Ever heard of the ‘women over 40/50/60/insert randomly and offensively chosen age here should have short hair’ rule? Well, we’re here to shut it down. Who on earth deserves to make ‘rules’ about our hair anyway?
Hair is an incredibly personal thing, and if you want to cut it off, grow it to your waist, or hell, dye it fuchsia, all of the aforementioned options are yours to take.
So why do people still talk about our long hair as if it’s got a shelf life? To find out more, we had our members (as well as some trustworthy industry pros) weigh in on the age-old (and frankly, ageist) debate…
What women really think about age-specific haircuts
As a team of women ourselves, here’s our two cents upfront: hairstyles don’t have age limits. They just don’t. Who you are, what you like, styles you suit, and so on don’t do a full one-eighty as soon as you blow out a certain amount of birthday candles. Unless you’re Nicole Richie, of course, who recently celebrated her big 4-0 and shared a video of said candles accidentally lighting her longer hair on fire. But ahem, back to the topic at hand; barring any festive albeit frightening fire incidents, hair length doesn’t have to change after any milestone.
Our members are with us on that too: “I think each to their own and to hell with what others think! If a woman wants long hair it shouldn’t matter what her age is,” says bh member Trackydacky. “Some women look beautiful with short hair and some beautiful with medium or long hair.”
“Such ‘rules’ infuriate me,” echoes misfortune8, who pulled from personal experience to back up her opinion. “I’ve had waist-length hair for most of my life. I’ve had a bob twice: once as a child and again as a young adult. It didn’t suit me either time. At 55, it’s currently hip-length.”
In fact, it was a common thread that long hair was not only A-OK but felt pretty damn fabulous, age be damned. “I have never been one to follow any beauty rules,” says bh member Meedee. “It’s my body and if I want long hair then I will have long hair. I really don’t care what anyone else thinks because I’m doing it for me. It makes me feel happy and that’s all that matters as far as I’m concerned. What I love about my long hair is that it’s what I feel most comfortable wearing. I’m not about to make myself uncomfortable just to fit in with what everyone else is doing.” Can we get an amen?
IndieAna recently did make the chop, but guarantees that it was completely her call, as it damn well should be. “I’m 46 and I’ve recently gone from long hair to shoulder length,” she explains. “I got bored over lockdown and I needed a change. It had NOTHING to do with my age.”
Is there societal pressure to cut your hair over a certain age?
While many of our members haven’t caved to societal pressure, they have felt it. In fact, for some mysterious reason, every man, woman, and their dog apparently feel the need to comment on others’ hair journeys.
“When I turned 40, [it was] the women [who] said [to] cut my hair. One said ‘older women with long hair “look like witches from scary fairy tales” and “mutton dressed as lamb”’. All the men said “it is lovely, keep it long”,” shares bh member Frenchy1. “My favourite female comment was ‘I hate it when you see a woman with young looking long hair from the back then she turns around and she has an old face.’ Rejoice in your luscious locks and worry not about the tide of popular opinion.”
Here’s the thing: whether it’s a compliment or a criticism, unless directly asked, you simply do not need to make your opinion known. Firstly, because it’s unnecessary (um, it’s not your hair), and secondly, because it’s irrelevant. “I’ve had women tell me I should cut it, but most men offer unsolicited compliments,” agrees misfortune8. “Those criticisms and compliments don’t influence me – I like my hair long! I’ll cut off unhealthy ends but retain the maximum length.”
Not sure which length you prefer? No worries. It’s not something you need to take a hard and fast stance on – hair grows back, after all. If you want to keep it at one length your whole life, great. If you want to wear it long for your 40s, find yourself craving a cut around 50, and then want to get back on the growing train when 60 rolls around, that’s great, too.
“I don’t think anyone should cut their hair just because they’re of a certain age. Do what you want and what you like!” confirms bh member Seashells. “I’ll be 40 in a few years and intend on keeping my hair long for decades to come, although if I change my mind then so be it.”
What the pros think about age-specific haircuts
Here’s another question: is ‘societal pressure’ something you feel in the salon chair? Long story short, if you find a good hairdresser, no.
“I am definitely a fan of keeping length in your hair as you get older,” explains Kirby Lago, owner of Pelo by Lago. “For me it’s all about the way your hairstyle makes you feel. I am seeing way more women choosing to keep length in their hair now as they age. A prime example of this is the stunning Elle Macpherson; her hair does wonders for maintaining her youthful glow.”
