Hair is often one of the first things to give away our age. In fact, those initial gray strands tend to show up sooner than we expect. But the color of your locks isn’t the only aspect that could be adding years to your look. Whether you’ve already gone gray or not, you might be unknowingly aging yourself with the way you cut or style your hair. Many of us stick to the same style for years without realizing that the wrong ‘do could be emphasizing some of the more unflattering signs of aging, like fine lines and sagging skin. Read on to discover 12 hairstyles that make you look older, according to stylists.
An outdated hairstyle can age someone in an instant, Soe Kabbabe, style expert and senior editor for All Things Hair, tells Best Life. So stay away from tight ringlet curls or stiff chignons and buns.
“These styles often add a ‘mature fair’ to your look,” she cautions.
Kabbabe says the only exception may be a sleek, middle-part low-bun—which is currently a very trendy style and can work perfectly with edgy makeup or clothes.
“But other than that, most stiffed hairstyles won’t do your face shape any favors,” she explains. “Instead, go for slightly loose or messy buns, and swap ringlet curls for subtle waves, so you can still look classy in a playful, youthful way.”
Short hair is trendier right now, but be careful. According to Kabbabe, there are certain shorter styles that can make you look older—especially if your hair texture is on the thicker side. These include “blunt, one-length bobs; extremely puffy, round haircuts; and severe undercuts or pixies,” she says.
“These types of styles that emphasize flaws (such as the lack of thickness, thinning on the sides, or cowlicks) not only age your image but also downplay the purpose of having a shorter ‘do,” Kabbabe warns. “You want it to be trendy, fresh, and easy.”
But that doesn’t mean you need to be afraid of asking your hairdresser for a short cut.
“Just make sure it goes well with your face shape, hair texture, and, more importantly, the style you’re more comfortable with,” she adds.
On the other hand, long hair can make you look older than you want to as well.
“Shiny, middle-parted, straight hair has the power to impress wherever you go. But if your natural hair isn’t in great condition, an extremely long, dull hairstyle would only have the opposite effect,” Kabbabe shares.
If your lengthy locks are looking a little worse for wear, you can still switch things up without going straight to a short style.
“Ditch the mile-length hair for long layers (and even add some curtain bangs) to give more movement to your mane,” Kabbabe suggests. “Mature women can look good with long hair—you only need to find the right length and style that suits you.”
Bangs can be a clever way to update your hair in a trendy way, according to Kabbabe.
“However, when not executed properly, you may end up with a not-so-youthful and extremely aging style for months to come,” she notes.
Kabbabe advises older individuals to avoid thick and blunt bangs that are rounded and one-length—especially if their hair tends to be on the frizzy side, or if they typically need several products and tools to keep their tresses in tip-top shape.
“These types of bangs add ‘weight,’ so to speak, to your face,” she explains.
Meanwhile, “the same rule applies to thin and short styles,” Kabbabe continues. She cautions that wispy bangs can also age you because they “tend to emphasize the lack of volume on thin hair.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t do bangs at all, however. Kabbabe just recommends finding the best bangs to suit your natural hair texture and lifestyle.
“When in doubt, start with mid-length, curtain-style bangs,” she says.
A thin, flat hairstyle is more likely to age you than anything else, according to Kabbabe.
“As we age, our hair tends to lose its natural thickness, so there’s no point in keeping a hairdo that emphasizes these flaws,” she says.
While you can combat this by opting for layers, Kabbabe has other tips that can help you keep your hair from looking too flat as well.
“Try to use thickening products, like mousse, spray, or powders, to give your mane a little bit of extra ‘oomph,’ especially if you’re going for voluminous waves or deep, side parts,” she advises.
Don’t go too far trying to make your hair not look flat, though. Kabbabe warns that teasing is also a very outdated trend that can make you look older.
“You don’t need to tease your bangs or top of your hair as you did years ago—simply utilize some key products as well as hair tools to help you get a sultry, voluminous mane in minutes,” she shares.
The type of layers you opt for matter, too.
“They need to be done properly in order to avoid an aging look,” Kabbabe explains.
That’s why she suggests you steer clear of wispy, flipped-out layers and ends.
“These tend to outdate your image, especially if your natural mane is on the thinner side,” she says. “Instead, go for thick layers that frame your face while giving the rest of your head some movement.”
Beachy waves and scrunched hair might be a fun look when you’re young. But as you age, these types of “air-dried textures can make the hair look dry and unkempt,” George Papanikolas, a celebrity colorist and Matrix brand ambassador, tells Best Life.
Instead, Papanikolas recommends gravitating toward styles that have a smoother and more polished finish.
“This can make you look more youthful instantly,” he assures.
It’s not just the cut and style you need to think about: You should also consider your hair color, according to Kabbabe.
“Avoid extremely harsh or dark hues,” she advises.
But why might a black or dark brown ‘do age you? As Elizabeth Kosich, founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling, further explains, these colors can create “harsh contrasts that draw attention to fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots and pigment unevenness.”
Kosich recommends people revisit their hair color as they get older and consider lightening it by one or two shades.
“Doing so ultimately softens appearance, better supports facial features and presents as more flattering overall,” she says.
At the same time, Kabbabe warns against going too far on the opposite end when trying to move away from darker hues.
“Avoid heavily highlighted or bleached-out colors that aren’t suitable for your skin tone,” she says.
The health of your hair can also make or break your look.
“Even if you opt for all-gray or white hair, it’s important to keep your roots and ends toned and hydrated,” Kabbabe points out. “Tresses in bad condition, damaged, prone to frizz, or with a poor haircut or hair color, age your look, no matter how young or mature you are.”
In fact, the actual condition of your hair ultimately matters more than any hairstyle, according to Kabbabe.
“It’s essential to nourish and take care of your scalp and hair texture in order to keep a youthful appearance,” she concludes.
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