Bangs can add youthful sizzle to any hairstyle, focusing attention on your sparkling eyes and making Botox or brow makeup unnecessary. But some women who take this plunge quickly conclude it was a giant mistake, resulting in months of grow-out misery. Here's how and when to get good bangs for your bucks.
1. Bangs can boost your style. They make thin, fine hair look thicker, instantly transforming any 'do — be it a bob or long hair — without a major chop or color change. You may have cut or grown out bangs before, but here are two especially good options to consider right now: long and full, or swept to one side.
2. Test your way in. "Bangs are not for everyone," says Elie Camoro, cocreative director of New York's Frédéric Fekkai Salon, "but a quick 'mirror fake-out' can help you decide whether to make the leap or not. Just pull the potential bangs section across your forehead until it resembles a 'fringeful' — you can fold up the ends to get an idea — or swoop that section to the side. You'll know right away whether to go for it."
But do read on before you finalize your choice!
3. Use them as camouflage. Bangs conveniently conceal forehead creases and the so-called "11s" — those twin vertical furrows between the brows that can make us appear angry, when in fact we are so not. A full set of fringe likewise nicely hides skimpy, graying or overplucked brows, obviating brow makeup.
"Bangs should be relatively thick, and feathery at the ends. You want them to fall below the brows but just graze the eyes," Camoro says. (When cut too short, they can be aging.) "The soft horizontal line created by full bangs can make eyes and cheekbones pop. Ask your stylist to slightly layer the ends. If your hair is very fine or thin, however, go for thick bangs, cut straight across and blunt; this creates the illusion of fuller hair."
4. Try sideswept bangs. These start about cheekbone length and offer many options: You can wear them in a sexy, peek-a-boo swag, tuck them behind your ear or use a little hairspray to blend them off your face and into the rest of your hair. Sideswept bangs easily accommodate wavy hair textures. (They can also help you hide a thinning hairline.) Best of all, Camoro says, "A swag of sideswept bangs is an instant slimmer for full, round faces."
5. Keep up with upkeep. Yes, a fringe requires maintenance — but if you ask me, the benefits reward the effort.
Hot flashes, moisture and humidity can cause blown-smooth bangs to curl, frizz or look greasy. To ward off such insults, apply a primer to your forehead, even if you don't normally wear makeup. It will form a sweatproof barrier under your bangs. Use a dry shampoo to mist roots as needed between washes, or when you wake up to discover that your bangs have gone flat or awry during the night.
When applying day or night skin treatments, keep your bangs off your face until all products have been fully absorbed. This can take as long as 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, most good salons do not charge their regular clients for bang trims between visits, so ask!
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love after 50, as well as AARP's new Beauty & Style special edition for tablets.