Saturday, January 30, 2010


When every other ad on television is about joining a gym, starting a weight loss program or finding incentive to quit smoking, you know it’s the first month of the new year. I admit I’m no stranger to setting goals at this time of year. My 2010 resolution: To find a new job. Gulp.

As a 50+ woman with, shall we say, a dubious career history, I realize finding a new job may be my all-time toughest resolution to achieve. The last time I looked for a full-time job, I was in my 30s. All I needed to do then was look and act professional. Twenty years later, that's not enough. The job hunting, 50+ woman needs to looks and acts professional and current. She’s got to have a professional narrative that shows she’s aware of current trends and technology, and she has to look like she has the energy (at such an old age) to keep up with what’s next. Appearance isn’t everything, but she’ll want her hair, outfit, and accessories to make a good impression. Last month, I went for a makeup consultation at Sephora (see earlier posting) to brighten up my 50+ complexion and hide a few flaws. This month, I’m looking for a new hairstyle. The question is: Which hairstyles are most flattering for the 50+ face?

Short of losing weight, I can’t think of too many things that can alter your appearance (for better or worse) more than a new haircut. Have you seen the Jane Austen Book Club? I recently rented the DVD and was astonished by the transformation Bernadette (a fiftysomething character played by Kathy Baker) makes simply by changing her hairstyle. For most of the movie, Bernadette has a very short, spiky hairdo. The hairstyle makes her look like an average looking, middle-age woman. It actually accentuates her nose. However, at the end of the movie, Bernadette shows up at a dinner-dance with a sexy, sweeping hairdo that flips just below her chin. (You can see a ‘before’ photo of Bernadette under a paper parasol in the 4th row and ‘after’ photo of Bernadette dancing with her new beau in the 2nd row of photos at Yes, she’s wearing make up and has a new beau. But the soft, sexy hairdo is the biggest factor in her transformation. I want that kind of transformation!

But here’s the thing: Has any woman ever found a hairdresser who will suggest a new hairstyle? I haven’t. If I go to the salon with an idea, my current hairdresser will work with me. But she won’t say, “I think you should let me cut your hair this way or that way.” (Ditto for all the hairdressers I’ve used.) Is she afraid I will hate her if I don’t like the cut? This has always struck me as rather insane, since she’s supposed to be the hair expert, not me. Whatever the reason, it’s my job to come in with an idea or better still, a photograph of a desired hairstyle.

Fortunately, there are many online hairstyle resources for 50+ women. Moreover, older women have more hairstyle options than ever before. When I turned 40 with long hair, my mother warned me: “You know, older woman with long hair look like hags.” With each subsequent birthday, I asked myself: “Do I look like a hag yet?” I always assumed the day would come when I would feel compelled to shear my locks to within an inch of my scalp. And yet, I kept seeing older woman who looked great in long hair—Meryl Streep, Holly Hunter, Rene Russo, to name a few. Apparently, the hair barriers have fallen thanks to better styling of long hair for older woman.

This doesn’t mean that “anything goes” when picking a new hairstyle. The over 50 woman must still find the right do—a hairstyle that flatters her:
Face’s Shape
Hair’s Character (ie, texture, thickness)
Body Shape

You may find a hairstyle that suits your face and body shapes, but may not cooperate with your hair’s character or may be too fussy for your lifestyle. Long, flowing locks may look fabulous on gorgeous, statuesque Meryl Streep, but I doubt they would suit diminutive Judi Dench. Judi looks stunning in her boyish cut, but can you imagine Andy McDowell with something so severe? If, like me, you can’t expect your hairdresser to lead you to the perfect cut, you’ll have to do the research yourself. There are lots of online hair websites,including a few that show hairstyles that camouflage 50+ flaws. Here are a few sites that might help:
The right cut for your face. The first and the last slides are my personal favorites.

How to determine your face shape and hairstyles to try/avoid.
How to Determine Your Face Shape
How to Match Your Hairstyle and Body Type
Dealing with Specific Facial Features
A one-time $14.95 membership lets you upload a picture of yourself and “try on” different hairstyles.

Here are 4 great haircuts, though the models for 3 cuts aren’t even close to 50. Still, I think they would suit the 50+ woman.

Don’t be turned off by the very first illustration (which looks like a bathing cap my mom wore in the early 1960s). There are some good tips here.

Beautiful Hairstyles
Haircuts on real 50+ woman, albeit gorgeous celebrities.

Love to Know Seniors
If you’re set on a short hairstyle, check out this site. Scroll down for a slide show of short haircuts modeled by non-celebrity over 50 women. Beauty
More 50+ celebrity haircuts

Good luck!