Choosing a hairstyle is never a one-size-fits-all thing, but at 50 it’s a complicated maneuver. It’s not just about finding a “look” with eye appeal — though great hair does make a lasting impression. We’re dealing with age-related issues like receding hairlines, thinning and texture that’s drier, coarser and more damaged than ever before. And, of course, when you find the right style, a “You look great!” reaction never hurts. Here are 10 cool solutions.
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PHOTO BY: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Jean-Baptiste LaCroix/AFP via Getty Images
1. The very short pixie
Going this minimalist can be an edgy move for women age 50-plus. There are three things that make it work: feathery, well-cut layers for texture and flattery (no barbershop buzzes or fades), a budget and time commitment for frequent trims, and most of all, the confidence to totally expose your neck and jawline. Here’s an easy trick to determine the latter: Right after a shower, when hair is wet and clinging to your scalp, check your profile and head from all angles (back, too!) in a double mirror. If it’s a go, bring photos like these to your stylist and stock up on neck-lengthening tops like boatnecks, squares and ballet scoops to highlight your new do.
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2. The super-short guy cut
Men can do a modern scalp-hugging crop, too. Going ultra-short minimizes the contrast between still-dense areas and newly sparse ones. It requires zero self-maintenance aside from frequent trips to the barber or, if you’re handy, a DIY clip job at home. It looks contemporary on any hair color, from silver to dark brown, but really rocks if you’re gray on the sides, darker on top. This two-tone effect (like a two-tone sports car) has a head-turning, classy effect. The best cut just follows the natural hairline all around, though some men opt for a variation known as the Caesar cut — which is snipped and groomed forward for a straight edge at the front hairline.
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3. The pixie-bob with bangs
This short cut that's midway between a pixie and bob has longer layers and feathery bangs. It’s a good option for women with long, thin faces and anyone who likes the benefits of eye-emphasizing bangs, including those who currently have longer hair and bangs but tend to wear it pulled back or up. Long layers at ears and longer hair at the nape give this short cut a long-hair feel; emphasize cheekbones and expose earlobes with show-off earrings if you’re a daily hoops or dangles fan. With more hair to play with, the pixie-bob adds the option of adding some wave or styling hair and bangs off the face for an elegant, dressy look.
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PHOTO BY: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Tibrina Hobson/WireImage; Matthias Nareyek/WireImage
4. The choppy shag
If you loved Meg Ryan’s early shag (created by legendary stylist Sally Hershberger) and have medium-textured hair, the 2022 update is still a sexy, modern choice. The tousled shag disguises everything from sparse spots to root-y regrowth. Keep it feminine and soft (no rock star mullets), with long full bangs to camouflage forehead lines, weak brows or a receding hairline; and layers for volume and the piece-y look. A shag is surprisingly versatile. It can be blown smooth, diffuser-dried for body and texture, or even set for extra oomph. All you need is some mousse for body and a dry shampoo to keep it going between shampoo days.
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5. The blunt bob
This one-length side-part cut never fails to deliver a chic, contemporary look. It’s an instant thickener for baby fine or thin hair. Worn sleek and smooth, the sharp silhouette adds structure to mature faces to strengthen features and detract from lines. While bobs with bangs are an option (aka the French bob), a side part without bangs is easier to maintain. Keep the bottom line crisp and fresh and eliminate frayed ends from heat styling with a salon visit every six to eight weeks. Opt for just about chin length — give or take an inch — and all the blunt bob needs is a quick, hot-air brush to style and a DIY glossing treatment to maintain the perfectly polished effect.
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6. The longer bob (or lob)
Bridging the gap between a classic bob and shoulder-length hair, the long bob (aka the lob) can be anywhere from mid-neck to just above the shoulders. It may be blunt cut or feature textured ends, but the low-maintenance style is still long enough to pull back (for those who crave a ponytail) and can be air-dried, blown smooth, waved, flipped up at the ends or curled, depending on your mood, schedule and the look you want. A lob coupled with highlights is the ideal gateway cut for any woman with long hair who wants to try a shorter style, risk-free.
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7. A layered lob
This variation of the long bob has longer layers that break up the silhouette to encourage movement, wave, curl and volume. It’s a better choice for hair with a medium or coarse texture and some built-in wave or curl in order to give the layers a springy, lush base. You can air- or diffuser-dry to go beachy casual or get a glam effect with rollers or a curling wand. For the latter, leave the ends out, instead of curling them under, for an edgy look, or curl them in for a smooth finish. Either way, starting with a texture-building mousse or spray is essential for separation and bounce. Ask your stylist about an inverted bob — slightly longer in front and shorter or invisibly stacked in back — to add movement and reduce bulk without reducing volume.
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PHOTO BY: John Shearer/Getty Images; Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images For Chanel; Steve Granitz/WireImage
8. Shoulder-length hair
Shoulder-length hair is long enough to look long and sexy, but not like you’re hanging on to your 20- or 30-something locks. It repositions long hair to frame the face rather than the body, so your skin and features reap the benefits of color and cut. Upkeep is easy since all that’s needed is a “dusting” of the ends in mini trims every two months and a color refresh. For optimal sizzle and flattery, choose a side part. It’s more sophisticated than a center part and enables you to easily blend in sideswept bangs, accommodate a hairline cowlick or do a swoop-over at the crown for extra volume.
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PHOTO BY: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage; Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic
9. Longer on top, shorter on sides for him
This next step up from super-short cut gives guys 50-plus a slightly trendy look. It keeps the hair on top a little bristle-y or spiky, with shorter sides. To make it work, you’ve got to let go of the hairline obsession and opt for an “it is what it is” confident attitude. To emphasize the textured crop top and add some grooming, all you need is a dab of pomade.
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PHOTO BY: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Jim Spellman/WireImage; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for 20th Century Studios
10. A shaved (or nearly) head
Guys, please don’t do a combover or ponytail to compensate for a bald spot. It’s obvious and dated. Instead, opt for the clean, crisp look of a smooth pate or the barest hint of head stubble.
It provides a smooth, firm and sculpted look — with or without facial hair — that partners well with a mature face. Think of it as a gift, like having a naturally toned body without the need to work out.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.
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