20 Hairstyle Mistakes That Age Your Face
Aging can be a beautiful fact of life—but there's no need to rush it. Slow things down by choosing the right hairstyle for you.
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Essential reading before your next salon visit
Women are constantly bombarded with tips on how to look half their age, but what if you just want to look amazing for your age (thank you very much)? One of the simplest ways to do that is to pay more attention to your hair. Think of your haircut, hair color, and hairstyle the same way you think of your makeup or that seriously sexy blouse that always makes you feel like a million bucks—only in the case of hair, it’s game on every single day.
Choosing the right hair for your face and lifestyle can make sure you look like your absolute best, most refreshed, and most ready-to-take-on-the-universe version of yourself. And then there are these common hairstyle mistakes that will do the exact opposite and age your face. Here’s how to avoid them. While you’re at it, check out these 40 best hairstyles for women over 40.
Hairstyle mistake: Falling for flat hair
As we age, our hair thins. Even those of us with medium to thick hair will experience thinning, according to celebrity hairstylist Nunzio Saviano, owner of the Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. Certain styles will bring attention to this age-related problem. For example, says Saviano, “if you’re in your 50s wearing your hair parted in the middle, it isn’t flattering.” Instead, you want to focus on increasing your hair’s volume. Saviano suggests either a different (usually shorter) haircut, a change in the way you part your hair, or a product like Kenra Platinum Dry Texture Spray #6 to increase hair density. Here are some more tips on how to care for and style thin hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Infrequent trims
Another aging mistake that goes hand in hand with flat hair is keeping your hair way too long for your face shape and never trimming it. The fact that we associate longer hair with youth has a lot to do with the images we constantly see in films and on television (from Disney princesses to soap opera actresses to major celebs). But Saviano says the opposite effect takes hold as we age: Longer hair looks thinner, and thinner hair is aging. His preferred look? “The Lob. Collarbone-length hair or a bob looks chic,” he says. “If you have a long face, a bob can shorten it, and if you can have a round face, it can lengthen it. As you get older, it works on everyone.”
To maintain your coif between cuts, add moisture to your hair-care routine. Moroccan Oil Hydrating Styling Cream, which smooths strands and repairs their elasticity, is a beloved cult favorite that really works—and it’s great for all hair types.
Hairstyle mistake: Not framing your face
Even if you want to keep your hair all one length, you should add a few subtle, face-framing layers. This will draw attention to your most flattering features and lift your face for a more refreshed appearance. Some women aren’t sure where their first face-framing layer should begin, and Saviano says there’s one solution that works for everyone: “The perfect place for layers to start is the cheekbone—that brings out the cheekbone, which is an instant face-lift. Face framing creates body around the face, and with these shorter pieces, you can flick the bangs to the side or even do curtain bangs.” A light spritz of Bumble and Bumble Spray de Mode hair spray will keep your layers in the proper position without restricting them or causing any crunch. Another way to tame your mane? With this $8 frizzy hair product that has near-perfect reviews on Amazon.
Hairstyle mistake: Getting the wrong bangs
Bangs aren’t the singular entity we sometimes think they are. There are a number of different bangs styles, like blunt bangs, baby bangs, curtain bangs, sideswept bangs…and the list goes on. If you’re tempted to cut bangs, Saviano is your biggest supporter, but he cautions that it’s important to keep three factors in mind. “You have to get bangs that suit your lifestyle—some require trims every two to three weeks,” he explains. “They also have to be suitable for your hair texture and for your face shape. If one of those three things is off, you aren’t going to enjoy your bangs.” If your hair is very thin and you’re worried that bangs will take away from your overall look, Saviano recommends sticking with cheekbone-framing fringe.
And, of course, you’ll need the right tools to keep them looking great on a daily basis. One essential? Drybar’s Full Pint Medium Round Brush. Its specially designed bristles lock in volume, add shine, and decrease drying time. Check out these other hair-care products stylists can’t live without.
Hairstyle mistake: Going too dark
Raven hair looks beautiful, but after a certain age, hair that is too dark and all one shade looks flat. A single process that’s super dark lacks highlights and lowlights, which means all of the attention will be on your skin. If you would rather not have a spotlight thrown on fine lines and wrinkles, it’s best to incorporate a mix of shades to achieve a more sun-kissed look. “Going too dark with a single process can look too harsh and severe,” says Felicia Dosso, a colorist at the Nunzio Saviano Salon. “Softer, more natural tones are more youthful.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to bleach your hair blond, but shades of caramel, chestnut, and light coffee can create a beautiful balance in dark hair.
