20 Hairstyle Mistakes That Could Make You Look Older
Aging can be a beautiful fact of life—but there's no need to rush it. Slow things down by avoiding hairstyles that could make you look older.
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Essential reading before your next salon visit
Women are constantly bombarded with tips on how to look younger, but what if you just want to look amazing for your age? One of the simplest ways to do that is to pay more attention to your hair and the styles that age you. Think of your hairstyle the same way you think of your makeup or that seriously sexy blouse that always makes you feel like a million bucks. There are hair tips and hairstyles that make you look younger by best enhancing your natural assets.
Choosing the right hair for your face and lifestyle can help you look your best in photos and be the most refreshed, ready-to-take-on-the-universe version of yourself. And then there are these common hairstyle mistakes that could make you look older. Here’s how to avoid them.
Hairstyle mistake: Falling for flat hair
As we age, our hair thins, according to celebrity hairstylist Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. “If you’re in your 50s and wearing your hair parted in the middle, it isn’t flattering.” Instead, you want to focus on increasing your hair’s volume. Saviano suggests either a different (usually shorter) haircut, a change in the way you part your hair or a product like Kenra Platinum Dry Texture Spray 6 to increase hair density.
Hairstyle mistake: Infrequent trims
We tend to associate longer hair with youth, but Saviano says the opposite effect takes hold as we age: Longer hair looks thinner, and thinner hair is aging. His preferred look? “The Lob. Collarbone-length hair or a bob looks chic,” he says. “If you have a long face, a bob can shorten it, and if you have a round face, it can lengthen it. As you get older, it works on everyone.”
To maintain your coif between cuts, add moisture to your hair-care routine. Moroccan Oil Hydrating Styling Cream, which smooths strands and repairs their elasticity, is a beloved cult favorite that really works—and it’s great for all hair types. And if you’re looking for more ways to maintain your finer hair, check out the best shampoos for thinning hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Not framing your face
Even if you want to keep your hair all one length, you should add a few subtle, face-framing layers. This will draw attention to your most flattering features and lift your face for a more refreshed appearance.
“The perfect place for layers to start is the cheekbone,” says Saviano. “That brings out the cheekbone, which is an instant face-lift. Face framing creates body around the face, and with these shorter pieces, you can flick the bangs to the side or even do curtain bangs.” A light spritz of Bumble and Bumble Spray de Mode hair spray will keep your layers in the proper position without restricting them or causing any crunch. You can even try styling with a hair straightener comb.
Hairstyle mistake: Getting the wrong bangs
If you’re tempted to cut bangs, Saviano is your biggest supporter, but he cautions that it’s important to keep three factors in mind. “You have to get bangs that suit your lifestyle—some require trims every two to three weeks,” he explains. “They also have to be suitable for your hair texture and your face shape. If one of those three things is off, you aren’t going to enjoy your bangs.”
And, of course, you’ll need the right tools to keep them looking great on a daily basis. One hair-care product? Drybar’s Full Pint Medium Round Brush. Its specially designed bristles lock in volume, add shine and decrease drying time. Looking for something that can give you that blowout look? Try the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer—one of our editors swears by it!
Hairstyle mistake: Going too dark
Raven hair looks beautiful, but after a certain age, hair that is too dark and all one shade looks flat, and all the attention will be on your skin. If you’d rather not have a spotlight thrown on fine lines and wrinkles, it’s best to incorporate a mix of shades to achieve a more sun-kissed look. “Going too dark with a single process can look harsh and severe,” says Felicia Dosso, a colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon. “Softer, more natural tones are more youthful.”
Be sure to incorporate a color-safe shampoo into your routine to increase the longevity of your dye job. Christophe Robin Color Shield Shampoo is infused with antioxidant vitamins that prevent fading and repair hair fibers altered during the color process. It’s also a good idea to brush up on these haircut style terms before your next salon visit.
Hairstyle mistake: Neglecting your scalp
The biggest mistake Saviano sees women making as they age is neglecting their scalp. “The scalp has to be taken care of just as much as the face,” Saviano explains. “A lot of times, women and men are uneducated about the scalp. You can keep the follicles strong with diet, and getting scalp treatments when you get a haircut really makes a difference.” You could also try using a scalp brush in the shower.
If you’re concerned about thinning and shedding hair, a drug-free supplement like Nutrafol—which contains stress-busting, hair-strengthening ingredients like ashwagandha, saw palmetto and biotin—can help.