Another fan of this individualist approach? Chris Hunter, co-owner of Willomina. “Shouldn’t you do what makes you feel good on the inside and out?” he asks. Spoiler alert: YES. “Cropped hair absolutely suits some older woman; think Jamie Lee Curtis. However, on the flip side I have some gorgeous clients over the age of 60 who would never have short hair, and to be frank I would never cut it short on them. I have clients over the age of 50 with long, luxurious hair and they look fantastic.”
For the record, another supporter of Jamie Lee’s crop (because it suits her, not her age bracket) is bh member S- P, who seconds that hair length depends on the ‘who’. “In my opinion it’s not the length of hair that matters but whether it suits the person. For example, I prefer Jamie Lee Curtis with short hair because I think it suits her better than long hair. For myself I think I look best with shoulder length hair.” Okay, we know we said we were against commenting on anyone else’s head of hair, but Jamie Lee just looks so damn good, okay?!
But while your stylist shouldn’t necessarily be telling you what length to wear your hair, they will have some stellar advice around which cuts and styles will best flatter your face. “When picking a style for my clients, I identify what is most suited to their facial features and the condition and texture of their hair,” says Kirby.
“For example, if someone has a short round face then I would expose the cheekbone and maintain length under the jaw to create longer angles to lengthen out the face shape,” she shares. “Or, if you had a large forehead and a long face, I would shorten your face shape by adding in a fringe which can also aid in hiding those inevitable wrinkles. The focus should be around highlighting your most flattering features through your haircut.”
Chris has some choice words for any hairdresser who tells you to adhere to ‘age-friendly’ cuts regardless of what you want, too. “Let’s be honest, this debate is going to continue forever, however, if your hairdresser says ‘you’re over the age of 50 lets think about cutting your hair short’, maybe you should consider a change of stylist because short hair is not the only option.”
bh member Gilliey is certainly on the same page, too: “My hair is neither long nor very short, it’s mid-length,” she says. “I remember when I was about 40, a hair stylist told me all people over 40 should have short hair. Needless to say I never returned to that salon!”
How to keep longer hair looking luscious
So where does this whole silly societal expectation actually stem from? Honestly, it seems to be seeded in the fact that as hair matures, it can tend to appear thinner (often dubbed as ‘witchy’ or ‘wiry’ looking), and so some women are less inclined to wear it long. But don’t you worry; there are plenty of member and pro-approved strand-saving strategies that can help if longer locks are your personal preference.
“Figuring out the correct products to use on your hair texture can change your life. The right combination of hair product and tailored cut can mean your hair will look it’s best all the time,” Kirby explains. “Haircare has moved into the direction of [skin care], which is a blessing considering the scalp ages six times faster than your facial skin! If you think of your hair when you were a child and then think of your grandparent’s hair, there is an obvious ageing process taking place.”
“So, using scalp rituals like Goldwell’s Kerasilk Revitalise regimen (range available at Oz Hair & Beauty) and pairing it with a suitable nourishing treatment range such as Goldwell Dual Senses BondPro ($28.50 at Oz Hair & Beauty) is vital to ensure you have the healthiest hair possible to get maximum results from your colour and cut,” she says.
bh member Jupiter is onboard the ‘hair health is the secret to success’ train, too. “Age is not a barrier for having long hair, but hair health is,” she agrees. “Long hair is quite a feature and it isn’t going to look good if it’s not healthy and looks dry like straw! I have considered cutting my hair to shoulder-length or shorter for the sake of hair health.”
Get the right products on your side, though, and nothing will force you to wear your hair any which way. “I’ve found that with my dry hair, I really need to use hair treatments 50 per cent of the time instead of conditioner,” Jupiter adds.
“I’m currently using Hask Argan Oil shampoo ($12.99 at Chemist Warehouse) and conditioner ($12.99 at Chemist Warehouse), and I also make a DIY hair oil blend (avocado, shea butter, jojoba, coconut oil) that I often mix into my hair conditioner just before applying.”
Here’s the moral of the story: a good cut paired with a great care routine will mean that the choice between mermaid hair, a pixie cut and every length in between will remain just where it should: in yours (and your hairdresser’s) capable hands.
Did you have long or short hair? What do you find suits you?