Many women decide to cut their hair short when they reach fifty or so. But if, like me, you decide to keep your hair long, here are ideas for flattering styles.
I’ve looked through hundreds of images to find the ones I think are honestly possible for an older woman without needing constant care.
After each image I will explain why it might, or might not, suit your face.
Our face shape and texture changes quite quickly after the age of 55 so what might once have looked great on you may need a rethink. Some of us develop softer faces with more flesh around the chin and jaw. Others of us develop more angular faces as we lose flesh from our cheeks.
Both of these facial changes influence how we look. Changing our hairstyle can help us look better.
Show these images to your hair stylist
If you find an image here that you think will suit you, then upload it to your phone – if you are not using your phone to read this article. That way you can look back at it often. You can also play around with your hair in the mirror and see how the image compares with your styling efforts.
Once you’ve decided on a hairstyle that you believe will flatter your face and project your personality and personal style just take your phone to a salon. It’s almost impossible without an image for the hairstylist to know exactly how you want to look.
Styles with waves
This beautiful woman has a square face with a strong jawline and prominent cheekbones. If you have a similar shape of face this fun super-wavy style could work well for you. Notice that the hair is styled back from the face so the waves frame her rather than cover her. Look at how high the hairline is lifted off her forehead so that her eyes are the mid-point of her face.
You’ll need heated tongs and styling mousse or hairspray to get this back-swept definition. Once you have the front hair in place and sprayed then finger twist the other waves into a relaxed pattern of curls.
This waved style suits this longer face. The side parting allows the hair to cover one side of the forehead and give a more relaxed and informal look to the model.
Once you have created the waves with rollers or a heated tool you can leave the hair to fall naturally and give a quick spray to hold that side sweep in place.
In this layered and softly waved style notice the body that’s been created within the hair by both the curl and using a product such as styling mousse.
The long softly waved bangs are ideal for softening this diamond-shaped face. This style will look good on almost all faces but especially good on older faces that have lost plumpness.
This gray hair has very relaxed waves but like the first style the hair immediately next to the face is styled severely back, perhaps even tucked behind the ears. But here the waves of the main hair are allowed to fall slightly forward to create a natural look.
Like the first style the forehead is heightened by keeping the top hair high and back from the hairline. This is achieved by drying and waving the hair with a middle parting then flipping the front lock over to one side and spraying the roots to keep it in place.
You may find you have to flip this lock of hair every few minutes if you want a really gentle and natural style – i.e. if you don’t spray the roots too much.
This hair style requires excellent hair condition so regular trims to the ends and a good conditioner after each wash.
Anne is in her fifties. But she still sports an almost schoolgirl vibe. With her slim figure and casual clothes she looks youthful and full of optimism for the day ahead. To complete the look she wears her very long hair tousled as if she’s paid it no attention since she got out of bed.
But of course her hairstyle is carefully created to give this relaxed look. The centre parting is back in fashion right now and with a wide smile Anne can carry off this difficult style. But instead of letting both sides of her hair narrow her face and hide her lovely eyes she’s tucked one side behind her ear.
Her hair is curled and waved using heated tongs or straighteners and has added texture added through using a product. Her side-swept long bangs are sprayed into place. She has finger-styledthe last few inches of her hair into a restless tumble of waves. And the color is carefully managed – an ombre look.
So what could look slapdash and lazy now looks youthful and delightful.
Sandra Bullock has long straightish hair. In this picture it has been styled very straight and a fringe cut severely across the forehead at eye level. The hairdresser has finger swept the bangs apart so they don’t quite cover her eyes. This is a look that will suit a woman in her fifties but may be too young for someone of sixty.
The drama comes from the straight dark lines against the face. It is a structured style which works best with hair that has a very definite color.
In this picture Sandra Bullock is wearing her hair in a slightly layered bob which has been blown to hang neatly framing the face and neck. But instead of bangs Sandra has opted for a more severe look where one side of her top hair is pinned straight back. Notice that volume has been added to the hair even though it hangs straight.
And look at how the centre parting is softened by pinning back just one side making a more interesting shape than just allowing two curtains of hair to hang down.
Centre partings are, in general, very difficult to wear successfully after a certain age. That’s because the centre line draws the eye down the nose to the tip of the chin and the neck – and these are often not our best features.
Carmela has chosen to keep her hair very long and very straight. There is no added volume or body. The bangs are cut straight and high on the forehead. As we’ve seen with some of the other models, the hair – the fringe – on the forehead has been given extra lift.
This style works for Carmela because she has very regular features and a square face. She has a long elegant neck and keeps her head held high. With long straight hair this is important. It is all too easy to look unkempt. Elegant posture is essential.
Note the stylised eyebrows which add emphasis to her face and add to the elegant look.
