There’s nothing quite like a great haircut. That feeling when you can’t stop catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror or running your hands through your new layers is priceless. Unfortunately, a bad hairstyle can cut through all that confidence and leave you looking older than you are. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to update your look without a lot of time or money. We asked some of our favorite hairstylists to share the biggest mistakes they see women making with their hair — and how to fix them!
Our stylists seemed to agree that all women can rock long hair… to a point. That being said, crazy long hair will always age you. “Too long always ages a woman,” advises celebrity stylist Mitch Stone. “I’m not talking past-your-shoulders long, but cat-lady long (not to be confused with Cat Woman).” According to Stone, once your hair has passed your ribs, it’s officially making you look older. He recommends going with a timeless long bob “or as short as an inch or 2 past your chin (think of my girlfriend Kim Basinger’s hair in 9 1/2 weeks — HOT at any age).”
If you love the long look, go for it! Just make sure your haircut does not go shorter in the front and longer in the back. “In general, shorter in the front, longer in the back (unless you’re going for a rocker mullet) tends to look dated,” explains Judy McGuinness, senior stylist at Mizu New York salon. “Keep everything pretty square or a bit longer in the front for shorter hairstyles.”
The wrong length
Finding the perfect haircut for your face shape can be a lifelong search. Talk to your stylist about the most flattering look for your hair and face type. Our hair thins as we age, so keeping it long may accentuate the thinning. “If hair is thinning, going shorter is an option,” says Sam Villa Show Ambassador, Marissa Villa. “If you’ve had long hair your entire life, it might be time to update to a lob.”
Whatever you do, make sure your haircut has layers and depth. “The classic hairstyle that makes a woman look older and dowdy is the cut where everything is the same length all over, a few inches long,” says Damian Santiago, co-owner of Mizu New York salon. “Then set with a small curling iron all over. Not cute or modern. Wispy bangs on this look kill it for me.”
As long as you have a dynamic, flattering style, the length of your hair truly doesn’t matter. Santiago told us he has mature clients who rock long layers or short pixie cuts. “A mature client with a strong inner confidence can rock any cool and modern look.”
Never changing your look
For hair stylist Jenna Mast, the biggest mistake women make when it comes to looking older is keeping the same hairstyle for decades. “If you are 50 years old, the chances are high that you’ve been going to a salon for 25+ years and like the way your hair looked in 1992 when you lost a bunch of weight and had that great red dress you wore to your cousin’s wedding,” she told The List. “Which makes it likely that you’ve been instructing hairdresser after hairdresser to recreate that look by showing them that exact dated photo. The reality is, like everything else, hairdressing has evolved dramatically.”
As Sam Villa Show Ambassador, Marissa Villa told us, “It’s important to evolve — everything usually comes back around, but with a modern twist.”
Careful with color
Going too dark can add years to your look. “Your hair color should compliment your skin tone,” explains Sam Villa Show Ambassador, Marissa Villa. “If you have fair skin, jet black is not the best choice, and it’s always a good idea to have more than one color to add depth and dimension.”
Celebrity colorist Kelly Cardenas also recommends his clients focus on their skin tone when choosing a color. “No matter your hair color, if you go up a shade or two, it will give the appearance of looking more youthful, but the placement of highlights is key,” he explains. “Have your hairstylist frame your face to brighten your complexion.”
Celebrity stylist Mitch Stone agrees with steering clear of dark colors and trends that are too young. “For hair, be careful of stripy colors or trying to keep up with trends targeted to a younger generation,” he told The List. “That time is over and I say it’s time to own your power and go with chic and smart.” Stone advises his clients to stick with softer colors, “like golden blondes and gorgeous reds.” The darker colors can be too severe and instantly add years to your face.
Jeff Stump, owner of Artkiteks salon points out that in additon to making you look older, dark colors show gray or white roots much faster than a more subtle color. “I recommend blending the color with highlights or a demi-permanent color, so that the color with grow out much better than a solid line and achieving a more natural look.”
The wrong part
Our expert stylists taught me so much about small tweaks that can make a huge difference. I had no idea that how you part your hair could age you. “Straight down the middle doesn’t work for everyone, but you also don’t want to have a severe side part either,” Sam Villa Show Ambassador, Marissa Villa told The List. “A soft irregular part could be flattering, and don’t forget about bangs; in some cases, they can make you look younger.”
Too much volume
While a little volume can be beautiful, going overboard will only age you. Because our hair tends to thin as we age, many of us worry about it looking too flat. Talk to your stylist about a great volumizing shampoo or flattering layers.
Damian Santiago, co-owner of Mizu New York salon often sees clients trying to get that volume in all the wrong places. “Too often, a mature client thinks she must have height,” he told The List. “Teased up hair can make anyone look older. Volume is different and can look modern and elegant.”
Don’t fall flat
As our aging hair thins, it can be tough to find the right balance. Too much volume and hairspray reads very 80s. However, no one wants to give in to the thinning. “While it can be a big mistake to have too much volume on your hair, not having enough can also be a large pitfall,” says Murat Evin, creative director at The London School of Make-Up.
