How not to look old, part 3–lighten your hair Hot Conversation

Ugh, the roots. I shudder to think what my hair would look like without my good friend Feria #58. Without L’Oreal, I would be dull and gray, and would look years older than I really am. Fortunately, we have so many options at our fingertips today (literally) and rich, vibrant hair is just 20 minutes and $10 away.

In her book How Not to Look Old, Charla Krupp has started out with how to look younger quickly by simply changing your hair. In a previous article on taking years off your looks, I wrote how she recommends cutting bangs for an instant update that she says will make you look five years younger. And, according to Brad Johns, global color director at Clairol, “the older you get, the lighter you go.” Almost everyone looks better with lightness around her face. “Whatever your current shade, go just two shades lighter than your natural color, and you’ll be collecting compliments about how young and hip you look. A lighter color around your face will create a halo of warmth, illuminating your skin tone and giving you an all-over glow.”

Give your hair some depth and interest with a few highlights around your face. You can start with subtle changes at first, just a couple of shades off your natural or colored hair. If you don’t like it, then just color over it and you can try something different. Think of your hair as a palette of color to use in creating a frame around your face. Nothing crazy, just a few hints of tone variation at first, then bolder as you get used to the change.

A great way to try out color virtually is  at Clairol’s Try It On Studio where you can upload one of your photos and experiment with colors and styles. This is an easy and fun way to go from blond to brunette to gray without risking a giant mistake. If you are thinking about becoming a “silver fox” and going all gray, this is a perfect way to test the look to see if you have what it takes to look chic with platinum hair.

Other hair color musts:

  • Protect your investment. Once you have spent the money on hair color, whether it’s by a professional or do-it-yourself, you need to make it last. Use shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair, and don’t wash too often.
  • Be proactive, especially in the summer. Sun and chlorine can make color-treated hair even drier, so be diligent about using UV protection on your hair.  Get a spray like Pureology UV Color Defense Spray online at Folica.com or Amazon Marketplace
  • Be seasonal. Adjust your hair color to reflect the season, lighter in the summer to reflect the sunlight and darker in the winter for a richer look to match heavier fabrics. Use fall and winter highlights more sparingly and make sure they are in warmer tones; summer highlights can be light and bright.
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Posted in fashion & beauty, Flourish Over 50.

Related posts:

  1. I need Help with Haircolor!
  2. How do you let your hair go gray?
  3. Women 50+ Know: Why coloring gray hair is best done professionally
  4. What’s wrong with gray hair?
  5. Letting my hair go back to my natural color..

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50 Responses

  1. gail maria gail maria says

    Oh Lordy I got sick sick sick of my blondish hair which was put in place to avoid constant grey root touch-ups.  I so missed my brunette locks and noticed all of my friends going back to their original color.  I ran to the colorist “quick, make me a brunette again,” I pleaded.  I’m glad to rid of the light hair as it did nothing for my eyes except wash them out.  I might even go ever so slightly darker next time to be still closer to my real hair color as we’re just covering the blond for the first time and she didn’t want my hair to turn green. 

    8 like

    • Generic Image tennim says

      I understand.  Blonde does not do anything for me – my eyebrows are black so I need to keep being a brunette -  when I color my hair, I only do the roots and some strands, like highlights – it gives me the punch of the brunette but it’s softer because the rest of my hair is a little lighter – (looks less like I have colored it or am wearing a wig)

      5 like

  2. Ultraviolette Ultraviolette says

    How do you feel about hair length in the 50+ set?

    2 like

    • jbfox jbfox says

      I love longer hair because you can do so much with it. You do have to be careful to not wear it in a style that is too young. It is amazing the comments I get on how good I look when I wear my hair down.

      1 like

    • Generic Image JW1950 says

      I think that ingenue hair ages a woman – belos shoulders, straight, bangs etc. Most of us can manage some length with fullness or layers. To every thing there is a season . . .

      2 like

    • Generic Image Angel says

      I love longer hair. Just because you hit a certain age, doesn’t mean you have to go short. UGH! You can layer it around your face and still have longer hair.

      3 like

      • jbfox jbfox says

        I so agree Angel. Longer hair is just as attractive on older woman as younger, maybe even moreso.

        5 like

  3. Haralee Haralee says

    Just a tip if you need to cover your roots like me is to make your appointments every 3 weeks 6-8 months out with your stylist. That way you won’t have the bad week of wanting to wear a hat all day long! Another tip is to work out a cash discount with your stylist if he/she is self employeed, if you can schedule the dates, don’t change them and be prompt, you may get a deal.