Hairstyle mistake: Wearing “girlie” accessories
If your goal is to find hairstyles that aren’t going to age you, some of the girlier accessories out there aren’t your best choice. You can still rock a headband or put your hair up into a ponytail or bun, of course, but you should probably forgo colorful scrunchies and clips. Instead, it’s more flattering to opt for elegant-yet-chic accessories like a satin headscarf, simple pearl barrettes and elastic bands. By the way, these common hair myths are damaging your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Cutting layers that are too short
Overdoing your layers can lead to very thin ends. “A lot of women cut layers that are too short to make it look like there’s more body in their hair,” Saviano says. “But you’re making the hair look thinner when it’s overlayered. That hair has to come from someplace, and it’s always cut from the bottom, so it makes the bottom look thin.”
Styling tools that minimize damage are also vital to recreating your properly layered cut at home. You can’t go wrong with the Furiden Hair Straightener and a hair-thickening shampoo.
Hairstyle mistake: Overdoing it with conditioners
There’s a fine line between keeping your hair conditioned so it stays soft and shiny, and attacking it with heavy-duty conditioning treatments that will only end up weighing down your hair and making strands look greasy and limp. If you have thick, curly and coarse hair, a deep conditioner can tame frizz and make locks gorgeously glossy. But it’s important to read labels and choose a formula that’s right for your hair type. Saviano says he generally recommends lightweight conditioners that are rinsed out. One to try: Pureology Hydrate Sheer Conditioner.
Hairstyle mistake: Asking for ashy tones
Hair-care professionals aren’t only knowledgeable about shades—they also know which hair colors suit your skin tone and eye color and make you look even more stunning, as well as which will leave your skin looking dull. On some women, ash-brown, beige or vanilla highlights can look gorgeous, but if your goal is to look more youthful, they aren’t always the best choice. “Ashy-toned highlights can make hair look dull and give off a grayish cast,” Dosso says. “Light reflects better off more neutral, warmer tones, which ultimately creates shine.”
UV rays can mess up your color, so you should take the extra step of protecting your tresses with a finishing spray like Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil. It contains UV filters that combat sun-related dryness, as well as softening hair and adding shine.
Hairstyle mistake: Using cheap shampoo
You don’t have to go into debt creating a hair-care regimen that keeps your hair and scalp healthy, but you should probably quit your $3 drugstore shampoo and conditioner habit. That tip goes triple if the products you use contain sulfates, which strip color fast and are extremely drying.
Upgrade your hair-care stash so you’re always using color-safe products that contain nourishing ingredients. And don’t forget to add a clarifying shampoo like Paul Mitchell Shampoo to your routine at least once a week. “A good clarifying shampoo removes buildup like dry shampoo,” Saviano says. “You can’t walk around with dry shampoo for a week—your scalp has to breathe and be clean.”
Hairstyle mistake: Placing highlighting foils in the wrong place
Highlighting your hair is an art form. Just as the color of your highlights can age you or make you look more youthful and refreshed, so can the placement of those highlights. Even if you aren’t asking your stylist for ’90s zebra stripes (good riddance), there are ways to place foils that work in your favor—and ways that don’t.
“Nondimensional highlights, or too heavy a highlighting pattern, will create too solid an overall color,” Dosso says. “By leaving enough space between each foil instead of doing them back-to-back, you allow for there to be depth within the hair, which is more youthful and natural looking.” Nourish highlighted hair once a week with Color Lustre Treatment Mask. If you’re done with dye, check out these colorist-approved tricks for going gray gracefully.
Hairstyle mistake: Going to extremes with extensions and wigs
Moderation is always key when it comes to wearing wigs and hair extensions. The right density should be chosen based on lifestyle as well as life stage. “Wearing extensions and wigs that are too full will look unnatural and can overshadow and weigh down facial features, therefore aging you,” cautions Karen Mitchell, owner of True Indian Hair. Conversely, any hair enhancement that is too thin will cause hair “to look flat, which can dull the appearance,” she adds.
The most flatting extensions should resemble your hair’s natural density and not look or feel theatrical or neglected. Developed with morpho-keratine technology, Kérastase Discipline Smoothing Mask will deep-condition coarse hair that’s natural or enhanced.
Hairstyle mistake: Overprocessing hair with harsh chemicals
Damaged hair is definitely not a stop on the path to a more youthful appearance, and Jennifer Watson, director of education for Zenagen, recommends women adapt to less abrasive measures as they age. “A balayage color service (which involves hand-painting color onto hair to create a softer, more graduated effect than traditional highlighting) is a more natural approach to hair color and does not require as much upkeep, which leads to less frequent exposure to chemicals.”
Watson also suggests looking for styling products made with milder, less processed ingredients, like amino acids, aloe and proteins. ArtNaturals Organic Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner are highly regarded for cleansing, repairing and moisturizing hair without parabens or sulfates.
