We’ve all met the nice lady with the hairstyle that hasn’t changed since 1985. Though perhaps it was cute for its time, it’s not exactly a youthful look.
Turns out dated hairstyles aren’t the only way to add a couple years to your appearance. Whether you’re trying to cover emerging grays, experimenting with home coloring, or testing out a trendy style, read on to see if it’s keeping you young or adding a decade to your look.
To figure out the most flattering hair tips for any age, we spoke to Glennis McCarthy, a regular jill-of-all-trades. Seriously, she’s a comedian, voice over artist, licensed manicurist, hairstylist, and is now pursuing an advanced degree on all things hair. Also, she’s really cool and nice. Just an additional fun fact.
McCarthy spills all the beans about how to keep your look as young as possible while still being daring with your hair.
Using the Wrong Color for Grays
Grays can happen at almost any age. And if you want them covered, McCarthy recommends choosing a hair color carefully. For a home coloring session, make sure your product of choice says it’s “formulated for grays.” If it’s not meant for grays, you won’t get the color saturation you’re looking for, according to McCarthy.
Why does gray hair need special hair color? Well, the hair is typically more coarse than the rest of your hair. Plus it’s much lighter, so the product needs to be extra strong to penetrate the grays and give you the coverage you want, according to Real Simple. The magazine even recommends using two types of hair color—your regular color and one that’s a shade darker. This ensures that the stubborn grays suck up all the color and give you the natural look you’re after.
If you have a lot of grays, you may want to go to a pro for the best results. In a salon, your hair will be pre-treated with a peroxide solution. This softens up the hair and makes it more susceptible to the coloring product, according to Real Simple. Then the stylist can use a customized concoction to give you the perfect color.
Not Matching Your Hair Color to Your Skin Tone
Maybe you saw a picture of Christina Hendricks in a magazine and thought, “That’s the exact red I’ve always wanted!” But before you run out to get copper locks, make sure your ideal hair color matches your skin tone.
Sure, that red looks lovely on Hendricks, but if you have a different skin tone, it won’t look so nice. Having a hair color that doesn’t match your skin tone can be really unflattering and actually make you look a little older.
McCarthy says you can figure out your skin tone by looking at the veins in your hands. “If they’re a blueish tint, [your skin tone is] cool. If it’s a greenish tint, that’s warm,” she says. Then, pick a hair color that compliments your tone.
“For warm, try strawberry blonde, red, brown, or black. For cool, try ash blonde, brown, or black with blue or violet undertones.” You can have any hair color you like, just make sure it works with the warmth or coolness of your complexion.
Not Knowing Your Hair
If you’re thinking of coloring your hair at home, you need to get familiar with your natural tresses. That means you should learn a little about hair levels and tones before you pull out the coloring kit.
The “level” of your hair refers to how light or dark it is. Level one is pitch black, while level 10 is platinum blonde. The “tone” of your hair refers to the amount of underlying red and yellow pigments in the hair. Tones have letters assigned to them, and they go from the very cool ash-violet “NA” to the very warm gold-beige “NVA.”
So a 4NA would look really different from a 4NVA, even though the level is exactly the same. Everyone’s hair has a level and a tone, and it’s best to know what it is so you can figure out the best way to get your ideal color.
“If you think you’re a level one when really you’re a level four, the color is going to come out wrong,” McCarthy says. Also, if you’re a level one and you want to go to level 10, McCarthy recommends leaving that to the professionals.
“I don’t recommend bleaching your hair at home.” Home bleach often leads to weird colors, drying, and sometimes chunks of your hair falling out.
Know your natural level so you’ll have a more realistic idea of a hair color you can achieve. And when your hair color looks goods, you look better and younger.
Keeping the Wrong Part
When’s the last time you parted your hair differently? It’s probably been a while. And though the part in your hair is one of the easiest hairstyle changes to make, it’s the one we make the least often.
InStyle recommended keeping a side or off-center part for the most flattering look. They find a center part to be harsh, and though celebs like Kim Kardashian can pull it off, it might not look so good on someone who didn’t spend hours perfectly contouring their face. Any style that feels overly strict or harsh tends to be aging.
Now, if you love your center part, you probably have a great face for it. But, if you haven’t experimented with a new part for a while, it might be time to switch it up.
Being Scared of Bangs
If you’re worried about lines on your forehead, the easiest way to instantly erase a few years is to get bangs! Bangs always look youthful, and, though they can be a little annoying to maintain, they’ll hide lots of wrinkles.
Now, feel free to leave your forehead lines out for the world to see (we all have them!), but if you’re insecure about your brow lines, bangs are a super easy solution. There are lots of bang options out there, so for the most flattering look, pick bangs that best fit the shape of your face.
InStyle recommends thick, gently arched bangs for round faces and side swept bangs for a heart-shaped face. If you’ve got an oval face, the magazine said to get whatever bangs you want—all styles work for the oval shape.
Keeping a Style That Hasn’t Changed
Remember the lady with the 1985 hairstyle? Well, nothing ages you more than keeping your hairstyle the same for years on end. It automatically makes you look like you’ve lived through a bygone decade, and people will start doing the math on your actual age.
Now, if you’re into any kind of retro look and you want that Farrah Fawcett style, go for it! But if your hair hasn’t changed in the time that four Presidents have come and gone, then it’s time to try something new.
A new look doesn’t have to be drastic. Even just a trim, parting your hair differently, or wearing it curly instead of straight will freshen up your overall appearance. Plus, it’s exciting to try something new. And remember, if you don’t like the change, you can return to your classic style whenever you want.
Trying to Look Too Young
Desperately trying to look super young is a surefire way to look older. That doesn’t mean you can’t try youthful looks, but you don’t need to go overboard. Basically, if you’re over 30, don’t feel obligated to make yourself look like an 18-year-old Instagram star.
Remember butterfly hair clips? For those of you that don’t remember that trend, butterfly clips were popular with middle school and high school students for about six months in the late ‘90s. Anyway, I vividly remember watching a soap opera during that time and seeing an over 40-year-old woman wearing a full head of butterfly clips. The woman was gorgeous, but by trying to look 15, she looked like a desperate 50.
McCarthy insists that this doesn’t mean you have to go with “mom appropriate” hairstyles as soon as you’re over 25. Just make sure that you choose a hairstyle because you love it, not because you think it’s “what the kids are into these days.”
This is really the biggest mistake of all, because you can do whatever you want with your hair as long as you have the courage to rock it out. “Confidence and joy go a long way in making you appear more youthful than any hair color or style ever will,” says McCarthy.
So if you’re 80 and you want hot pink hair—do it! I definitely don’t want anyone to think that there are rules once you become a “woman of a certain age.” If you want to break all the rules laid out in this article—go right ahead! Confidence makes any hairstyle look amazing.
And just like we’ve all met the lady who’s hair hasn’t changed since ‘85, we’ve also met the grandma rocking a platinum bob who looks better than anyone 40 years younger. So there really aren’t any rules. Just have fun with your hair, and you’ll look beautiful.