    1 like

  4. jbfox jbfox says

    I’m a high maintenance woman and the number one item on my maintenance list is health. I will do whatever it takes to keep myself healthy. The next item on my list of maintenance is looking good because when I look good I feel good. I have done a ton of research on coloring hair and nothing points to it affecting your health, even Dr. Oz agrees.

    I followed exactly what Charla Krupp said about hair, I even took her book into my hair dresser and said I want that color hair, pointing to Charla.

    I now have bearutiful highlights and love it love it love it. I takes years off me, just years and how can that not feel good.

    6 like

    • Generic Image GinaS says

      It’s not so much the grey that bothers me. I have been colouring my hair for years, and have done the highlights and tried new cuts and so on. It’s the thining that I’m have a real problem with. My hair has gotten so thin over the years, If it weren’t for the natural curls that make it appear thicker, I’m afraid of eventually going bald. Are there any tips to thicken, or preserve my hair so that it doesn’t continue getting thinner? 

      2 like

      • Generic Image Jimsjinx says

        I have had fine, baby thin hair all my life, I’m 66.  I have tried about every so called miracle there is and nothing works! I think we got what we got! LOL!

        2 like

      • jbfox jbfox says

        Once again I have to admit I am high maintenance so this isn’t for everyone but your answer to thinning hair is hair extensions. I have always had thinner hair and now, of course, it is even thinner. Well I had extensions put in about 6 months ago and it totally transformed my look. It wasn’t drastic enough that people noticed my hair but I got comments all the time about how good I looked. I would see my reflection in a window and agreed, “Gee this does look good.”

        I have had them taken out now and miss them terribly. Once again this isn’t for everyone but if you really have an issue with thinning hair and can afford it, I highly suggest looking into them. Hair extensions will transform your looks.

        1 like

      • Generic Image maplav says

        Make sure you are taking D3 2000 units daily. Often a Vitamin D deficiency which is epidemic these days, leads to losing and thinning hair. Also B Complex. Worked for me.

        4 like

      • engaginglife engaginglife says

        Before you do anything, get your adrenal hormone levels checked.  If they are out of balance, nothing you can do and no amount of money spent on products will help.  If the cause is hormonal, fixing the problem will improve more than just your hair volume.

        4 like

      • Generic Image Zsomdeb says

        I know what you mean.  My hair started to thin after the birth of my youngest child; he is now 24.  I have tried everything.  Vitamins, shampoos, hair thickeners, etc.  I’ve even tried Rogaine.  I will never stop trying because I refuse to give up.  I think the person who discovers a product to thicken hair or even better regrow hair will be a very rich person.  One thing that I have done in the last six months is to stop blowing my hair dry and using a hot curling iron.  Instead I use small roller and let it air dry. The curling iron and hair blower has got to be really harsh on your hair or scalp. I get tons more volume from the rollers then my curling iron and my hair style lasts all day.  I use velcro rollers and put them in right after my morning shower.  They are usually in for about 45 minutes while I do my makeup, dress, and eat.  Then just before I’m ready to leave for work I pull them out and I have tons of volume.  If my hair is still damp, I will quickly run the hair blower over it.  I found a good volume hair sprintz that I spray on my hair before I put the rollers in.  I have to be careful, if I leave the rollers in to long I get way to much volume and then have a real pouf job. 

        1 like

      • Hawk Lady Hawk Lady says

        Hi Gina, I have very thinning hair at this time (medication induced). It horrifies me that despite my curly hair, I can clearly see my scalp. I went on a desperate search to find a solution. I tried the stuff you paint on, didn’t work for me. I have found a solution that allows me to go out in public with confidence by using Toppik. I buy mine from Sally Beauty. I count it among those things I am grateful for.

        0 like

  5. Lorri Lorri says


    I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you, but I started going grey when I was 21; I dreaded a lifetime of spending money on colouring, dealing with roots and not always recognizing myself when I left the salon. So I decided to go “au naturel”. This method has allowed my body to naturally find the age-appropriate balance between my hair colour and my skintone as I have aged. There are ways to cut and treat our grey hair so that it always shines and makes us sparkle – we just don’t seem to give ourselves a fighting chance in the early stages so that we end up with a real mess on our hands should we ever want to get out of the colouring rut.



