The whole point of having gorgeous hair isn’t to make you look like someone else; it’s to make you look and feel like the very best version of yourself. A flattering haircut and well-chosen color can make all the difference in your appearance. Hair mistakes, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect, dragging your face down and making you look much older than your years.
Whether you’ve taken it upon yourself to cut our own bangs or overdo it with drying products, most of us have gotten our hair all wrong at some point in our lives. We rounded up a bunch of top stylists to explain 10 common hair mistakes that actually age you and what you should do instead.
1. Cutting your hair too short when you hit 40. Once upon a time, women believed 40 was the cut-off age for long hair. But chopping it all off without considering your face shape and hair texture can actually make you look older. “This rule is completely outdated,” says Matrix SOCOLOR Celebrity Stylist George Papanikolas. “As long as your hair is healthy and cut in a way that suits the shape of your face, I say yes to long hair! Celebs like Sofia Vergara and Jennifer Aniston kill that notion as they wear it so well. What is key to their luscious locks, however, is that they keep them healthy. I suggest weekly hair mask treatments like Matrix Biolage HYDRASOURCE Mask for optimal hydration and moisture.”
2. Following the directions on the shampoo bottle. Who on earth are shampoo bottle directions written for, anyway? Is anyone out there actually shampooing her hair twice before conditioning it (if you are, stop that right now!)? “Nothing strips out oils and moisture faster than over-shampooing,” Papanikolas says. When you strip your hair of moisture, you run the risk of having dry, frizzy, unhealthy looking hair, which can make you look much older. To remedy this, Papanikolas recommends using a cleansing conditioner like the Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner that gently cleanses and conditions hair in just five minutes.
3. Going too blonde. Hair that is too dark and flat makes you look older, but Celebrity Stylist Kim Vō–whom Vogue dubbed “the best blonder in the business”–warns women not to become “blonderexic.” “If your hair color blends with your skin tone, that will age you,” Vō says. “Instead, you need to deepen the base to add dimension.” In short, there’s a big difference between having overly processed hair that looks almost white and makes your face seem paler than it is and a sexy blonde ‘do that consists of several shades of blonde–both lighter and darker.
4. Not using enough product. A little product in your hair–specifically, a conditioner, mask, or serum–goes a long way toward giving you vibrant locks. “Another way to add youth is shine, shine, shine,” Vō says. “Whether it’s conditioning or shine product, that’s the true trick to youthful looking hair.”
5. Getting a cut or bangs that point downward. Bangs can help disguise quite a few skin issues on your forehead, but if they aren’t being cut in a specific way, they could be adding years to your look. “When you start to age your skin begins to sag so any cut that creates a downward line does not work,” says Carla Gentile at Harper on Melrose. “A fringe that curves down can cause the eyes to sag. A straight fringe or fringe that slightly curves up towards the sides will open up the face. Wearing hair off your face can open up the face as well. Soften facial features with a side part or soft layers to help give the illusion of lift and avoid hard straight vertical lines near the face because it draws the eyes down.”
6. Coloring your hair in one flat tone. The biggest problem with at-home hair color is that most of us aren’t expert colorists armed with the skills to mix and blend colors. The end result when you use boxed dye? One aging hair wall of flat, lifeless color. Gentile cautions women to stay away from dark colors and add soft highlights around the face to brighten up your skin and give dimension. “When the color is too one tone it can make the skin look sallow and pale,” she says.
Another reason to mix lighter and darker colors has everything to do with hair loss, which sometimes occurs as we get older, says Molly Leahy at Blushing Brides Boston. “The best way to look as though you are aging well, especially if you are getting a little older, is to gradually mix in those darker colors you used to have with lighter tones or even sometimes gray tones to make it look like your hair is a beautiful salt and pepper. Since you start to lose some of your hair as you get older, thinning hair at your scalp is much more noticeable if you’re dying your hair a super dark color, causing you to look older. Adding in a variety of lighter and darker rich tones will help give you that youthful dimension.”
7. Growing your hair into a one-length style. Few people older than 16 look cute with very long hair that’s the same length all around. “Long, one-length hair can sometimes make you look older because it’s so heavy that it pulls your features down with it–sort of like an anti-facelift,” Leahy says. “The best way to fix this is to add some layers to your hair and give it some more body and movement, which is great for that young, full hair texture look.”
8. Going ashy. Remember those tones we talked about that you might not be aware of as you dye your hair at home? The wrong ones, like ash, can instantly age you. “Warm tones reflect light, while ash tones absorb light. Go with warm tones, so your hair won’t be dull and will instead shine, bounce, and look youthful,” says Mary Brambila of Brambila Salon.
9. Staying faithful to frizz. “Frizzy hair makes people look older,” Brambila says. The simple solution that can take years off? “Going over your blowout with a round brush and using the right serum or shine drops to fight frizz.”
10. Sticking with what worked in your ’20s. Some women (Anna Wintour and Jennifer Aniston come to mind) rarely change their hairstyle, nor should they because they seem to have found the ideal cut and color for their face shape and skin tone. But, over time, you may find that what worked when you were 23–say, a center part and super long, straight hair–may not be contributing to your overall appearance when you’re 38 or 50. “Many people have worn the same hairstyle for years, not realizing when it’s time to change,” says platform stylist and educator Toni Love. “As women get older, many tend to wear hairstyles that make them look over their age.” If you feel like you need a new style because something’s not working, make an appointment with your stylist and explore new options. Bangs or a few layers or highlights might be all you need to feel like a brand new you.