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Your Best Hair Length After 40

The best long hair and short hair length for women over 40.

by More Beauty Department

Bangs: Full, shaggy bangs or long, graduated bangs that can be swept to the side give short cuts the illusion of long hair that’s been pulled back. If you have thin, overplucked, skimpy, or misshapen brows, short hair with long bangs gives you the extra definition you’re missing. Bangs can also hide a low, small forehead. Keep them jagged, not Campbell’s-Soup-kid straight, for sex appeal.

Short Hair Care

If you do one thing, use your hands and styling creams or pomades to break up the layers for a tousled, frizz-free look. Try Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shaping Cream ($14); Kerastase Paris Lumiere Nutri-Sculpt Finishing Cream ($29).

Hide your dark or gray roots with a color-intensifying mask or shampoo that blurs regrowth and stretches the time between salon appointments. Try Goldwell Color Glow Treatment Be Blonde ($14) and Colorective Bloody Mary Shampoo ($34). Shortcuts for short cuts: try a creamy all-in-one shampoo, body wash, and conditioner, like Sephora Triple Layer Cake Hair & Body Wash ($15). Thermasilk Moisture-Infusing 2-in-1 Shampoo Plus Conditioner ($14) is perfect for shorties who shampoo daily.

If you have chemically straightened or color-treated hair, use a conditioning cream like Alberto VO5 Sheer Hairdressing ($6) every day, and a rich mask like Frederic Fekkai Technician Color Care Mask ($34) once a week.

Long Hair Pros and Cons

Lisa Berkley, 46, a longhair "lifer," gave up straightening her naturally curly hair. "I’m more bohemian than sophisticated — we live on a farm, and I’m in jeans and tees when I’m not working. My daughter, Isabelle, is 8 and a mini-me. We love our curls loose and wild. I even enhance the curls on top with a curling iron to exaggerate the look! I give my hair even more focus with beachy highlights that mimic what the sun does."

Long Hair Suits You If…

Long hair can work for you if your hair is healthy and your cut contemporary. Unless you have a hairdresser on call, aim for a length somewhere between collarbone and cleavage. "Long hair needs to be kept healthy with regular trims and conditioning, plus yearly updates to evaluate length and cut," says Mitch Barry, whose long-haired clients include Bernadette Peters and Christie Brinkley.

Long Hair Pros

You needn’t wash and style it every day. Long hair is a showcase for color (it doesn’t have to look natural anymore). Oh — and men think it’s sexy.

Long Hair Traps

Too long can look weird if the proportions are wrong — e.g., if you’re a petite five-footer with a Rapunzel mane. Too big a color change can spell disaster unless you’re willing to devote major time and money to maintenance. Long-hair accessories need careful editing — especially headbands, glittery barrettes, and froufrou clips, which are as silly as microminis on a grown-up.

Long Haircuts

Except for one "disastrous" bob during pregnancy, Donna Bunte, 47, has had long hair all her life. "It makes me feel young and feminine, and my husband just adores it. It’s layered now — more contemporary looking — but I can still pull it back when I want to."

The Best Long Haircuts

Layers: Cutting long, face-framing pieces into your hair is equivalent to wearing the hot jeans that make your legs look longer and slimmer. Layers have a softening effect that flatters your features and jawline.

Parts: A side part adds sophistication. Center parts work only if you have deep, full bangs or stick-straight hair. A slightly messy, off-center part works for everyone, and helps camouflage roots.

Fringe: Not only are bangs a Botox alternative, they also add instant style, dressing the face even when hair is pulled back into a lazy chignon or ponytail.

For fine hair: Grow it no longer than shoulder- or collarbone-length, or it will look skimpy. Thickening products or volumizers will add body at the roots; a protein shampoo can help build bulk. Try Bumble and Bumble Thickening Spray ($19).

Blown straight: Heat straightening is a hair-health hazard. Minimize damage with a deep 3-minute conditioner like Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine ($4) twice a week.

First Published April 6, 2009

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