Be sure to incorporate a color-safe shampoo in your routine to increase the longevity of your dye job. Christophe Robin Color Shield Shampoo is infused with antioxidant vitamins that prevent fading and repair hair fibers altered during the color process. Brush up on these haircut style terms before your next salon visit.
Hairstyle mistake: Neglecting your scalp
The anti-aging industry is a multibillion-dollar business, and many women spend a ton of money on skin-care products and treatments like Botox and fillers. The biggest mistake that Saviano says he sees women making as they age is spending money on everything else and neglecting their scalps. “The scalp has to be taken care of just as much as the face,” Saviano explains. “A lot of times, women and men are uneducated about the scalp. You can keep the follicles strong with diet, and getting scalp treatments when you get a haircut really makes a difference.” If you’re concerned about thinning and shedding hair, a drug-free supplement like Nutrafol—which contains stress-busting, hair-strengthening ingredients like ashwagandha, saw palmetto, and biotin—can help. By the way, these common hair myths are damaging your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Wearing “girly” accessories
We’re all for everyone wearing whatever makes them feel good inside—and if that means bows, glittery barrettes, and oversize florals on headbands, so be it. But if your goal is to find hairstyles that aren’t going to age you, some of the girlier accessories out there aren’t your best choices. You can still rock a headband or put your hair up into a ponytail or bun, of course, but you should probably forgo colorful scrunchies and clips. Instead, it’s more flattering to opt for simple, elegant, chic accessories like a satin headscarf, simple pearl barrettes, and elastic bands. Here are another 15 style mistakes that make you look older.
Hairstyle mistake: Cutting layers that are too short
Cutting layers in your hair is a little bit like enjoying cotton candy or a Pavlova. A few bites (or layers) can be breathtaking, but overdoing it can lead to a wicked stomachache—or in your hair’s case, very thin ends. “A lot of women cut layers that are too short to make it look like there’s more body in their hair,” Saviano says. “But you’re making the hair look thinner when it is over-layered. That hair has to come from someplace, and it’s always cut from the bottom, so it makes the bottom look thin.” Bring in plenty of photos when you visit your salon for a cut, but be sure your desires work with your hair type—and not some random model’s hair—especially when it comes to layering.
Styling tools that minimize damage are also vital to recreating your properly layered cut at home. You can’t go wrong with Kim Kimble Silk Vapor Iron. With its gem-tourmaline-infused plates, it’s super gentle on your hair and even seals in moisture while eliminating frizz and split ends. This flat iron is just one of the Black-owned beauty products you should really own by now.
Hairstyle mistake: Overdoing it with conditioners
There’s a fine line between keeping your hair conditioned so that it stays soft and shiny and attacking it with heavy-duty conditioning treatments that only end up weighing down your hair and making strands look greasy and limp. If you have thick, curly, and coarse hair, a deep conditioner like DevaCurl One Condition Original can tame frizz and make locks gorgeously glossy. But it’s important to read labels and choose a formula that’s right for your hair type. Saviano says he generally recommends lightweight conditioners that are rinsed out. One to try: Pureology Hydrate Sheer Conditioner. Next, find out if your shampoo and conditioner have to match.
Hairstyle mistake: Asking for ashy tones
A quality colorist isn’t there to just mix up whatever colors you throw at the wall and apply them to your hair. These hair-care professionals aren’t only knowledgeable about shades—they also know which hues suit your skin tone and eye color and make you look even more stunning, as well as which will leave your skin looking dull. On some women, ash-brown, beige, or vanilla highlights can look gorgeous, but if your goal is to look more youthful, they aren’t always the best choice. “Ashy-toned highlights can make hair look dull and give off a grayish cast,” Dosso says. “Light reflects better off of more neutral, warmer tones, which ultimately creates shine.”
UV rays can mess up your color, so you should take the extra step of protecting your tresses with a finishing spray like Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil. It contains UV filters that combat sun-related dryness, as well as softens hair and adds shine. Make sure to avoid these other hair color mistakes that could completely ruin your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Using cheap shampoo
You don’t have to go into debt creating a hair-care regimen that keeps your hair and scalp healthy, but you should probably quit your $3 drugstore shampoo and conditioner habit. That tip goes triple if the products you use contain sulfates, which strip color fast and are extremely drying. Upgrade your hair-care stash so that you’re always using color-safe products that contain nourishing ingredients. And don’t forget to add a clarifying shampoo like Joico K-PAK Color Therapy Shampoo to your routine at least once a week. “A good clarifying shampoo removes buildup like dry shampoo,” Saviano says. “You can’t walk around with dry shampoo for a week—your scalp has to breathe and be clean.”
