The most advanced piece of mathematical and scientific knowledge I carry around in my head these days is that your hair is 50 percent of your looks. And when you’ve gained 10 pounds or are worrying over a new wrinkle, that could jump to 75 percent.
The good news is that your hair is totally — okay 97.8 percent — in your control. Here’s how not to act old in terms of what you do with your hair.
DON’T GO GRAY. I know some of want to stone me for saying this, but as a crusader for not acting older than you need to, I feel bound to tell you that letting your hair go gray makes nearly every woman look instantly years older. True, gray hair can be lovely, and undoubtedly easier and less expensive to maintain. And perhaps you just want to cultivate an up-yours attitude by wearing your hair in a gray crewcut while dressing in an orange thong bikini to which I say, Bravo.
But if you’re looking for simple ways to act and look more youthful, coloring the gray may be Number 1.
DON’T CHOP IT OFF. If you love short hair, fab, but too often Evil Young Hairdressers — and even Evil Not-So-Young Ones — try to make every woman over 40 cut off all her hair. It’s like they’re telling us we can no longer dare try to look sexy and feminine. Short hair does not make you look younger all by itself and in fact often does the opposite. Let it grow past your shoulders or curl wildly, sweep it up in an elegant chignon or wear it in a girlish braid down your back. The point: Let style and not age be your hair guide.
DON’T FEAR THE PRODUCT. When we came of hair grooming age, conditioner was considered an advanced hair product. But now there are smoothers, shiners, defrizzers, thickeners, many of which actually work. Expensive? Definitely. But also worth spending on. If you find the selection dizzying, let your daughter, niece, or twentysomething colleague take you product shopping.
DON’T CLING TO THE STYLE THAT WORKED FOR YOU 20 YEARS AGO. Here’s the mistake: Deciding how to wear your hair based on that amazing picture taken of you 20 years ago. Clinging to an outmoded hairstyle, no matter how perfect it looked back then, can date you now. Plus, hate to break it to you, but it really won’t make you look the way you did back in the first Bush administration.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF HAIR ADVENTURES. My friend Benilde Little, who not coincidentally wrote the bestseller Good Hair, always looks fabulous, not least because she’s not afraid to do crazy things with her hair. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her hair fixed the same way twice: One day it’s in huge fluffy curls and the next smoothed down straight, it might be tied back with a scarf or in a poof on top of her head. She has the confidence to try new things and to believe she looks great even if her hair is not in the same studied arrangement, and that’s about as not-old as you can act.
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