“Many women and men with long hair often age themselves unnecessarily by allowing their hair to fall too flat on their face, either by combing it down too much or not using mousse or similar when blow-drying.” Even explains that flat hair only accentuates prominent facial features. So if you’re not crazy about your nose or chin, a flat do calls more attention to them. Make sure you’re not weighing your hair down with too much product, and try not to brush it too much.
The wrong shampoo
Your shampoo affects your hairstyle, and it may be making you look older. Shampoos for “normal hair types” are not the best option as you age. “You have to have the right tools and products for gorgeous hair,” says Sam Villa Show Ambassador, Marissa Villa. “Grey and aging hair has unique characteristics that require a mask once a week, color protecting shampoo, thermal protectant, and more effort in the fight against frizz.”
Keep it healthy
Damaged hair always looks older than it is, leaving the owner looking older than she is. It’s important to keep up your natural sheen by taking good care of your locks. If you’re noticing a lot of split ends, it’s time to go to the salon for a cut. “If you want long hair and your hair just isn’t healthy enough, get extensions to create fullness or length that looks healthy and shiny,” recommends Sam Villa Show Ambassador, Marissa Villa. “When you look good, you feel good — and you’re only as young as you feel!”
Cool it on the accessories
Oftentimes when we want to have a more youthful appearance, we fall back on the styles that we wore when we were younger. It worked back then, right? However, pulling out your old sparkly butterfly clips is a first class ticket to looking older than you are. Dina Scherer, NYC Image & Wardrobe Stylist & Personal Shopper and owner of Modnitsa Styling recommends the less-is-more approach when it comes to hair accessories. “Hairstyles that include many dated accessories, like scrunchies, hair clips that don’t match your hair color and are obvious, certain types of claw clips,” warns Scherer. “They all attract too much attention to themselves — distracting from your do, and can make you look juvenile and read as fashion no-nos.”
If you tend to wear your hair longer and need to pull it back from time to time, stick with a relaxed, soft ponytail. “If you prefer long hair, wearing it tied low, loose and to the side is more elegant and youthful than a tight ponytail in the middle back or high up on your head,” says celebrity hair stylist Vernon Francois. “I’d also suggest choosing accessories that match or are a similar tone to the color of your hair, instead of something very contrasting… Resist anything cartoony or gimmicky.”
You and your hair are gorgeous just as you are. Don’t cover it up with neon scrunchies.
Beware of helmet head
As we age, our hair thins, so it’s tempting to whip out the hairspray and give yourself some serious volume. The problem is that too much hairspray gives you that stiff 80s look, so not youthful. “We all want to avoid it, yet this super stiff hairstyle, popularized by news anchors in the 1980s, is still quite popular with the news world and beyond,” celebrity hair stylist Scott Yance told me.
“When clients ask for a cut like this, I am always honest with them, letting them know that a stiff hairstyle will always make you look years older.” Yance actually likes to steer clear of traditional hairspray all together. He prefers more versatile products that still let the hair move. If you’re stuck in a windstorm and your hair doesn’t move, it’s time to move away from the hairspray.
Slicked back styles
As we age, it’s a chance to embrace our true selves and ditch all that self consciousness that ruled our teens and 20s. Rock your true hair texture and look without trying to pull it back into tight knots. This only makes you look older.
“While hair that’s loosely pulled back can be very flattering, tightly pulled buns and pony tails tend to put any wrinkles or imperfections front and center,” says Scott Yance. “As we age, it’s best to work with your hair stylist to find a haircut and style that frames your face and plays up your best features.”
Stylist Dina Scherer also recommends staying away from pulled back styles that come off as too youthful, such as pigtails or mini side buns. “These looks can be fun and flirty for a 20- or even 30-year-old if done in a dramatic or feminine way, but can look ridiculous on a 40- to 50-year-old, aging them by the nature of being disconnected, and not-age-appropriate.”
Show off your gray
As the gray hairs start to take over, most of us assume it’s time to start covering them up, stat. However, not everyone has to rush to their colorist. “There are a few lucky ladies with the perfect, enviable silver,” says stylist Julie Featherman. “Talk to your stylist about how you can show off your gray with panache.” Featherman recommends accentuating your gray with silver glosses, ‘pepper’ lowlights, and the right cut. Another feature that will give you a younger look? Having the confidence to embrace your gray and rock it.
Your hair should reflect your lifestyle
Throughout your life, you have had some major accomplishments. You’re in a very different place than you were 20 or even five years ago. Make sure that as your lifestyle changes, so does your hairstyle. Juju salon owner and hair stylist Julie Featherman reminds us to make sure to choose a cut that fits our current life.
For example, if you’ve always worked in a corporate job, but are now retired and pursuing your yoga certification, you hair should reflect that. “A former polished corporate ‘do’ will no longer work on the mat and your life of new found endeavors,” she explains. “Switch out the polished put together with something more textured and less structured.”
Don’t forget the makeup
A gorgeous, youthful hairstyle will keep you looking great, but if your makeup is aging you, no one is going to notice your locks. Celebrity stylist Mitch Stone often sees clients aging themselves with way too much makeup. “When skin starts to age, make-up can exaggerate lines and wrinkles if not put on correctly,” he explains. “Go slow and accentuate your eyes and lips, use a light base and take it slow.”