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Are You Having a Bad Hair Day?

Some mornings I look in the mirror and feel like I look about a 100 years old.  I have learned that frowning at myself or analyzing every inch of my face in a magnified mirror does not make things better (only worse!), and a big smile always perks me up (at least temporarily).

I also know that how my hair looks can bolster my self-esteem or deflate my ego in about 5 seconds.  That could account for my lifelong love of changing hairstyles.  Maybe it has to do with living in New England where the running joke is that if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes, and it will change.  So goes my hair!

For the past year I have been letting it grow.  It is now nearly shoulder length (depending on who blows it dry!).  I even (for the 40 millionth time in my life) tried growing out my bangs only to realize once again that it makes my face look longer and thinner (and now we can add older), so last week I went to Josie and said cut the bangs…please!

Here’s what I’m wondering…Is there ever a time in our lives when our hair becomes a non-issue?  I have to admit that if someone asks me what my favorite feature is my hair is the first thing that comes to mind. I was blessed with thick red hair (although the redness gets some help from my trusty colorist these days!), and I enjoy changing my hair style frequently.  That said, I still have plenty of moments of frustration and dreaded bad hair days.

I also know that at least three quarters of the women who come to me for help with their personal style are somewhat disgruntled or discouraged by their hair.  It doesn’t matter if they are 15 or 65, they still have questions, and I can relate!

Add to that the issue of age appropriateness and you’ll find many women in a conundrum.  In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I was speaking to a group of young women on a Sunday afternoon and several of them told me about an article that appeared in the New York Times entitled, “Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?”  They wanted to know my opinion.

After a quick roll of my eyes, I said, I can’t believe this is still something we worry about!  Of course, here I am a 54-year-old woman (talking to women in their 20’s) who is in the process of letting her hair grow which gives you an idea of my thoughts on this.

Fifteen years ago I wrote a chapter in my book called “Hair Length Has Nothing To Do With Age.”  I thought this issue was a done deal back then, but it’s 2010 and the NY Times still considers it newsworthy!

So, can women of any age have long hair?  Yes, absolutely.  Should every woman wear long hair.  No, absolutely not.  Therein lies the challenge – finding the most fabulous style for YOU!

Let’s take a look at hair and see if we can sort through a few of the mysteries…

•    What Is The #1 Thing You Can Do To Refresh Your Style in General?

Get a fabulous haircut and be sure your color goes with your skin tone.  Just take a peek at Sally Field in one of her commercials these days, and you’ll see what I mean.  Her hair is way too dark for her skin and, as a result, looks harsh.  Add to that the fact that her hair looks messy most of the time.  I know they are shooting for casual and carefree but for someone with as much spirit as she has, it’s just not working.  She ends up looking a tad haggard!

Some of you might wonder…hmmm…if Sally Field, a celebrity, can’t get a haircut and color that flatters her how can I?  No worries…there are fabulous hairstylists everywhere.  If yours isn’t giving you something that works for you, keep looking.  Ask someone whose hairstyle or color you admire where she gets it done, and go there.

•    Can Everyone Have A ‘Wash And Dry’ Look?

Don’t I wish!  Your hairstylist can only do so much to make your hair wash ‘n go, and not everyone is cut out to be a wash and wear kind of gal.  Remember, it is not the hairstylist’s fault if you want long wavy hair and yours is pin straight or kinky curly by nature.  It’s just not going to work (without a little (or more) intervention) no matter how she cuts it.

I have come to accept (some days better than others) that it takes me a long time to blowdry my hair, but letting my hair air dry just doesn’t make me happy.  I’m not an easy, breezy, laid-back kind of gal, and my hair doesn’t cooperate without a little TLC.  So, short of cutting my hair so short that a blow drier isn’t necessary, I’m stuck styling it (or paying to have someone else do it).

•    Does Your Hair Have Personality?

Understanding your personal style (your essence) affects every part of your image, and your hair is no exception.  Are you sweet, bubbly, dramatic or direct?  Maybe you’re sophisticated, quiet or free-spirited…?  Whatever is true for you, the bottom line is that your hair must reflect your personality.

One woman told her stylist that she wanted a hairstyle that was “playful.”  This was the part of her personality she wanted to express (staid or boring just wouldn’t cut it), and she got it!

Remember, too, that while others might compliment your hairstyle, the question to ask yourself is if it makes you happy.

For me, I like a little drama, glamour or sophistication (it remains to be seen if long hair will make the grade but I’ve come this far so stay tuned!).  I greatly admire (and am often envious of) pretty, uncomplicated looks on others, but I have come to realize that they often do not translate well to my head!

•    Does Hair Upkeep Have To Be So Expensive?

Your hair is your biggest (and constant) accessory.  Other than wearing a hat or shaving your head it is there all the time…front and center for everyone to see.  It’s hard to hide – although I have heard rumors that head wraps are an up and coming trend!

This is not a place to cut corners, or you’ll be miserable every time you look in the mirror.  Yes, coloring your hair can get costly and can make the idea of gray hair appealing (check out my past blog on the new trend to going gray), but even that requires you have an absolutely terrific hair cut and wear clothes in your perfect colors or you risk looking frumpy and, yup, old.

The majority of women will admit that they want to look reasonably youthful as long as possible, so old is not a look most of us are shooting for.   Remember, attitude is everything and your hair must have attitude (fitting with your inner essence, of course ?).