Hairstyle mistake: Giving up on thinning hair
Thinning hair left unattended can appear thin, dry and brittle—none of which lends itself to a youthful look. Watson believes that “nutraceutical-based solutions [that have medicinal benefits] can be effective for many types of hair loss, including male and female pattern baldness, post-pregnancy hair loss, chemotherapy hair loss and thyroid-related shedding and thinning.”
Fitness and wellness also play a role in the condition of your tresses and their contribution to your agelessness. “Staying hydrated and exercising will help increase the blood flow to your body as a whole—including your hair follicles,” says Watson. Dietary supplements like Moon Juice SuperHair Daily Hair Nutrition capsules, which contain natural herbs and mushroom extracts, target nutritional deficiencies to promote healthier, stronger hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Not giving gray hair enough attention
Going gray can be liberating—but neglecting your gray hair’s need for extra TLC is a mistake. Gray hair is the result of diminished melanin in our hair strands as we age, and those colorless tresses can be particularly dry and brittle. As Marcia Williams, CEO of Embellish Beauty Concepts, notes, “There is nothing wrong with embracing your gray, but just letting it come through with no maintenance is not a good idea.”
Regular salon visits are essential—and so is a maintenance plan. “Continue to see your stylist, and try treatments that will enhance your hair’s mobility and vibrancy,” Williams advises. “Processes like glosses and lowlights are great for allowing your grays to come in. It looks fresh, and you still look current.” At home, a sulfate-free reparative styling cream like Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother will eliminate some of the frizz and dryness associated with gray hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Shrugging off hair shape
“Having your hair cut in a shape that doesn’t work for your face and hair type can really date you and make you look older,” notes Williams. Individuals with coarse hair textures need to be especially mindful of haircuts that are suited for their curl pattern, face shape and features. Williams advises working with a hairstylist who recognizes these factors and can “deliver a cut that fits your hair type, facial structure and lifestyle.”
Using a deep-conditioning hair mask like Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! on a weekly basis will also help strengthen any new hair that’s growing underneath your style.
Hairstyle mistake: Forgoing root touch-ups
Partially grown-out color is not only unattractive—it can also damage your tresses, says Leianna Hillo, lead colorist at eSalon. Since graying hair can be coarse and wiry, “faded roots are often accompanied by breakage,” she explains. Maintaining color, on the other hand, can support your hair’s health and limit hair loss.
Speaking of hair health, Hillo also urges her clients to focus on practices that will keep hair looking and feeling great between touch-ups. That means limiting heat styling whenever possible and using a root touch-up spray like L’Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up to temporarily camouflage gray hairs with pinpoint precision.
Hairstyle mistake: Picturing yourself with the wrong hairstyle
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but imitating someone else’s hairstyle may not necessarily be flattering to your face—and it can even age you. Using celebrity and model images as a reference for your desired hairstyle can lead to a world of hurt, warns Gold & Braid Salon stylist Erica Hawthorne. “Showing your stylist an image of someone’s long, thick hair as the next step for your short, thin hair will never work,” she notes.
Rather than trying to choose specific hairstyles from the pages of a magazine, Hawthorne suggests zeroing in on images of people with “hair texture and volume similar to your own.” That way, you’ll have a better chance of getting a reasonable facsimile—and more important, something that works for you. Hawthorne also recommends discussing your goals and options with your stylist during a consultation before your appointment. If you want to add texture and volume to your hair like the stars do, try Ouai Texturizing Spray, which is a Hollywood beauty staple. And don’t miss these frizzy-hair products that are total game-changers for your hair.
Hairstyle mistake: Staying stuck in a hair rut
Staying in your comfort zone and sticking to your “youthful look” could hamper your ability to actually look youthful. Wayne Peterson, a senior stylist at the David Salon, stresses the importance of “keeping an open mind about changing up your style.”
Though obsessing over what’s en vogue shouldn’t be a priority for older women, Peterson believes that “keeping up to speed with evolving trends” and pinpointing “what’s unique for your age group can help with updating your look” and maintaining vibrancy overall. You can also use clip-in hair extensions the way celebrities often do to create short-term hairstyles without affecting your actual length. Goo Goo Clip-In Hair Extensions add temporary length and volume and can be styled with heat for optimum experimentation.
Next, learn the makeup rules you should know by the time you’re 40 and what your facial wrinkles may be trying to tell you.
Additional reporting by Lisa Fogarty.
- Nunzio Saviano, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City
- Felicia Dosso, colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon
- Karen Mitchell, owner of True Indian Hair
- Jennifer Watson, director of education for Zenagen
- Marcia Williams, CEO of Embellish Beauty Concepts
- Leianna Hillo, lead colorist at eSalon
- Erica Hawthorne, stylist at Gold & Braid Salon
- Wayne Peterson, senior stylist at the David Salon