    9 like

    • SusanTolles SusanTolles says

      Way to go, Lorri! You have been much more gutsy than most of us would have ever been. You look beautiful as a “silver fox” and just think of all the time and money you’ve saved over the years! Thanks for sharing, and for being an inspiration to others who may be considering going all gray, but don’t have the courage to do it.

      1 like

      • Generic Image Francescaray says

        The goinggraylookinggreat website is a wonderful resource for those of us who have realized that allowing ourselves to gray is going lighter.

        3 like

    • margecarter margecarter says

      I was at one point in my life that when I went gray I decided to change color to light brown with do it yourself coloring.  then moved south. beautiy parlor asked for med brown it turned out auburn orange.  some people liked it. I had to get use to the color fortunate my skin color looked great.  But then the roots decided to change I know why.  I have since gone all natural great with the continue hight lights of natural brown.  My age is my age. It all depends on who you want to think.  But after all that I got to thinking what am I doing. I believe in eating naturally and now I will never get my hair colored as I realized it absorbs into you body,just like all the chemicals people use around their home.  I want my health to continue for as long as I live without prescription drugs which I don’t use. And be as young as I want to be forever.

      3 like

      • Generic Image Angel says

        Auburn is a beautiful shade of red without any orange in it.I should know, I’ve had Auburn hair all my life. Too bad you can’t get this color from a bottle.

        1 like

    • Linny Linny says

      Can you let us know what the name of the shine treatments that are available for gray hair, please?

      1 like

      • Generic Image niftyfifty+ says

        I want to know, too!

        1 like

      • Generic Image Martha says

        Moroccan Oil (argan oil) has products for shine & frizz.  They smell nice too.  I dye my hair, but I’m sure they’ll work for gray hair too.  Check your salon to buy?

        4 like

    • ozzy's Mom ozzy's Mom says

      You look great with your natural color. Unfortunatly we don’t all gray so nice. But good for you for being a brave leader. 

      2 like

    • Generic Image Sevres Blue says

      Lori, your hair is BEAUTIFUL!  And I had a friend who had gorgeous, white hair at age 35.  But mine is ‘gray’ like, think of a rusting battleship, with put white around my ears and the NAPE my neck!  Natural did not look good on me!  I highlight and ‘lowlight’, and I ask the hairdresser to make the ‘lows’ 2 shades higher than my natural.  Sometimes they get it, sometimes not.  But every 5 years or so I let it grow out enough to see if I’m ‘there’ yet.  Looks like I’m looking for 10 more years of color!

      1 like

    • Generic Image Elize Hartley says

      You are so right.  There is nothing worse than to see an old face with, black, red, blond hair. As well I wonder why old women rouge their cheeks and wear bright lip-stick. Couldn’t make them look worse. I don’t enjoy my old face but present it clean and as it is.  Elize

      2 like

    • MSW MSW says

      First white hairs appeared in my rich brown hair in my twenties (thanks, Mom); was coloring fairly regularly by thirty; by forty, it was monthly!  Never thought any color was as nice as my natural one, hated dealing with roots (my hair grows fast), was tired of the routine for years.  Now on the shady side of 60 and stopped coloring two years ago.  I don’t think it makes me look older; maybe even a bit younger!  I recommend it.

      1 like

  6. vibrantspirit vibrantspirit says

    I stopped coloring my hair six years ago & cut my hair off short & spiky to let the color grow out.  I love the natural color I now have. It smooths out my skin color since it has changed over the years. I’ve started putting a clear shine product on it to enhance the silver streaks & it looks healthy. I have a friend in her late 70s who has colored her hair forever. She is now to the point that she goes into the salon weekly to have her roots touched up …..& she still dabs at them on her own during the week. Unfortunately as we age, the coloring process becomes extremely high-maintenance in order to keep hiding our natural aging process. My friend says she’d love to let it go natural but fears the growing out period, so she says she’s stuck coloring for the rest of her life.

    1 like

  7. Generic Image trubluayes says

    Im 50 now and started going gray at 30 ( my youngest daughter who was 8,  told me at the time that I have had a Young face with Old hair which is why I started dying my hair) I know under this dye job i do every 6 weeks that some of my hair is white & some a steely grey. I have naturally curly/wavy hair and would LOVE to stop dying my hair the Copper Blonde Ive been using. Is there a way to actually color one’s hair an silver colour??? or a way to post a pic & digitally see how one would look with that color??

