At a certain age, most of us get attached to a hair style that becomes our “signature.” I was 19 when I decided to wear my naturally curly hair loose, wild and down to there. Think Bernadette Peters meets Beyonce and they share a doobie. No hot irons, straightening or scissors for me. Men loved it. Women were envious that I could shower and go with just a dab of “product.”
I shrugged off trends as decades flew by. The layered, highlighted Rachel (aka The Jennifer Aniston) which required nonchalantly running your hand through your hair every five minutes; the short-cropped Sharon Stone which demanded killer cheekbones and going commando; and the super sleek, waist-length Kim K which popularized hair extensions and bottoms as round as bowling balls.
Then one day, after I had blown past the speed bump of menopause, I looked in the rear-view mirror and gasped. My formerly full, bouncy curls were as limp as ramen noodles. My long, lank locks were giving me a haggard appearance. Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of women over 50 can rock hair down to there. Just ask Julianne Moore or Rita Wilson. But on me? I don’t think so.
My dermatologist explained what was going on. Menopause causes estrogen to plummet and androgen levels to increase. This doesn’t necessarily decrease the number of hairs on your head, but it reduces their diameter and length. Result? Goodbye volume, texture and shine.
Cutting off years
Fortunately, my stylist Hanna had ideas. It meant doing something that in the past would’ve sent me screaming out of her chair.
“The length of your hair is pulling it down,” Hanna said. “If I shorten it and give you layers, your curls and fullness will come back.”
Sounded like a fair tradeoff. But I swear I heard each follicle scream as she snipped. And snipped.
“You’re going to like this,” Hanna said, spritzing my hair with Moroccan oil and fluffing it with a diffuser.
She swiveled me around. OMG! There were the curls I thought I’d never see again. My face, which is long and thin, appeared fuller. Amazingly, the six inches of hair Hanna had cut had taken years off my face. Best of all, it wasn’t that short Suburban Mom look I had feared. It was flirty and grazed my shoulders.
Why had I been so afraid to cut my hair? I think it comes down to this. Long hair is associated with youthfulness, femininity and S-E-X appeal. I mean, really, who pictures a Trophy Wife with a pixie cut? Women chopped off their hair or shave their head bald when they end a relationship or enter a convent. And yet many older women feel liberated – and sexy – after getting rid of their long hair, along with their blow drier and curling iron.
The short and long of it
A short, razor cut can be sexy at any age. But that gamine look you adore on Ann Hathaway or Natalie Portman is difficult to pull off on the flip side of fifty unless you have great bone structure and tons of chutzpah. Interestingly, chopping one’s hair off was viewed as an act of defiance and rebellion in the Roaring 1920s and Women’s Lib 70s. Now, it’s the opposite. Letting your freak flag fly, and hanging on to you long locks after fifty is a sign of thumbing your nose at convention.
As it turns out, my new hair length – two inches below the chin but no longer than the shoulder – is considered the most flattering for women my age. Round faces look more oval with hair below the chin and long faces, like mine, appear fuller. More importantly, it hides the yucky stuff: double chins, wrinkly necks and jowls. And, yes, it’s still long enough to be sexy.
So, what’s wrong with wearing your hair below your shoulders? We say, go for it! As long as it compliments your face and you don’t mind the upkeep. No matter what the length or style, have split ends trimmed every eight weeks, avoid hair products containing alcohol which have a drying effect and get that “just came from the salon” gleam with a finishing glossing spray.
Just remember, hair is eternally forgiving. No matter what you do to it, it always grows back. Thank God!