The Long and Short of Hair

By Susan Hindman
Woman Long Hairstyle
Courtesy of

Not that long ago, older women were never seen with a hair out of place. Their hair was usually short, worn a certain way; if it was long, it was never worn down. But those days of too-perfect hair and the short-only look are (mercifully to this writer) behind us.

Pick up any celebrity magazine and you’ll see older stars wearing an incredible array of ’dos, from relaxed-casual to statement-making bold. Look up pictures of Susan Sarandon (age 61), Stevie Nicks (60), Ellen Burstyn (76), Bette Midler (62), or Helen Mirren (63). Now, true, these women have help from professionals. But what they’re doing should provide you with inspiration for making your own choices. Being over 50 doesn’t have to equal short hair, any more than youth has to equal long hair. Any length of hair, gray hair, and colored hair are all accepted these days.

Shorter styles

There are lots of vibrant and sassy hairstyles for senior women—from pixie cuts to bobs to shags. A truly classic look includes bangs, but a stylist can determine whether or not bangs are for you. Bangs can hide facial flaws and are trendy looking; wispy side-swept bangs create a youthful look.

Bobs flatter your features, are easy to care for with minimal products, and, done right, can defy the weather. A spiky pixie cut is a no-fuss hairstyle that can make you look thinner, neater, and full of attitude. (One Web site, however,, advises against a spiky look. It’s your choice.)

A short hairstyle doesn’t have to be all one length. Longer layers give a softer look and allow you to try a variety of different styles with the same haircut, even giving you the option of wearing curls. Layering is especially flattering to an oval face, but a long and layered haircut looks good on any face shape and is low maintenance.

If you’re used to wearing long hair, short hair will be a dramatic change. Weigh the good and the bad before making a decision:

  • Short hair is easy to style but offers fewer styling options.
  • It’s generally healthy hair, since it’s cut regularly.
  • It looks great for women with delicate features but can look too masculine if you get the wrong cut; and if it’s cut too short, it can be unflattering if you have a thick neck or larger chin area.
  • It won’t get in the way when you’re exercising, dancing, traveling, etc.
  • It leaves nothing to hide behind, making some women want to work a little harder with their make-up and jewelry accessories.

Longer styles

If you’ve had long hair over the years and are not ready to give it up, you don’t have to. Long hair can be really beautiful. It can also be a pain.

  • Long hair can make you feel youthful and sexy and, if it’s healthy and shiny, shows you off.
  • It offers more styling options—braids, ponytails, upsweeps, etc.
  • It allows you to use more accessories such as hair clips, barrettes, even chopsticks; headbands and simple clips in neutral colors can be used to pull hair away from the face, creating a younger look.
  • It can be a lot of work—longer washing time (requiring more shampoo and conditioner) and drying time, and it’s prone to split ends because you brush it more.
  • It requires a lot of color when that’s being added.
  • It can look out of proportion on shorter women if it’s too long, so you’ll need to match your hair length appropriately to your style and stature.
  • It can become tangled and hard to manage, especially in bad weather.
  • It can make wrinkles and flaws more distinct and noticeable, according to

Reasons to change

If your life has changed over the past few years, you might consider doing something different with your hair, too. If you’re alone, this might be the perfect time to try a new style. If you’ve moved to a hot, humid climate, you might want a shorter haircut that’s easier to manage. If you’re using the gym or pool more, you may want a shorter style that can be quickly washed, dried, and styled after a shower (and you may need to adjust the products you use). If your shoulders and fingers are a little stiffer these days, you might want to consider a style that lets you avoid long shampooing, drying, or styling.

As a woman ages, hormonal changes and even genetics can mean that the hair begins to grow differently, or can become drier and less manageable. You need to meet the hair’s changing needs and compensate for some of the inevitable deficiencies. recommends the following tips for healthy mature hair:

  • Use a gentle shampoo with humectants and a moisturizing conditioner to keep the hair hydrated. You might want to add shine products to your styling routine, such as spray laminators and anti-frizz serums, since maturing hair tends to lose its luster.
  • Avoid using all-over hair color as your sole source of color, particularly if you are beginning to gray. The color results tend to become flat, and the hair looks bland. Instead, choose dimensional color services featuring highlighting and low-lighting to create color variation in the hair. Don’t fall for color trends; more natural coloring techniques will mean the hair looks more youthful.
  • Have your stylist add layering into the hair in areas where you need it according to your face shape. Rounder faces should have layers at the top of the head to create height, while narrower faces should have layers along the middle lengths to be styled outward and create a wider silhouette. You can use layers around the face to soften features or mask an over-large forehead, and add asymmetrical elements (side partings and angled bangs) to compensate for angular or overbalanced features.
  • A healthy body grows healthy hair, so be sure to get proper nutrition, drink plenty of water, and get enough exercise.

Published June 18, 2008

Susan Hindman
Silver Planet Feature Writer

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