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Short hair after 50: When to cut and how to do it right

How do you know when it's time to go short?

There's that moment at the mall when you spot a group of trendy-jeaned women from the back. Their hair is hanging straight below their bra bands—stringy, straggly, fried, and dyed. Maybe there are even extensions in the mix. You think, "Why don't those girls do something with their hair?"

Then they turn and you realize "the girls" are all well past 50! That's bad long hair.

Quality is everything when it comes to having long hair at our age. It's not a question of age appropriate. If you still have thick, glossy, healthy hair by all means go for long if that's your look. It still works for women like Maria Shriver, Meryl Streep, Twiggy, Jane Seymour, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Andie MacDowell.

However, there is usually a point when super-long starts detracting from your looks rather than enhancing them. If you're considering finally going for a super short cut, here are some pointers to keep in mind.

Short hair after 50: What you need to know

In the past, thinking about cutting your hair short at 50+ meant you were usually stuck with one style that often looked tomboyish or frozen in a teased bubble. Now we know going short can be a signature look with lots of styling options just by varying products to change the texture of our hair.

Short eliminates hours of weekly blow-drying, but you do have the cost and scheduling of frequent trims to consider.

And, let's be honest. Super-short hair looks best on a woman 50+ who has a relatively long, firm neck, a pretty crisp jaw, a nice profile, and a statement hair color. Think of Sharon Stone's short cut (when she had one), Jamie Lee Curtis, Ellen DeGeneres, Judy Dench, Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, and you get the idea.

Stylist Chris Cusano of the Brad Johns Color Studio at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon in NYC says, "Women 50+ who are most comfortable with short hair are those who have had short-ish hair all along. You need the right texture, too. If you have curly frizzy hair and like to wear it straight, you're still going to be spending time with a blow-dryer and flat iron."

"Body proportions matter," Chris adds. "When a client asks me if going short is a good idea, we discuss her hair texture, lifestyle, body and any flaws short hair might play up. If you have a double chin or a short wide neck for example, or cowlicks, I may steer you away from a short cut."

Why go short?

  • Going a little longer with a short, chin-length cut gives you room to play with built-in options like bangs, choppy ends, and/or a few graduated layers.
  • You can blow a short cut sleek for a very polished look, slide it behind the ears to show off an earring collection, or go for a textured tousled effect.
  • Short hair can be sculptural, dramatic, edgy, or refined depending on your own personal style and willingness to play.

However, a major cut needs thought. Ask yourself how you felt the last time your hair was that short. Will exposing your face make you feel older or younger? How will you feel once the novelty wears off? Don't do it if you've cut your hair short on previous occasions and hated it (you still will) or have weight issues that might benefit from longer, fuller hair for balance.

John Frieda once told me the way to tell if you’ll look good with short hair is to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do you look great/ feel beautiful straight out of shower or pool with your hair away from your face?
  2. Do you have a good profile with a long neck and defined jawline?
  3. Do you always pull your hair back into a ponytail?

If the answer is yes to all three questions, go for it. You have the confidence, sexy attitude and proportions to pull it off.

Have you gone super short since turning 50? Do you have any tips to share?


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