Beware of do-it-yourself hair color or having a friend help you unless you are absolutely sure it works.  I can attest to the fact that once you get enough white or gray hairs it becomes more challenging to use over the counter hair dyes successfully (my hair likes to turn pink if we aren’t careful!).  And, ending up with a color that doesn’t go with your skin tone is a million times worse than being gray!

So, here’s your checklist:

Do you love your hair cut?

Are you reasonably good at styling it?

Does your hairstylist listen to you when you ask for something different?

Do you love your hair color?

Does your hair cut and color reflect your personality?

Do you feel good about how your hair looks most days?

If you answered no to any of those then it’s time for a change.  One of the quickest ways to give yourself a style lift is to get a fabulous hair cut and color that makes you smile every time you look in the mirror (except, perhaps, in store dressing rooms but that’s an article for another day)!

If you answered yes to all the questions then you’re having a good hair day…enjoy!


12 Responses

  1. I have naturally curly/wavy hair and stopped fighting with it. I’m 51 and it is shoulder length, but it suits me and has always been my trademark. Yes I colour it now and it is a little thinner than it used to be, but I intend to wear it long for as long as I can get away with it.
    Sometimes I yearn for a more sleek trendy cut but I know it just wouldn’t suit me. Maybe when I’m 61?

    1. It does give you such a sense of peace and acceptance when you stop fighting what you have and enjoy it! That’s fabulous! I’m joining the ranks for 50 year olds with long hair and having fun! Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. In my 30s and 40s I wore “corporate hair”. You can look at pictures and see how much it aged me. Now in my 50s my hair is shoulder length and I love it (most days). I have learned a couple of things about dealing with my hair.
    1) Find a stylist you connect with. It is not the price you pay (I’ve been to some very high-end salons and have been unhappy with the result).
    2) Brings in pictures that show the attitude you are going for and what you like about the style but don’t go for duplicating the exact look. You probably don’t look like the model/celebrity in the photo.
    3) Pay attention when the stylist does your hair and ask questions. Why did you use a gel vs. mouse? Why are you holding the brush at that angle? What products should I use at home? Most will be happy to share information and show you how to style your hair. If you can repeat it at home you are likely to come back.
    4. Learn to use products to achieve your look. Producst make a huge difference in how your hair behaves. Your stylist can help.

    Above all remember “It’s just hair”. It’s one of the few things we get to do a do-over.

    1. Thanks for great advice, Karen. You’re so right about how product can help in the styling. It can also work against you. I usually advise that if you like what the stylist used get it right then and there rather than trying to find something similar a couple of dollars cheaper. It might not be exactly the same and the results could be quite different. Now, if I could just grow arms in the back of my head…

  3. I have very curly hair that gets frizzy with the slightest bit of moisture or even being touched. I just discovered hair products by Ouidad, who specializes in curly hair. For the first time my hair actually looks good! I’m 51 and always kept my hair pretty short to minimize the frizz, but now that I know how to keep it looking good curly I’m going to let it grow!

  4. For as much as we women talk about our hair, it still remains such a strong connection to our self-esteem, doesn’t it?! I agree, Ginger, having a stylist who knows my naturally curly hair has been the saving grace for me. Sherwin knows what will and what won’t work for me (he gently let me know that while it was my decision, he felt I would not be happy if he cut bangs for my hair. After I let him know I was disapponted, I was grateful that the wise part of me HEARD him, rather than stubbornly trying to have something that nature simply didn’t intend for me. Once I became more accepting of the unique beauty that nature has given my hair (and what really isn’t meant to be mine…like bangs, even though I love them on others!) I was pleasantly surprised at how many good hair days came my way. I love that you spark such important and fun conversations here, Ginger, thank you!!

    1. Isn’t it funny that you wanted bangs and they don’t work for you and I wanted not to wear bangs and that doesn’t work for me! At least we both gave it the old college try (hopefully me for the last time). You always look beautiful and have fabulous hair — it’s great to know you have a terrific stylist. What would we do without them! Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. I let my gray grow out and find that I really love it after stressing out over whether or not to keep dyeing it for several years. I’m letting it grow a bit longer too and right now I have to say that I love my color and my hairstyle!

  6. Your hair looks great and you do look much better with bangs.u00a0 I was just thinking that maybe I need a change in hairstyles/hairdresser.u00a0 I have an above the shoulder bob cut with bangs (my hairdresser never seems to cut my bangs like I like them).u00a0 My hair is thick and fairly curly – except for the top which has body but no curl, layers are fairly long,u00a0 and u00a0my natural color is blond but pregnancy darkened my hair so I color it at home.u00a0u00a0 I usually blow dry and scrunch my hair, working with the “natural” curl.u00a0 I am 50 and want a stylish look that doesn’t make me look old.u00a0 I checked online for ideas for short, thick, wavy/curly hair and found many styles, most of which had longer bangs and were straight, but I don’t like my forhead (it has wrinkles).u00a0 I like having hair, and don’t really want to go much shorter; because I’m so petite (5’1″, 100 lbs.), long, thick hair really overwhelms me.u00a0 I think I’ll experiment some more with my flat iron.u00a0 I have straightened it before but am not sure if I like it, maybe because I’ve had the curly look for so long.u00a0 You have inspired me to do something different!

    1. I’m happy to have inspired you, Terese!u00a0 Keep exploring until you find something you like.u00a0 Hair is one of those things that often frustrates and bewilders women and the weather often complicates things.u00a0 So, best of luck!

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.