Somewhere along the way, some people decided that once a woman reaches a certain age, she must chop off her hair. But we’re here to say no more!
Women like Yazmeenah Rossi, Dian Griesel, and Gillean McLeod have led the charge in openly bucking ageism by wearing their silver hair way past shoulder length — and are inspiring other women to cast away societal norms in favor of authentic hair happiness. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a bob or a pixie, only that you should have agency over your looks without pressure to conform to some outdated idea of what a woman over 50 should look like.
“Cutting one’s hair should be a style decision — not because it’s some old rule from the ’50s,” McLeod says. “Trust me: I go through phases when I want to chop off all of my hair, but it has now become a look for me.”
One reason some women feel forced into shorter styles is because as we age our manes simply don’t bounce and shine like they once did. The reality: Hair fundamentally changes with time; what works for younger long locks may not work for the hair of a woman who has withstood decades of environmental and internal stress. Changes in hair texture tend to take place after 40, when strands may become thinner and finer or more brittle. The result: scraggly locks.
The good news: You can apply great care and work through these changes. Here we break down the major offenders and how to thwart them, so that you can sport long locks confidently — should you choose to.
The Offender: Thinning
Were you blessed with lush hair as a 30-something? After 40 some women find that their hair density diminishes, and with longer hair thinning can become extremely obvious. The culprit: mainly your genes, which at this point can’t be reversed. However, products containing 2% minoxidil, like Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women, can help mitigate hair thinning to a certain degree, with noticeable thickening after four months of use.
The Offender: Shrinkage
Hair shrinks? Kind of. The diameter of pigmented strands tends to decrease after age 40, making hair finer overall. When worn long, fine hair can appear deflated, so adding a product that helps visually plump strands, like Virtue Full shampoo and conditioner, can help hair gain girth.
The Offender: Overall Weakening
Can’t hair catch a break — not break? Nope. As we age, keratin proteins in hair lessen, decreasing elasticity and elevating the frequency of breakage. That makes growing hair longer extremely frustrating. Additionally, cells that make up the protective outer cuticle weaken, inviting stress from outside aggressors (UV rays, wind, hot styling tools, and bleach). To stave off further damage, reintroduce keratin with a keratin-rich product, like Philip Kingsley Trichotherapy Tricho Pro Volumizing Protein Spray; dial back the temperature on your hot tools — or cut down on their use; use a thermal-protecting serum, like Shu Uemura Blow Dry Beautifier Thermo BB Serum, before blow-drying and curling hair; and invest in a snag-proof brush, like Wet Brush for Thin Hair.
The Offender: Slow Growth
Your hair’s growth cycle naturally slows with age — there’s no getting around that. But you can give it a little nudge: Products containing 2% minoxidil work to extend the anagen phase — the time when hair grows. However, if you’ve never been one to grow waist-skimming hair, don’t think it will happen at this stage of life: Our hair growth cycles are all pretty much baked in at birth. Minoxidil will boost growth, but it won’t give you the sudden ability to grow hair like Elle.
With these four offenders acknowledged, there’s are two more things you need to think about: what you eat and how often you get a haircut. First, your hair reflects your overall health, and the food you eat is in large part responsible for good health and thus good hair. Second, regular trims keep split ends from fraying and causing breakage and, depending on your hair’s texture, your stylist might suggest cutting long, somewhat invisible layers into your hair that will will create the illusion of volume — and, in turn, a long-hair-don’t-care attitude.