1. It's way too long.Über-long hair is a tough look for over-40 women. "I call it the '1661' — a woman's long hair makes her look 16 from the back, but from the front you see she is actually nearing retirement age," says Pantene celebrity hairstylist Danilo. A universally flattering length: to the collarbone. "A cut that grazes the collar and has face-framing layers also draws attention away from an aging neck," says Jet Rhys, a San Diego-based stylist.
2. Or it's way too short.
How short is too short? There's no rule, but keep in mind that the end point of your cut emphasizes the facial feature next to it, says Rhys. So if you're concerned about a sagging jawline, don't ask for a chin-length bob. And remember that a short 'do isn't an excuse to hang up your blow dryer. "Too many women think a short cut is a free pass to forgo styling, but when hair has no polish, it can look matronly," she says. Cropped styles are modern and youthful when they're smooth and sleek; if those qualities don't come naturally to your hair, use a frizz-fighter before styling.
3. You've worn the same cut for years.Embrace change. "If you have the same 'do you had 10 years ago, it's time for a new look," says Nick Arrojo, owner of Arrojo Studio, NYC. "You're not wearing the same clothes — why have the same hair?" If you're leery of drastic change, take baby steps. "Something as simple as moving your part can update your look," says Rhys.
4. You're afraid to experiment with new ingredients.
A slew of anti-agers, like niacinamide and caffeine, are debuting in hair products. They offer cosmetic benefits, like smoothness, shine, and a generally more youthful appearance, says Jeni Thomas, Ph.D., of Proctor & Gamble R & D: "The hair cuticle is similar to the top layer of skin, so it makes sense that these ingredients will have beneficial effects on hair and skin." Try L'Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare Power Moisture Shampoo ($5, ), with sodium hyaluronate, a common moisture-attracting skin-care ingredient.
5. Your color looks dull next to your skin.
Whether you hit the salon or take the DIY route, subtle tweaks to your color can make a huge difference. "A woman's complexion lightens and becomes more translucent as she ages, so what looked great when she was 25 may not look so good when she's 50," explains Arrojo. Think about the hair you had as a child, suggests Brad Johns, color director at the Salon & Spa at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York. "Go back to that color family, whether it was blond, brunette, or red. Anything monotone looks severe and aging, so add highlights and multiple tones throughout." When in doubt, err on the lighter side — dark hues create too harsh a contrast with paling skin.
6. Your hair could use some fringe.
Bangs can camouflage forehead lines (the "Bangtox" effect), but not all do it equally well. "A blunt bang that hangs straight across the forehead isn't for everyone. It can emphasize aging features and more mature skin," says Sarah Potempa, stylist for Aussie Haircare. "Opt for a side-swept fringe with layers that blend into the rest of your hair; it'll make your features look soft and youthful." Be sure that bangs are in proportion to your cut; they work best on shoulder-length styles (any shorter, and your fringe may not stand out from the rest of your hair).
7. You don't know how to embrace your grays.
Before ditching the dye, determine if gray will be flattering. "When a brunette turns gray, it looks silvery and pretty. But blondes tend to go white, which can make them look pale," says Johns. Wait until hair is at least 75% gray before growing it out: "Otherwise, it will look like you forgot to color it." Then, use smoothing stylers. "Gray hair is wiry and frizzy. Smooth strands make the color look vibrant," says Rhys.
8. You've been using the same products for years.
"As your hair texture changes with age, you need a different formula," explains Potempa. "Strands get drier and coarser, so switch to moisturizing products and avoid anything stripping, like clarifying shampoos." Plus, there are new ingredients and technology in stylers, so it's worth experimenting. Try shine enhancers, a newer category of products with reflective ingredients that add luster and smooth the cuticle. Apply on dry tresses as a final styling step.
9. Your hair lacks volume.Whoever said "thin is in" was not talking about hair. Create volume with the right cut and styling MO. "Thin hair should be mid-neck length or shorter and have layers throughout," says Rhys. Style with a root booster, like Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Root Lift Mist ($13, ), then hold the top sections of your hair straight up as you blow-dry. Color is another route to lush locks: "Highlights and lowlights add dimension, making hair look thicker, and coloring also temporarily plumps the cuticle."
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