Do you worry about having “old lady hair” as you reach age 50 and beyond? This is an important topic, because at some point we all will probably get older, and face the possibility having “old lady” hair. I’ve already had a taste of it, (I’m 58) and for the moment, I’ve staved it off. But let’s get down and dirty here, what is “old lady” hair, and what can we do to combat it?
First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: as we move into our middle years, lots and lots of things are changing, not the least of which is our hair. It not only does it lose pigment; some of us experience thinning, changes in texture and, over time our scalp produces less oil and our hair can become dehydrated and damaged, all of which can be the fodder of Golden Girl nightmares.
To add to our hair woes, we have people telling us how to style our hair, like our mothers, who got those q-tip like coiffures that required harsh perms and lots of hair spray, not to mention the fact that only a licensed hairstylist could create the look to begin with. And then there are the “rules” from God knows where—“a lady’s hair should be cut to her shoulders or above at age 40 and to the chin at age 50.” I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard or read that rule and it’s complete nonsense in my book.
Let’s talk about hair health first. Our hair and skin are the first place vitamin deficiencies, some health problems, and the side effects of medications show up. If you have experienced hair loss, or dry, brittle hair or any other hair related anomalies, and haven’t been to the doctor for a good check up, including blood work, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to your doctor for a check up. While not all medical hair problems can be fixed, many can, and wouldn’t it be a shame if you had something fixable but went about suffering because you didn’t know it could be as simple as a special shampoo, or vitamins?
Next, we have to talk about how we care for our hair. One of my biggest hair disasters was continuing to allow a hair stylist to highlight my hair every six weeks. My hair simply couldn’t take the strong chemicals she was using. I changed stylists, and my coloring strategy and within a year, my hair was on the mend. It still took over a year to cut off the severe damage (a little at a time), but it’s been four years now and I’ve been able to grow my hair out beyond my shoulders! It’s shiny and healthy again and I love it. (We talk about my seriously “inappropriate” hair length in a little bit.)
At home we can also be contributing to our hair care woes—specifically not using the right shampoo and conditioner for our hair type (I’ve had to do lots of experimenting—I used to have oily hair, then an oily scalp with dry hair, and now I’m in the “normal to dry” category) for the longest time I was using body building shampoo which was actually drying to my hair, so I’ve had to significantly change my shampoo. At this point, I’ve tried shampoos from the drug store and salons and have found a few favorites–they are a bit pricy, but worth it.
This is what I’m using right now:
And then there are hot tools and styling aids both of which can cause serious damage. I try to keep from heat styling my hair more than twice a week, and avoid hairspray and styling products containing alcohol. I also use heat protectant and rub a light amount of oil in the ends of my hair before using heat tools.
Hot tools that are gentle on hair:
Moisture restoring shampoo and conditioner, hair oils, heat protectant, conditioning masks and using a restructuring conditioner before shampooing have all helped to restore my hair’s health. Taking the time to find the right cocktail for your hair type is worth the effort.
Let’s move on to style and color.
We’ve all heard the rules, and if you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m not big on rules, in fact, I hate them. So I’m offering some styling “guidelines” to consider as you evaluate your hair options.
I think we are all old enough to figure out what works for us. Maybe, occasionally, we might be in need of inspiration or an update. We don’t need a rule that says we have to have our hair cut into a pixi, teased into a bouffant or have it tinted with blue rinse to be “appropriate” unless you really want that. With that said, here are some of the questions I see repeatedly:
Question: Should I cut my hair now that I am 50+?
Answer: Not unless you want to. If you are in a place in life where you want to experiment with something different, by all means, go for it. Try a new cut or color, try going grey, you can always change it if you don’t like it. I like to think of these middle years as a renaissance—a time for change, experimentation and growth.
Question:. Is my hair too long for my age?
Answer: If you love the length, and your hair is healthy, by all means keep it long. If your hair is thinning, or you have a lot of breakage, you may want to consider a shorter cut—I had mine shorter while I waited for the color damage to grow off, and I trim my hair frequently when the ends look too thin. The main thing to consider is the health of your hair. And how it suits your face and overall silouette.
Question:. How can I determine what style is right for me?
Answer:. Consider your life style, the climate where you live, how easy it is for you to care for your hair and what you really like in terms of style. So here are some notes from my life:
I have fine, straight hair and I live in Florida where it is quite humid. Having short hair is a complete pain for me because it requires daily styling, tons of hair spray and styling aids and it goes flat within minutes in humid weather. I couldn’t wait to grow my hair out, but was stuck for years in a vicious circle of styling and color damage so I kept having to cut off the damage which kept it in a hideous old lady hairstyle. I like being able to put my hair up when it’s humid, and during the winter, my long hair needs very little in the styling department. For me, longer hair works. For you, it may be the complete opposite.
Question: Should I color my grey?
Answer: It used to be that no one wanted the slightest hint of grey hair. I have friends who actually tweezed out their grey hair one at a time—which seems a bit extreme these days, but everyone seemed to be terrified at any signal they were getting the slightest bit older.
Today women can and should choose what ever color they like. A few months ago, I let my color grow out a bit to see how it would look “natural” , and decided that for now, I’ll continue to color and occasionally highlight. I envy women who look amazing in their silvers and salt and pepper tresses. I look like a dirty mouse in my natural color. When choosing a hair color, keep in mind the health of your hair. (Over processed damaged hair never flattered anyone.) Otherwise your options are unlimited.
Question: Do you want to say anything else about “old lady hair” or style rules?
Answer: My only “rule” is this: We need to find what works for us individually. It is a completely personal thing. We need to stop trying to hold each other to rules and stop judging each other for not making the same choices we make. There is nothing I detest more than hearing someone make a choice that works great on them, then turn around and judge others for not making the same choice. God made us all different. We should be sharing our unique gifts and celebrating the uniqueness our friends bring into the world rather than trying to make each other the same.
A few of my secret “must haves” for healthy hair:
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