Does this sound familiar? You go to the salon and say to your stylist, “I need a change. My hair’s so thin/flat/boring/blah” (take your pick). Two hours later you’re Googling “How to make your hair grow faster” and stopping at the drugstore for hair gummies, styling gel and scrunchies. Haircut mistakes happen. They’re often a result of what I call “Should I cut or let it grow?” syndrome. Believe it or not, celebs our age go through this dilemma, too. Some make a radical change; others reboot their signature cut. Get inspired by their pixies, bobs, lobs and more before your next close encounter with the scissors. Here are 10 snips to happier hair.
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PHOTO BY: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for ZFF; Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
1. The long pixie
This is a sexy, feminine cut that’ll appeal if you’re ready to go short but prefer glamour to pure practicality. The layers and length at the crown, plus soft pieces around the ears, keep the look versatile enough so it can be shaped, waved and even boosted for volume with products. Sharon Stone’s long pixie is a total DIY styling primer of how this cut is anything but boring. Stone started out with a bob in 2019 and has been going shorter ever since. Her pixie evolution is an inspiration for your own.
Will it work for you? If you prefer your hair off your face or in a ponytail, feel fine showing your ears and neck, like your profile view (check in a mirror when hair’s wet, straight out of the shower) — it’s a go.
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2. The crop with bangs
A full fringe lets you go short but keep the face-framing benefits of more hair. It suits women who feel their best in bangs, or want to camouflage bad brows (instead of dealing with brow makeup) or forehead lines without resorting to Botox. Be sure to tell your stylist you want long bangs for versatility, which can be brushed to the side, swooped up at the crown for a height and volume, or gelled back. Tamron Hall and Kris Jenner have been rocking some version of this for years and keep their bang ends slightly feathered and full, while Cynthia Nixon prefers a sideswept look.
Will it work for you? If you have always had some version of bangs, have no cowlicks at the hairline to get in the way, and love emphasizing your eyes with makeup or bold glasses and/or your hair with color: Yes!
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3. The swoopy shortie
This cropped cut is all about the long swoop-over effect at the hairline. It has all the elements of modern short hair — a tousled look and feminine feathery pieces at the nape. It’s yet another option for those thinking about a serious chop. A perfect example is Wendie Malick, who went from a short bob with a swoop in 2017 to progressively shorter swoops, before then settling on this very contemporary cut that blends her mix of brown, gray and blond hair with panache.
Will it work for you? If you like a little “height” at the crown, have a widow’s peak or cowlick at the front of your hair, or have been working a side part swoop-over with longer hair, it could be your new look. Take it slow and go progressively shorter as Malick did.
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4. The classic bob
This one-length haircut is always cool and universally flattering. It’s the combo of blunt bottom line and chin length (give or take an inch) that also makes a bob the perfect thickening haircut for fine or thin hair. You can’t lose. Cate Blanchett and Julie Bowen favor a side part, while Naomi Watts enjoys a center-parted version. Choosing a part that suits you counts, and here’s why: A side part is, frankly, the sexier choice, and it softens features and works for everyone. Middle parts are useful for slimming a full face or for disguising a receding hairline at the temples and a double chin or saggy jawline.
Will it work for you? Bobs are a surprisingly easy-care haircut. The only commitment you need to make is for salon trims every six weeks or so to maintain the sharp sleek line and eliminate split ends.
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5. The layered bob
This laid-back version of the bob is piece-ier, or what salon pros call a “shattered” or “messy” bob. This means the basic shape stays the same, but instead of a blunt cut there are textured ends and long layers. Choose a layered bob to release any natural wave, curl or body that’s been hiding in your longer hair. Though air or diffuser drying is always a good choice with this cut, you can also emphasize the texture and layers with a little heat-styling. Check some layered bob variations on Marcia Gay Harden, Carrie-Anne Moss and Embeth Davidtz.
Will this work for you? Sure, if you like the idea of a bob but fear getting locked into a daily blow-dry and flat-iron routine again, want a cut that grows out easily without a rigid maintenance schedule, and prefer to encourage your natural texture going forward.
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PHOTO BY: Steve Granitz/FilmMagic; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images; Matt Winkelmeyer/WireImage
6. The polished shag
Heavily layered haircuts with bangs and a “shaggy” and a bedhead look are trendier than ever now among young women. However, more sophisticated shags like those on Jane Fonda, Lisa Rinna, Rita Moreno and Sharon Osbourne are popping up, too, especially for those who want a groomed look. These shags are full and feathery around the top half of the face but taper and tuck behind the ears — with lots of flicked-out ends. While they could be worn naturally shaggy, they’re often plumped, shaped and styled with hot tools and products for an edge with elegance.
Will it work for you? If you have got plenty of medium to thick hair and a preference for statement earrings, like tucking your hair behind your ears and can deal with a few hot rollers and hair spray — give it a go.
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7. The long bob or “lob”
Hovering between the mid-neck and collarbone, a lob is the gateway cut for long hair — and here’s why. Just by snipping a few stringy, thin, damaged inches off the bottom, you gain healthier-looking hair, a more versatile length for styling (that’s a time-saver, too!) and the illusion of a longer neck and torso. It’s probably the most asked-for haircut now among celebs over 50, like Gayle King, Lisa Kudrow and Catherine O’ Hara ... and the rest of us, too! Ask for long undetectable layers, or what stylists call “invisible” layers, to add more texture and body.
Will it work for you? The only question here is finding your comfiest cutoff point. Be specific and show your stylist exactly where you want your hair to fall — by gesturing instead of estimating by inches. His idea of “take 3 inches off” and yours may be vastly different! Test a few possible lengths yourself at home in the mirror, with some masking tape, before heading to the salon.
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PHOTO BY: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue; Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
8. The split-level lob
Some lob fans prefer a little more chiseling or sculpting to the hair around the upper face, with a few well-placed layers to call attention to features and to personalize the cut. This creates an almost bi-level bob that features a long sideswept bang, or long layers at cheek or mouth level. This look (which Helen Mirren used to sport) is a longtime signature haircut for Martha Stewart and Sigourney Weaver, who keep tweaking the details every year to keep it fresh.
Will it work for you? Yes, if you have broad cheekbones or a round face and like the contemporary look of layers and bangs, but you want a classic cut to make it your own. Keep these photos on your phone and bring them to the salon for a show-and-tell at the precut consultation.
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9. Shoulder-length with waves
For some women age 50-plus, a lob still feels too short. But truly long hair (we’re talking bra-length here) feels like we’re trying too hard to hang on to a youthful look. Enter shoulder-length hair (give or take an inch) to bridge the gap. An off-center or side part makes it flatter, soft waves make it on-trend, and they’re a favorite look for celebs like Meg Ryan, Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris and Edie Falco. Kicking up the color with highlights emphasizes texture, and a balayage technique lets you go months between touch-ups.
Will it work for you? If you prefer a casual downtown boho look, like your hair on the longer side and don’t want to fuss much with styling — but are willing to splurge on some color — it is time to cut your way-too-long-to-be-doing-you-any-favors locks to the shoulder.
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10. Just add bangs
This is one of the most underrated haircut changes. It’s for women who love their hair as is but want a fresher look. It’s the snip that many long-hair “lifers” — like Mary Steenburgen, Carla Bruni, Jane Seymour, Halle Berry and Christie Brinkley — have chosen to rejuvenate their own Rapunzel-like manes. But if you’ve read my tips above, you already know that cutting bangs — from a full fringe to a feathery sweep — works for almost every length of haircut.
Will it work for you? Absolutely!
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.