What is so wrong with long hair in midlife? I can think of several excellent women I know who’ve reached the age of 50 and decided that they’re suddenly “too old” for their lush locks, only to have them all lopped off. Is it really about the hair, or is it a symptom of something much bigger? That discomfort we’ve all felt at some point at the idea of getting older?
Chopping off your hair is a rite of passage we no longer need to go through – if we ever really did. Surely the best kind of midlife hairstyle is the one that makes you feel your most fabulous? At this point in our lives, shouldn’t we be embracing our best selves, shunning society’s outdated expectations about how we “ought” to look? Certainly, the older I get, the more I love my long hair.
So what do the experts think? “There was a time when women would cut their hair short once they got married or had children – there were far too many ‘rules’ regarding the way older women should look, and many would declare that they were ‘too old for long hair’,” Nick Willis, senior stylist at Charles Worthington, told Woman & Home recently. “My only rule is that there are no rules.”
You only have to look at Sarah Jessica Parker, Monica Bellucci, Naomi Campbell and Jane Seymour for inspiration – all over 50, all rocking longer, healthy-looking hair, and none of them trying to pass themselves off as a 25-year-old. And often, longer styles are easier to maintain (we’ll talk about colour another day!), given the right care and products.
“We are moving away from the idea that women of a certain age need to have their hair cut short,” agreed Dom Seeley of Color Wow in Vogue last month. “It’s all about what makes you feel confident, what defines your style and personality. There is nothing wrong with going short when you get older, but don’t conform to society’s beliefs about how you ‘should’ feel or look.”
Ricky Walters of SALON64 in Soho takes it one step further. He told The Telegraph in August: “For some bizarre reason, there is a myth that says as you get older you must go shorter with your hair. This is not true. More often than not, this can have the opposite effect. Long locks ooze youth and give plenty of fun, light-hearted styling options, from loose ponytails to plaits. Shorter hair is often much more structured and strict.”
One thing the experts all agree on is that, whatever age you are, your long hair needs to be in excellent condition. If you are older, your hair can sometimes feel dry and coarse – that’s down to the texture of greys (even if you’re colouring them) as well as the loss of essential lipids and moisture, which can lead to breakage and a lack of shine. Pay more attention to mid-lengths and ends: look out for splits and maintain the condition with regular trims and treatments. And try incorporating hair masks and bonding conditioners into your routine, as well as using heat protectors when you dry and style your hair.
It pays to have a really good hairdresser, too – someone you trust and who’ll give you sound advice. Ask which longer hairstyles will suit your face shape and what length works best for you. Go for volume, texture and movement – thin, straggly hair framing the face works for no one, while a soft fringe and layers that draw attention to the eyes and cheekbones are always good.
Remember the days when you’d walk into the salon clutching a photo of your favourite celeb and ask for a cut “just like that”? Surprisingly, that idea holds good for women with midlife hair dilemmas – and our experts love it. Seeley recommended looking to some of the well-known women listed above for inspiration. “They (and their hairdressers) know how to accentuate the face through use of colour and different lengths that flatter and highlight the features – from the skin to the eyes – making them look more youthful.” If, of course, looking more youthful is the way you want to go.
As for me, I’m happy to embrace my age – with my long hair intact. What about you?