You most likely noticed a change in your skin as you left your 20s and 30s behind, and gave your skincare routine an upgrade. And now in your fourth decade, you may also be noticing some changes in your hair.
One thing that doesn’t have to change, however, is that hairstyles for women over 40 can be just as sexy, youthful, and modern as you feel.
If you’re lucky, by the time you are in your 40s you know there really are no actual style “rules” you must abide by. But there are a few tried-and-true pointers that are worth a refresher course. These include what traditionally looks best for your face shape, skin’s undertones, and hair texture.
The Perfect Cut For Your Face Shape
There are generally six face shapes to help women choose a hairstyle that is most flattering. Two of them — oval and diamond — are said to look good with any cut. So if you fit into either of these two shapes, hair texture and color will probably be more important to you.
For anyone outside of these two, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when exploring hairstyles for women over 40.1
Long Face: Women with long faces may be best off with shorter hair, to act as a counterbalance. However, if you just can’t let go of your length, then go for volume. This can be achieved with layers and a good volume spray.
Square Face: A square face is noted for its angular or strong jaw. To balance sharp lines, women with square faces look fabulous with shaggy or choppy ends — basically the opposite of a blunt cut.
Heart-Shaped Face: Due to a pointier chin and wider forehead, women with heart-shaped faces look beautiful with cuts that focus on their eyes and cheekbones. Bangs are a perfect way to achieve this, or consider a hairstyle with a bit more volume around the crown and sides of the face.
Round Face: Hairstyles that fall below the chin complement those with a rounder bone structure. Wavy or curly short styles can end up making the face look quite wide across the cheeks. If short hair is a must, consider building up the volume on top to help elongate the face.
Hair Color And Skin Tone: Tips And Tricks
It’s possible you began seeing gray hairs in your 30s, particularly cropping up at the temples and extending toward the top of your head. While this is a completely natural part of aging, you may not be ready to embrace the lack of melanin (the pigment that gives your hair its natural color).2
From subtle highlights to full-coverage color, it’s easy to mask grays while keeping your hair color looking as natural — and as youthful — as possible.
The way to do this is by choosing a color that complements your skin tone, or more specifically, your skin’s undertones. You are potentially one of three:
- Warm-toned skin has golden, peach, or yellow undertones.
- Cool-toned skin has blue, pink, or red undertones.
- Neutral-toned skin has undertones that are basically the same as the actual skin tone.3
Your stylist will be an invaluable resource when it comes to matching your hair color to your undertones. Without getting too caught up in the minutiae, here is a simple guiding principle:
Women with warmer undertones look great with dyes on the mahogany to golden spectrum. Those with cooler undertones pull off platinum to ash-colored dyes best. Women with neutral undertones are especially lucky, as they are generally safe with any color.4
Anything to avoid altogether? Yes. No matter your skin’s undertones, women over 40 should ditch one-dimensional, harsh colors. You’re better off with highlights to frame the face and camouflage the grays than to go with a solid, flat color, which can end up highlighting imperfections in your complexion.
Cut Your Hair To Work With Your Natural Texture
Youthful-looking hair is shiny, smooth, and voluminous. How long this lasts naturally is in part due to your genes and your lifestyle, but no part of your body fully escapes the effects of aging, including your hair.
As you age, your individual strands of hair begin to grow in smaller, the rate at which your hair grows in general starts to slow, and some follicles stop producing hair altogether. The result for most is thinner, finer hair.5
A single hair strand has a life of about 2 to 7 years on your head, so one way to keep hair youthful in your 40s and beyond is to protect the hair you currently have (before it falls out and is potentially replaced with finer strands — or not replaced at all).
You can use humectants for moisture retention in the cuticle and incorporate products that protect against UV light.6,7
The best of the hair texture tips and tricks for the 40-plus, however, is to lighten up on all the heat. Curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers — excessive heat during styling causes a lot of wear and tear.
Pro Tip: If you can’t give up blow-drying your hair, it’s recommended to hold the dryer at least 6 to 12 inches away from your scalp to help protect the moisture in the hair cuticle.8
Choosing a type of hairstyle that works with your natural texture, lessening your dependence on heat tools and moisture-stripping products, should be high on your list of considerations.
Remember: If a particular hairstyle causes you to spend hours fighting what nature gave you, it’s probably not the style for you. As the saying goes: no muss, no fuss. That should be the official motto for hairstyles for women over 40.
Short Haircuts: From Short Pixie Cuts To Classic Bobs To Sassy Shags
Short hair is fabulous for anyone who doesn’t have the time to dry long locks and wants minimal styling time. Also, less hair means less product.