    0 like

  8. Generic Image Jimsjinx says

    I let my hair go back to my natural color, which turned out to be mostly grey.  I used a product called Roux, it is a rinse that you use after shampooing and it will color your hair while growing out and no one can tell you’ve got different color roots. It has to be used everytime you shampoo, just towel dry and squirt it on and comb through.  It works great.  You can get it in most Sally’s.

    1 like

    • BabsyGirl BabsyGirl says

      My hair is pretty resistant to roux, but I want to get back to my real color I have not seen in over 20 years to determine what I want to do short of shaving my head (which my husband has offered to do,lol.) I cut it myself to just below my ears to take off some year-old permed hair. A non-perm washout haircolor might be just what I need to get back to my natural gray and allow my hair to do some growing while I cut off the older colored hair. I am a darker auburn browm atm and have been told i look a lot younger than my almost 54 years. Still, I get tired of coloring. though, I must remark on jbfox’s look. It is one of my favorite styles. It does not take my hair long to grow so I now have a new project, lol.

      0 like

  9. MrsB MrsB says

    I love the hair color that Sharon Osborne rocked when she was on “America’s Got Talent”. It was a shade of brown with a purple tint to it. I know that sounds strange but it looked beautiful on her. On me, it wouldn’t look the same. As a teen, I used “SUper SunIn” to turn my hair blond in the summer. I left it on too long and my hair turned white. Not the look I was going for. Past that experience I don’t believe I’ve ever colored my hair. But, I would not attempt to color it myself when I can simply go to the local beauty college and have it done for a fraction of the cost. And, it would be done by folks who know what they’re doing, better than I.

    0 like

  10. GolfGurl GolfGurl says

    Thanks Susan for the referral to Pureology… I have been looking for a product that will protect my hair while I play golf all summer long here on Cape Cod. I wear visors to protect my skin, but need something for the hair itself. Thanks again.

    • Be proactive, especially in the summer. Sun and chlorine can make color-treated hair even drier, so be diligent about using UV protection on your hair.  Get a spray like Pureology UV Color Defense Spray online at Folica.com or Amazon Marketplace

    1 like

  11. meigler meigler says

    Does anyone happen to know what product teh Barefoot Contessa AKA Ina Graten uses on her hair? She’s older than I am, but her hair is always super shiny.

    0 like

  12. engaginglife engaginglife says

    I let my color go natural.  But my daughter-in-law told my granddaughters (a nine -year-old and two seven-year-olds) that if they could go all semester without getting into trouble at school (mostly talking when they are supposed to be listening) that they could get color highlights.  Well, they did it!  All three of them.  In a show of pride, their mother, aunt, and I got our hair done as well.  Mine is now my natural dark brown with crayon red highlights!  The highlights turned out more coppery, but look wonderful!  Because I have Cushing’s Syndrome, by face is always red.  The copper highlights actually take attention away from my red face.  I don’t just look younger now.  I look healthier!  More vibrant!

    1 like

  13. Rae Francoeur Rae Francoeur says

    This information is extremely helpful. It is the kind of straight, factual talk I crave. Thank you. Also, I recently found hair mascara at Sephora to touch up roots. It’s easy to apply and though it washes out, it can extend the life of your color for at least a week. My hair grows fast so I really like this product. And I’m told hair grows faster in warm weather.

    1 like

  14. PatoFeliz PatoFeliz says

    I’ve lightened my hair all my life, but I’ve also fought frizz all my life.  I finally decided that probably nature knew what color looks best on me and I’ve been leaving it dark for a couple of years.  It really brings out my blue eyes much better than the blonde or light brown AND…no more frizz due to the damage of the peroxide!  I use Light Mountain’s Color the Gray henna…combining a couple of the darker shades (mahogany and red).  It is a fantastic conditioner, really adds body and shine.  Most of my friends who use commercial dyes suffer from the “drab frizzies”.  If you have gray hair and don’t want to color your hair, there is colorless henna.  What happens with the henna is really fun.  Since I match the color of my natural hair, the part that isn’t gray isn’t changed, but the gray takes on a great dark bronze color that just gleams like strands of copper in the sun.  I’ve gotten raves about my hair color….even from my hairdresser.  It takes me about 3 hours every time I color, but the result is fabulous.

    Making blanket recommendations just doesn’t really make sense.  Lighten?  Cut bangs?  Well, it depends entirely on your face shape, your complexion, the strength and texture of your hair….

