In Praise of Longer Hair
Reaching a certain age doesn’t necessarily mean reaching for the scissors. Here, our top tips to care for longer hair.
Years ago, as my 40s loomed, I thought I should dress more like an adult. Out went the jeans, boots, love-worn biker jacket of my 20s. I began trawling the Eileen Fisher racks for suitably respectable clothing. It was a sad, dark time.
But when I hit 50, the opposite happened. Perhaps I’d had my fill of trying to look age-appropriate but now I dug in my heels.
And rather than cut my hair to a sensible bob or crop, I grew it longer. And, apparently, I’m not the only one.
Crack open a magazine, and you’ll see Jacky O’Shaughnessy, now 64, posing in ads such as lace underwear for American Apparel while staring directly into the camera, all red lips, impossibly long legs and chest-length silver hair.
Model Cindy Joseph, who died recently at 67, had a successful career fronting blue-chip brands like Nivea and Garnier.
And Meryl Streep still wears her honey blond hair down to her shoulders. It’s an image of women that Harvard professor and evolutionary psychologist Nancy Etcoff sees as slowly insinuating its way into the culture.
“We aren’t there yet but we are moving in that direction, slowly and steadily,” she says in an interview. “There is greater diversity in beauty imagery than there was 10 years ago – more ethnic diversity and the beginnings of size and age diversity.”
Which raises the burning question: what about “the chop.” The chop?
Care for longer hair. Hair that’s past your collarbone is more than a year old. A little TLC will keep it in the peak of health.
Skip the suds
Unless you play elite level soccer, you probably don’t need to scrub your scalp and hair every day. Wash hair when it needs it, avoiding shampoos with harsh surfactants that can strip natural oils. Sulfate-free shampoos have gotten a bad rap for their often desultorily heavy and low-foaming formulas, but Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo, lathers and rinses like regular shampoo. Or try “co-washing,” the term for skipping shampoo and rinsing hair with specially formulated conditioner.
Try: WEN Cleansing Conditioner.
Turn up the volume
At menopause, fluctuating estrogen levels can cause our hair’s anangen (growth) cycle to shorten, so hairs shed before they reach a certain length. Shampoos like F.A.S.T., work to lengthen the anagen phase, while thickeners like Nioxin Diamax Advanced, coat hair for protection from breakage and a visible (but temporary) thickening effect.
To create lift, “add layers at strong points of the face, like the cheekbones or jawline,” suggests hair stylist Mandy MacFadden. “Straight hair that’s one length can pull everything downwards.”
For added volume, try a volume-booster like Sally Hershberger Major Body 3-in-1 Volumizing Spray.
Minimize drying time
If the heat from blow-drying is too much for your delicate hair, air-dry speedily using a microfibre hair towel (Up-per Canada Soap Studio Dry Hair Towel) that absorbs more moisture than cotton. But for thin hair that needs the oomph that only blow-drying can deliver, try a “brushless motor” hairdryer (Conair Infiniti PRO 3Q), which produces more air pressure at lower temperatures for shorter drying time with less damage.
Seek out styling products that protect hair against heat damage and shorten drying time by helping hair expel excess water more quickly, like Kérastase Discipline Spray Fluidissime, and ones that simultaneously protect against heat damage and frizz while nourishing hair like L’Oréal Professionnel Absolut Repair Lipidium Reconstructing and Protecting Blow-Dry Cream.
Protect your colour
Colouring hair or adding highlights has the added bonus of boosting hair volume as dye molecules swell the hair shaft. Consider lighter shades for less visible roots as they grow in and choose hair colour designed for more delicate mature hair with a higher percentage of grey.