all you can to preserve your hair’s integrity and health.
The hormonal shifts of menopause may also affect the curl of the hair, the follicles’ strength and the growth rate. Androgen-dependent alopecia [doctor-speak for genetic hair thinning] may be triggered by menopause. In that case, minoxidil [commercial name: Rogaine] has been shown to be very effective.
Women of this age must also deal with more visible signs of aging. Skin is more lax. Fine lines remain, even when you’re not smiling or frowning. You may have some drooping along the jaw. Overall muscle tone may begin to decrease, adding some bulk to your frame. And as the fat layer in the dermis begins to thin, some women appear more angular and their features stronger—a change that can add character to your face but also make it a little more masculine. A good response to all of the above: strategic layering. Look at Madonna and Michelle Pfeifer. They have sexy, layered, slightly angled cuts that soften their faces. And they get the length right: Their hair is long enough to narrow their silhouette, without looking like the high-maintenance style of a twenty-something.
This is actually a great time for a shoulder-length style. If your hair is getting finer or thinner, going longer than that can look stringy—while going too short can make hair look sparse. Mid length cuts with movement, like a longer, layered bob, will soften your features and make hair look healthy and youthful. Go for a shape that’s a little rounder, not quite as blunt.
This is not a decade for going to extremes of long or short. Nor is it a time for just giving up. You see people turn 50 and cut their hair really short. If you’re going short because you have the petite figure for it, great, but don’t do it just because you think your look doesn’t matter anymore. You should also avoid the opposite extreme: long hair that falls toward your butt. For one thing, it adds bulk to your body. For another, the cut has to work from the front and the back. What’s unsettling is when you see a woman from behind and think she’s a teenager; then she turns around and she’s 55. I think it’s more powerful to look like a stunning, confident woman in her fifties—from every angle.
Good news for you: Hair calms down again during this decade. There may be more of the same changes—continued graying, a little thinning—but once menopause is over, hair stabilizes. Now you know what you’re working with.
What to pay attention to: changes in your body. Your neck may become a little shorter. You may lose an inch or so off your height. As you get into your sixties, you start to notice loss of fullness in your face.
The right cut now should help elongate your body and “lift” your features. It’s a good time to add height in the crown. If the fifties are the decade to add fullness and width, the sixties are a good time to consider cuts that add height. Gravity is pulling everything down, so you want a cut that defies gravity in essence and brings everything up. The length can be short or long—but you should pay attention to how it affects your silhouette. Let’s say that most of your life, you wore a long bob that hit your shoulders. Well, if your neck is getting a little shorter, you may have to take it up a few inches so it doesn’t look as if your head is sitting on your shoulders. It’s a subtle change,but it makes a huge difference.
Another lifting trick? Style your hair so the sides go back and away from your face. I encourage clients with longer to push the sides back like Lauren Bacall. She wears it swept back and over the ears a bit. It opens up your face, lifts your eyes and flatters your neck. You can keep a wisp in the front so you don’t feel naked, but you want to get the bulk of the hair off your face, off your shoulders.
What you don’t want to do is hide behind a curtain of hair. As more wrinkles appear around the eyes and forehead, some women want to cover their foreheads with thick bangs or have long bobs that hang in their faces. But you don’t want to look like Carol Channing. You can’t be afraid. By hiding too much, you’re really drawing the wrong kind of attention. Use Goldie Hawn as an example . She does have those long bangs, but the rest of her hair is quite layered, so it isn’t too heavy around her face.
That said, don’t assume that you can’t have longer hair. Lauren Hutton is a great example of a woman in her sixties whose longish hair is working. It’s natural and bohemian and has great texture. You want the cut to be modern, to be cool, but you want it to really be you. At this point in your life, your look should say that you know who you are.