5 smart, flattering hairstyles for women 50+

February 16, 2011 at 10:12 am in Fashion & Beauty by Lois Joy Johnson

When it comes to flattering hairstyles after 50, the pros sum it up by saying a classy look with movement and a healthy shine is the overall goal.

Washington D.C. hair stylist Isabelle Goetiz of the Okyo Salon in Georgetown says, “Movement is what makes hair look youthful, healthy and feminine and those are the three things clients ask for when discussing a new look.”

Mark Garrison of the Mark Garrison Salon in NYC agrees. “Movement is important. Your cut, no matter what the length, must have movement. One of the other big issues some women have to get past is the insistence on a stick straight flat look – especially women who have to work totally against their texture to achieve it. That’s got to go.”

NYC hair expert Gad Cohen says, “By 50, you want class and a classic cut that’s not rigid. Something like a blunt cut with imperceptible layers or a bob with bangs. I think a lot of women go overboard on layers and not only can it look cheap, it doesn’t work well for thinning hair problems or frizz.”

I’m going to add any cut that’s retro hairdo to the list of the worst hairstyles for women 50+:

  • A shaved-nape short wedge
  • asymmetrical cuts
  • a feathered, blown-back Charlie’s Angel look
  • a short, stiff, bouffant teased and sprayed to death
  • a flip with a hair-band
  • anything that has a sell-by date. I hope you left your teasing comb back in the 1980s, along with rock-hard gels, super-hold lacquered hair sprays, and retro updos.

5 smartest hairstyles for women 50+

  1. The bob

    You cannot go wrong here, and this cut pays off by looking modern, polished, and classy. If your hair is straight or slightly wavy, a blunt, chin-length version with or without bangs has an edgy, youthful look and can work well for fine or thinning hair. Any length bob is chic from chin-grazing to collarbone. A medium-length bob offers easy versatility and quick styling options. You can still pull it back, mousse in volume, add more texture, or flat iron it for polish.

    NYC hair pro Gad Cohen says, “A bob is like a couture sheath dress: Well-cut and timeless. You can’t go wrong with it. Sometimes I’ll cut it slightly shorter in the back, longer in the front so it swings. This shape looks great on women with sophisticated style and straight or slightly wavy hair texture. It gives more of an A-line look.” Mark Garrison adds: “You can opt for a clean clear line or layer the edges very slightly, add a straight bang, an angled swept-to the side bang, part it at center, side or zig-zag the part. Some variation of the bob will work for everyone.”

    Aside from delivering major style points and adding a signature look to your hair, a bob can work wonders for aging skin. A bob that hugs the face and neck can trim your profile and help camouflage a soft, saggy jawline. Face front a bob can work to slim full cheeks. Add long bangs that can be swept to the side, and you’ve got extra built-in camouflage for forehead lines and a frame for your eyes. Women who have made the bob their signature look include Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour, Barbra Streisand, Ellen Barkin, CEO of Yahoo.com Carol Bartz, and Today Show hosts Meredith Viera and Ann Curry.

  2. The blown-up bob

    It’s not exactly coiffed or a retro bouffant, but a big, volumized bob is glamorous, especially when it’s lifted off the face. Think Catherine Deneuve, Christine Baranski, Condoleezza Rice, the Today Show’s Hoda Kotb, and, of course Hillary Clinton’s new longer, fuller do. All you need is the right product and styling technique to add real body.

  3. The collarbone cut + two inches

    Right to the collarbone or two inches below is an ideal length for women 50+ who have fine, thin hair but want to keep it on the long side. No it is not trailing down your back or tumbling over your boobs, but if your hair has changed in quality and quantity, this is a sexy, modern alternative. According to Mark Garrison, “Long hair at 50+ must be cut long. The proportion of length must balance hair quality. Hair that’s grown long but is thin and overprocessed just looks like a last-ditch effort to hang on to your youth. Collarbone length is attractive and alluring and still has the look of long hair.”

  4. The medium-length, layered shag

    Hair stylist Sally Hershberger launched a million Meg Ryan look-alikes with her signature layered cut, and it’s become a classic. Mark Garrison says, “The shag, like the bob, is one of the ultimate cuts. A version of it will work for anyone just by varying the length an inch or two, being sure the layers work to frame the face and adding some type of long soft bang.” This cut takes advantage of hair with natural texture and gives it a sexy spin. Chris Cusano of the Brad Johns Color Studio at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon in NYC says, “Chopped up hair works best for women with medium to thick texture who like a full free-form look. Skip it, though, if your hair is thin and flat.”

  5. The short, tousled crop

    Mark Garrison says, “The short gamine cut has a French-chic look that can be very sexy and flattering on older women. The trick is to be sure the hair around the nape and ears is cut with wisps and pieces so the entire cut is feminine and attractive from any angle. A longer bang at the front can be a valuable option, too.”

Which hairstyle do you find most flattering for you now? Please share it in the comments section below!

Lois Joy Johnson is the author of the new Vibrant Nation beauty guide, Great Hair After 50: Hip hairstyles, best products for healthy hair, coloring secrets, whether (and how) to go gray, managing fine or frizzy hair, and solutions for thinning hair and hair loss