How Long is Too Long? Hair Length at a Certain Age
I started growing my hair out when my husband died. Why? I’m not sure, but crazy as it sounds, I thought that if I could somehow recapture my looks from when we met, maybe he’d come back to me. (Don’t judge if you haven’t been there). I couldn’t erase the lines on my face, nor could I regain my college girl figure, but I could grow out my hair. Back in the 70s, I wore my hair almost to my waist. So at age 60, I stopped cutting my hair and watched it grow.
(Rebecca with Jane’s son Clarke at Baltimore’s Sagamore Pendry Hotel; Maren wristlet in French Blue)
The irony is, I know my husband would have told me to cut it, that I was much too old to wear my hair long. But in the fog of widowhood, I wasn’t thinking clearly or rationally.
Soon, my hair was midway down my back, and I loved it. Flatirons and keratin, not available in my college days, gave me the straight and shiny hair I had longed for then but had been unable to achieve, even when rolling my hair on orange juice cans. And it was so easy to style. No need to wash and blow dry daily, and messy buns, pony tails and clips were easy go to’s, particularly in our humid climate. There are so many things I dislike about my looks, but I have been blessed so far with thick and healthy hair. It grew out beautifully, complete with some silver strands.
But after a while, when the fog started lifting, I began wondering whether a woman in her sixties should have hair below her shoulders. Was my long hair an asset, or did it age me? Even worse, did it make me look like I was trying too hard?
My hair stylists took different approaches. One would lop off 2-3 inches, even though I asked for a 1/2 inch trim. I went elsewhere, and my new stylist insisted my hair should stay long, trimming imperceptible amounts on my quarterly visits.
Advice from experts on the internet is divided as well. Most features on hairstyles for women in their fifties and sixties, not surprisingly, feature predominately short hair. Perhaps it’s to avoid what Deborah at the blog Fabulous After 40 referred to as the “16/61”—“a woman who looks like a 16 from behind but a 61 from in front. Ouch.” Deborah goes on to provide advice from top stylist Chris Maclachlan: long hair (which should never be below mid-back) works best for women with thick hair and fuller faces who have not yet gone gray; those with thin faces and/or gray hair should stick with shorter haircuts, at or above the shoulder. And clinging to a style from the past is a definite no-no; “nothing is more aging than trying to look young.” Check out the full post at “Long Hairstyles for Women Over 40–A Do or a Don’t,” fabulousafter40.com.
At byrdie.com, in a May 2019 post entitled “Our Favorite Hairstyles for Women Over Sixty,” a surprising number of long haired celebrities are featured. The keys, it says, in deciding whether to go long, short, or in between are face shape and hair texture, not age. And over at HuffPost.com, “Long Hair Knows No Age Limits—-Or Does It,” avoiding long hair after 50 is referred to as “old school thinking.” But it offers the following advice if deciding to go long: avoid color treatments if possible, try to use heated styling tools no more than once a week, use volumizing products, add layers, wash hair no more than every other day, and use hair oils. Also, pay attention to your diet; foods high in omega-3, like salmon and walnuts, help keep your hair healthy. That’s a tall order! Maybe long hair isn’t easier!
If you’re considering growing your hair out in your 40s, 50s, and later, Pinterest has loads of photos of longer hair styles for women of a certain age, not all of whom are celebrities. They may give you ideas for ways to style longer locks that go beyond stick straight.
One of the benefits of growing older is better knowing your own mind, or at least caring less about what others think. Deciding how long to wear your hair should ultimately come down to what you think is right for you. If having hair below your shoulders makes you happy, then go for it.
Last week, I decided the time had come to take a little length off. My hair is still long, but it no longer hangs down my back. I miss it a bit, but here’s the thing. I can always grow it back.