Dramatic hair styles
Rather than highlighting her face this model has chosen to make her hair the focus of attention. The longer and whiter the hair, the more stunning this style looks.
It doesn’t require more than the odd little curl here and there with heated tongs or straighteners. Mainly the hair is tousled as it dries then boosted with dry shampoo or spray so that it stays wide.
Notice how the model has used the bare minimum of make-up in order to keep her big hair the star attraction. In addition she is wearing a dark sweater to further show off her white locks.
If you want to try this style keep clothes and make-up simple and choose a stand-out color for your hair – white, blonde, very pale grey, red, brunette.
Whereas informal styles soften a look and camouflage areas that are less than perfect, dramatic styles often emphasize a look even if that means drawing special attention to those more difficult areas.
Here Genevieve has scraped her hair severly back off her face and neck. Then the long heavy single braid emphasizes her obvious height and her long neck. Her make-up and nails are clearly defined. Her dark suit adds to the image of a woman in control and very confident. So confident in fact that she has no hesitation in showing an aged neck. Go girl!
This striking look depends on naturally curly hair brushed out to be as wide as possible at the shoulders but kept close to the scalp on top. This creates a fabulous frame to the head and neck. The eyebrows and eyes are heavily made up to attract our attention. And the large gold earrings and bright yellow round-necked dress all add to this sculptured look.
This is a great style if you have lots of confidence and you want everyone to notice you when you enter the room at an evening event.
Long hair held back off the face
The great thing about long hair is that you can simply pull it back off your face for everyday wear. Here is the typical style most of us wear most days. It is very natural and simple. The hair is drawn back and held in a band or a clip then a few strands are pulled out to frame and soften the face.
You may need to quickly tong these strands so they curve gently.
And decide where these layered strands should stop. Here they hang right down to the base of the neck and make the narrow under-cheek area look softer and rounder. The top hair has been backcombed then smoothed to give just a touch more height to the head.
The bright red lip color and the strong full eyebrows add definition to a look with salt-and-pepper hair.
This model has decided to pull only the top and sides of her hair back and then fix them at the back with a band or slide. This leaves her long back hair just slightly on show from the front.
This works well for an older face where the cheeks have fallen in. The hair at the back ‘fills in’ the space between cheek bone and jaw so we don’t notice the hollows. Use drop or hoop earrings to help to ‘fill’ this space too.
Notice the side sweep of the hair which stops the face looking too structured and severe. Beware a middle part if you have hollow cheeks!
This square face suits the hair drawn back. Notice Sylvie elongates her look by wearing a gold pendant to catch the eye. This helps detract from her short neck – which many of us with a square face have.
The hair on top has been slightly backcombed then sprayed at the roots to help add height.
The hair may be rolled or twisted at the back but the clever detail is allowing one strand of waved hair to escape. It adds a look of gentleness and approachability to this lovely over sixty face.
On days when you just can’t decide how to wear your hair opt for a pretty scarf. Fold it into a bandanna style and tie it on the hairline. This is now the frame for your face. To add interest emphasise a well defined eyebrow as here.
I love the vintage elegance of a French pleat. It’s easy to do depending on how sculptured you want it to look.
I put my hair into a ponytail at the base of my neck then twist the hair as I pull it upwards towards the top of my head. At the top I tuck the ends in and use a clip or bobby pins to tightly secure them. Then a quick holding spray to finish.
For formal events I might leave it at that and add a jewelled clasp over the bobby pins. For everyday chic I pull out some fine strands and allow them to frame my face softly.
The low pony is a style that can easily look as if you haven’t really bothered. So the model here has twisted a lock of her hair round the holding band to give a more polished look. You’ll need to carefully tuck the winding hair into the band underneath so it doesn’t spring free.
Add some height and volume to the main hair by teasing the first couple of inches of hair, spraying, then smoothing it over in a sixties retro look.
Although this model is young, this style looks good on older women too. Ensure hair is blunt-trimmed regularly and the color is interesting.
I like this idea for a twisted low pony tail. Pushing the hair through itself once just adds that cared for look. Then pull out some strands to make it messy if you like an informal vibe. Perfect for Gen Z as well as us boomers!
Ever wondered how those chic Parisiennes kept their chignons looking so good all day in the fifties? Here’s a great tutorial in images. The model is young but this style works really well for gray heir too.
Just notice that the hair is either naturally curly – and so holds a shape more easily – or the hair is curled with tongs. Soft sleek hair will be much more difficult to manage so always curl before updos.
OK, here’s the default style for women with mid to long hair who have an informal lifestyle after retirement. The hair is just scraped back and secured with an elastic.
But oh dear, how often we see the high pony looking scruffy. It’s all in the detail. The top hair is given height and sprayed into place. (The model may actually have a straight fringe that she has sprayed back.) Then add quality cool clothes, healthy tan and those stylish sunglasses!
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