The Classic Pixie
The pixie cut is one of the most popular haircuts for showing off great bone structure at any age. With this super cropped cut, there is no hair to hide behind. And why would you want to with your fabulous features?
Why It Works: The pixie cut works with all hair textures. It truly is a hairstyle that requires little styling at all — it’s as wash-and-go as it gets, needing just an occasional trim and a bit of product to keep flyaways at bay.
The Textured Pixie
Think of the classic pixie but with more bangs and more product. The textured pixie is all about getting a bit of height and having fun with it. Halle Berry is the queen of this hairstyle and sported it throughout her 40s.
Why It Works: The textured pixie gives you all the advantages of the classic pixie cut, but it sits more on the side of edgy than cute.
Plus, if you are worried about any particular facial feature standing out too much (say, a more prominent nose or ears), playing up the height and natural texture of your waves will help balance your lookout.
The Short Layered Cut With Soft Waves
This one is longer than a pixie but still cropped close at the nape of the neck. It works with longer bangs to make a statement. Think Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada movie.
This cut allows for two drastically different ways to wear your hair: you can leave voluminous, soft waves cascading just above one eye for an alluring, come-hither look, or you can play it up with a sleek pompadour that’s perfect for a night out with girlfriends.
Why It Works: This style requires a bit of maintenance to put flyaways in their place, but the payoff is worth it. This look walks the line between flirty and professional, sexy and structured. If you like to keep people on their toes, this one definitely says you aren’t slowing down any time soon.
The Classic Bob
Also known as an A-line bob, this cut falls above the shoulders and gives the wearer a soft, feminine look.
Why It Works: The classic bob is classic for a reason. It never goes out of style, and it’s diverse. You can wear it pin straight, with the ends curled under, or in loose waves.
The Asymmetrical Bob
Like the classic bob, the asymmetrical bob works great with both straight and textured hair. This bob, however, is cut with a side part, leaving one side longer than the other.
Why It Works: The asymmetrical bob is modern and sleek. It’s total red carpet glam when worn silky straight, and is fun and flirty in beach waves.
The shag hairstyle is enjoying a rebirth. This short layered ‘do really allows the light to show off your great color (as well as camouflage the grays). It can be worn beautifully with or without bangs.
Why It Works: The choppy layers give a great frame to the face and work wonders with natural waves by removing a bit of the bulk. It’s also one of the best styles to play up gorgeous highlights.
Shoulder-Length To Medium-Length Hairstyles: Beach Waves, Red Carpet Glam, And More
If you’re having trouble choosing a hairstyle, take note: shoulder length to medium length hair works for nearly everyone. It can accommodate everything from fine to coarse hair and pin-straight to tight curls.
The Long Bob (Or “Lob”)
The “Lob” is cut the same as the classic bob, but it hits at or just below the shoulders. Thanks to the extra length, it gives the hair a bit more weight, making it more manageable for some women — particularly those with curly or wavy hair.
Why It Works: The long bob is probably the most versatile style on this list, allowing for sleek locks, beachy waves, or tight curls. It’s also long enough to be worn up easily.
Shoulder-Length Cut With Side-Swept Bangs
The volume of the side-swept bangs gives this look its sophistication. It’s perfect for anyone who likes their hair to always look polished. And the built-in volume gives it a youthful bounce.
Why It Works: The bit of time it takes to style your side-swept bangs in the morning makes this style look effortlessly put together. If “casual” isn’t the word you like to use to describe your style in your fourth decade, this hairstyle will give you that bit of red carpet glamor you’re looking for.
Longer Locks: Popular Haircuts For Curls, Loose Waves, And Pin Straight Hair
Rich, vibrant, long locks exude youthful charm. There is no reason to chop your hair off at 40 if you love your hair long. The secret to keeping it looking flawless, however, is in the cut.
The U Cut
Demi Moore and Cher could go toe to toe on who rocks this iconic look better. The U cut is shortest at the pieces that frame the face and gradually gets longer towards the back.
Why It Works: Long hair can look limp with age due to natural thinning. The gradually framing layers of the U cut, however, allow for more volume and dimension with highlights.
The Long Shag
This hairstyle works amazingly well with blonde highlights framing the face, and it helps add texture and volume.
Why It Works: A lot of length can weigh down your hair, but the long shag accommodates loose waves and bouncy curls with strategically placed layers. The shorter layers also help prevent the dreaded frizzy triangle look.
Your Hair Can Look Beautiful And Youthful At Any Age With The Right Cut And Color
Your hair care and styling routine should be like your skincare routine — something you look forward to doing because it makes you feel beautiful and well taken care of. There is nothing about being 40 and above that says you can’t look and feel youthful and stylish. It’s just about finding what works best for you — at any age.
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