Hairstyle mistake: Placing highlighting foils in the wrong place
Highlighting your hair is an art form—not exactly one you want to leave up to untrained hands, a box of drugstore dye, and spotty bathroom lighting. Just as the color of your highlights can age you or make you look more youthful and refreshed, so can the placement of those highlights. Even if you aren’t asking your stylist for ’90s zebra stripes (good riddance), there are ways to place foils that work in your favor—and ways that work against you.
“Non-dimensional highlights, or too heavy of a highlighting pattern, will create too solid of an overall color,” Dosso says. “By leaving enough space between each foil instead of doing them back-to-back, you allow for there to be depth within the hair, which is more youthful and natural-looking.” Nourish highlighted hair once a week with Kérastase Reflection Mask for Color-Treated Hair. If you’re done with dye, check out these colorist-approved tricks for going gray gracefully.
Hairstyle mistake: Going to extremes with extensions and wigs
Though the ultimate goal might be added volume, moderation is always key when it comes to wearing wigs and hair extensions. That’s doubly true once aging becomes a factor. The right density should be chosen based on lifestyle as well as life stage. “Wearing extensions and wigs that are too full will look unnatural and can overshadow and weigh down facial features, therefore aging you,” cautions Karen Mitchell, owner of True Indian Hair. Conversely, any hair enhancement that is too thin will cause hair “to look flat…which can dull the appearance,” she adds. The most flatting extensions should resemble your hair’s natural density and not look or feel theatrical or neglected. Developed with morpho-keratine technology, Kérastase Discipline Smoothing Mask will deep-condition both coarse natural and enhanced hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Overprocessing hair with harsh chemicals
Many popular coloring and styling products live up to their promises in the trends department, yet do nothing to nourish the hair and scalp. Since fried, damaged hair is definitely not a stop on the path to a more youthful appearance, Jennifer Watson, Director of Education for Zenagen, recommends women adapt to less abrasive measures as they age. “A balayage color service (which involves hand-painting color onto hair to create a softer, more graduated effect than traditional highlighting) is a more natural approach to hair color and does not require as much upkeep, which leads to less frequent exposure to chemicals.”
Watson also suggests looking for styling products made with milder, less processed ingredients like amino acids, aloe, and proteins that can multitask by promoting healthier hair while creating innovative, product-heavy looks. You should opt for nourishing ingredients when choosing your daily hair-care products. ArtNaturals Organic Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner are highly regarded—as in, they’ve garnered thousands of five-star user ratings on Amazon—for cleansing, repairing, and moisturizing hair without parabens or sulfates. These everyday mistakes are also aging your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Giving up on thinning hair
Believing that all is lost when hair thins or falls out can be a recipe for disaster. Thinning hair left unattended can appear thin, dry, and brittle—none of which lends itself to a youthful look. But here’s the good news: You have options. Watson believes that “nutraceutical-based solutions [that have medicinal benefits] can be effective for many types of hair loss, including male and female pattern baldness, post-pregnancy hair loss, chemotherapy hair loss, and thyroid-related shedding and thinning.”
Fitness and wellness also play a role in the condition of your tresses and their contribution to your agelessness. “Staying hydrated and exercising will help increase the blood flow to your body as a whole—including your hair follicles,” says Watson. Dietary supplements like Moon Juice SuperHair Daily Hair Nutrition capsules, which contain natural herbs and mushroom extracts, target nutritional deficiencies to promote healthier, stronger hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Not giving gray hair enough attention
Going gray can be liberating—but neglecting your gray hair’s need for extra TLC is a mistake. Gray hair is the result of diminished melanin in our hair stands as we age, and those colorless tresses can be particularly dry and brittle. As Marcia Williams, CEO of Embellish Beauty Concepts, notes, “There is nothing wrong with embracing your gray, but just letting it come through with no maintenance is not a good idea.”