    0 like

  15. Generic Image Catscrazy says

    You are so right PatoFeliz, no such thing as one size fits all. I had a ‘Mom’ haircut in my 30′s and 40′s. Lost a ton of weight in my fifties and grew my hair out let it do it’s naturally curly thing and went through a lot of colors. Found a great colorist who said “whoa girl, you’re only 10% grey, stick with your natural colour so you can go longer between coloring. Find a length that works for YOUR hair and build and lifestyle” (age was never mentioned..).I’m 56 now have dark brunette hair that is shoulder length with soft bangs. I have a really young looking face and, yup, sometimes my white haired husband is taken for my Dad! I have fair skin and very blue eyes so the contrast is nice.
    You need to go with what works for you and makes YOU feel good. If you get a lot of compliments(I do) you will know you are on the right track. My sexy Aunt once told me a woman needs to have a good doctor, a good dentist and an excellent hair stylist to help her age gracefully….also dressing NOT like my Gramma did when she was 56 helps( although she was a fashionista of her times)

    0 like

  16. Generic Image grammayumyum says

    In the past, I tried temporary color rinses, which left my hair dry, brittle, and frizzy, so I knew my (fine, curly) hair would never survive permanent hair coloring.

    I did some research on natural hair coloring, and have discovered henna.  I love using pure henna (no coloring or chemicals added).  It brings out the natural color within your hair, and highlights the white hairs with a color that is natural to your own.  I order it online from the site titled Henna for Hair (with the “dot com” ending).  There are many henna how-to videos on youtube.

    My understanding is that henna-with-differing-color-shades is still just permanent hair coloring with added henna for conditioning.  Pure henna leaves my hair silky soft, smooth, and shiny. 

    I get constant compliments on my hair now.  A younger man, who works on my son’s wheelchairs, noticed the difference and complimented how vibrant I looked.

    Here’s to each one of us, and to each of our decisions that suit who we are as a person!

    1 like

  17. Generic Image Catscrazy says

    ALWAYS do a skin test if you use henna I have seen some nasty allergic reactions. Actually do a skin test if this is your first time using any type of hair colour. It’s well worth the splurge to go to a GOOD salon and have your colour done. Explain to the colorist that you would like to colour at home in the future and ask for some advice. Remember that colour used in salons and that used at home is chemically different and home colour can be very harsh regardless of the claims by manufacturer and you run the risk of getting an unflattering shade.

    0 like

  18. Generic Image Ladylou says


    0 like

    • fischerpat fischerpat says

      Ladylou, it’s true there are so  many shades of red, but none of them are mine anymore!  I’m a natural redhead, trying to stay that way gracefully, so have gone to a more strawberry blonde.  Only one company makes a tone anywhere near that.  All the others have discontinued that shade and now just produce bright auburn to burgundy shades.  I don’t think those really look very good on an aging face.  So disappointed.

      0 like

  19. Generic Image Catscrazy says

    Oh, it depends on the brown and red is not for every skin tone. . That is why I cannot stress enough the importance of discussing colour with a pro at least once. But really the only verboten colour on an older woman is the colour that makes her unhappy. If she feels beautiful, who really cares what colour her hair is;)

    0 like

  20. Generic Image vibrantnationg21 says

    I find that Joico “Brilliantine” makes my grey hair look better, takes away the dullness and gives a little shine, but use only a tiny amount.  I also keep my style very very short.

    0 like

  21. Generic Image flute says

    Time for me to get my roots touched up too….. but …am thinking of gowing out my VERY short hair. Every time I bring up the subject, my poor DH cringes, because he knows he is in for months of witching and moaning about bad hair days. Anyone have any suggestions on growing out very short hairt. It is kinda wedged, the nape is shaved because my hairline is so low, and the ears are cut out. To be honest, I am considering buying a wig to avoid the bad hair days …. and just letting it grow. help????

    0 like

  22. Generic Image BGal says

    I have fine medium brown hair and have found a product called ”Great Hair Day Fill in Powder” by Joan Rivers.  It can be found on qvc.com.  It looks like an eye shadow pallet with a brush. It works great to cover grey at your part or hairline before your next color appointment. You can also dab it on the scalp to give the illusion of thicker hair.  It is also transfer-proof and comes in various colors.  I use the “blonde” which sounds weird, but it is actually the most universal color. It looks more brown/taupe.

    1 like

  23. Hawk Lady Hawk Lady says

    I have discovered Demi-Permanent color by ION. I buy it at Sally Beauty. You can even get it in clear. It adds a lot of shine. No harmful chemicals. Even smells nice.

    0 like

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