If you’re thinking of transitioning to silver, regular salon visits are essential—and so is a maintenance plan. “Continue to see your stylist, and try treatments that will enhance your hair’s mobility and vibrancy,” Williams advises. “Processes like glosses and lowlights are great for allowing your grays to come in. It looks fresh, and you still look current.” At home, a sulfate-free reparative styling cream like Olapex No. 6 Bond Smoother will eliminate some of the frizz and dryness associated with gray hair. FYI, here are 13 things that happen when you stop coloring your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Shrugging off hair shape
When choosing a haircut, much of the focus is typically placed on finding the right length. But the shape of the cut, if not taken into consideration, can lead to an unflattering coif that adds years to your appearance. “Having your hair cut in a shape that doesn’t work for your face and hair type can really date you and make you look older,” notes Williams. Individuals with coarse hair textures need to be especially mindful of haircuts that are suited for their curl pattern, face shape, and features. Williams advises working with a hairstylist who recognizes these factors and can “deliver a cut that fits your hair type, facial structure, and lifestyle.”
Should you end up with an ill-shaped haircut, Williams suggests trying protective styles like wigs and extensions while waiting for the cut to grow out. Using a deep-conditioning hair mask like Brigeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! on a weekly basis will help strengthen growing hair underneath your protective style. This Japanese beauty trick could make your hair grow super fast.
Hairstyle mistake: Forgoing root touch-ups
Not tending to pesky, discolored hair growth? That’s a big no-no. Partially grown-out color is not only unattractive—it can also damage your tresses, says Leianna Hillo, lead colorist at eSalon. Since graying hair can be coarse and wiry, “faded roots are often accompanied by breakage,” she explains. Maintaining color, on the other hand, can support your hair’s health and limit hair loss.
Speaking of hair health, Hillo also urges her clients to focus on practices that will keep hair looking and feeling great in between touch-ups. That means limiting heat styling whenever possible and using a root touch-up spray like Rita Hazan Root Concealer to temporarily camouflage gray hairs with pinpoint precision.
Hairstyle mistake: Picturing yourself with the wrong hairstyle
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but imitating someone else’s hairstyle may not necessarily be flattering to your face—and it can even age it. Someone with a round face, for example, may not fare as well (or look as vibrant) with a tapered pixie cut like their favorite actress who has more angular features. Using celebrity and model images as a reference for your desired hairstyle can lead to a world of hurt, especially if you show your stylist a picture of someone’s hair that isn’t realistic for your hair, warns Gold & Braid Salon stylist Erica Hawthorne. “Showing your stylist an image of someone’s long, thick hair as the next step for your short, thin hair will never work,” she notes.
Rather than trying to choose specific hairstyles from the pages of a magazine, Hawthorne suggests zeroing in on images of people with “hair texture and volume similar to your own.” That way, you’ll have a better chance of getting a reasonable facsimile—and more importantly, something that works for you. Hawthorne also recommends discussing your goals and options with your stylist during a consultation before your appointment. If you want to add texture and volume to your hair like the stars do, try Ouai Texturizing Spray, which is a Hollywood beauty staple. Don’t miss these frizzy hair products that are total game-changers for your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Staying stuck in a hair rut
The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may sound sensible in theory, but the concept can be detrimental to your appearance in reality. In fact, staying in your comfort zone and sticking to your “youthful look” could hamper your ability actually look youthful. Wayne Pattertson, a senior stylist at the David Salon, stresses the importance of “keeping an open mind about changing up your style.”
Though obsessing over what’s en vogue shouldn’t be a priority for older women, Patterson believes that “keeping up to speed with evolving trends” and pinpointing “what’s unique for your age group can help with updating your look” and maintaining vibrancy overall. Tech can also serve as a tool. Android apps like Hair Studio allow you to virtually test-drive a new haircut before your stylist takes a snip. You can also use clip-in hair extensions the way celebrities often do to create short-term hairstyles without affecting your actual length. Goo Goo Clip-In Hair Extensions add temporary length and volume and can be styled with heat for optimum experimentation. Next, learn the 18 makeup rules you should know by the time you’re 40.
- Nunzio Saviano, celebrity hairstylist and owner of the Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City
- Felicia Dosso, colorist at the Nunzio Saviano Salon
- Karen Mitchell, owner of True Indian Hair
- Jennifer Watson, Director of Education for Zenagen
- Marcia Williams, CEO of Embellish Beauty Concepts
- Leianna Hillo, lead colorist at eSalon
- Erica Hawthorne, stylist at Gold & Braid Salon
- Wayne Pattertson, senior stylist at the David Salon