Hairstyles by Age

What Can You Get Away With for Every Decade

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Wondering what hairstyles look best at age 20, 30, 40, 50 and beyond? Just because you're 65, you don't have to get a helmet hairstyle with your Social Security check. In fact, a younger look and lighter color can take years off your face. And just because you're 21, you don't have to have long hair. You can do just about anything (lucky you!).

The key to a great haircut at any age is two-fold. First, you must find a hairstyle that flatters your face shape, then you must consider your hair texture. Coarse hair usually needs to be worn longer and fine hair should be worn shorter and layered if you want any sort of body.

In this article and the related galleries, I show you what hairstyles you can get away with at age 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and even older.

Your 20s

This is the best time of your life to try out all types of haircuts and styles. Short hairstyles, done right, can help you appear more mature (or like a kid), while long looks can be sexy and romantic.

Here are a few things to consider in a haircut:

  • Consider your career goals. In your 20s, you're looking to establish yourself in a career. If you're in a more artsy profession, you can get away with a funky look, but if you are in a more conservative profession you might opt for a more professional look. You might consider chopping off that long hair for a shorter cut. Check out this photo gallery of bob hairstyles.
  • Experiment with length and color. Now is the time to see how you look with super long hair, then cut it off and see if you take to short hair. At your age, your hair will grow faster and thicker than at any time in your life. So enjoy it while you have it. Hair color is the key to reinvention. If you had blonde hair as a kid, you'll look great blonde now. Blessed with black hair? Try a lighter brown or red.
  • Beware the wrong short cut. What you don't want to look like is a stock "mom" character. Choose a short look that fits your age and the latest trends.

Your 30s

These are the years you may be starting a family or powering ahead in your career (or both). While you can get away with all sorts of styles at this age, you'll want to pick a style that fits your lifestyle. Single in the city? Go for long, sexy waves. At home with a toddler or two? Skip the all-one-length long hair and try a shoulder-length cut that can go in a ponytail during the day but with a curling iron or flat-iron, can look great while out with your husband.

  • Just because you're a mom doesn't mean you can't be sexy. If you want long locks, go for it. Just make sure you have the time to keep up your style.
  • Don't be afraid to go short. I kept my hair long for years thinking someday I would HAVE to go short. But then I decided I'd look better in short hair, so I cut it. I got a ton of compliments. After all, you can always grow out your hair if you don't love, love, love it short.
  • Do you have gray hair popping up? Most women see a few strands of gray hair in the mid-to-late 30s. African-American women tend to get gray later in their 40s. If you have just a few strands, ask your stylist to hand-paint the strands instead of applying a full head of color. But if more than a third of your hair is gray, go with full color and camouflage gray hair in between coloring with hair mascara.

Your 40s

Believe it or not, you don't have to go short in your 40s. Forty really is the new 30 (think about Jennifer Aniston). In these years, your personality might drive your hairstyle. If you ooze sexuality, go for sexy waves that hit just below the collarbone. Funky and athletic? Opt for a short, sleek look that is as befitting to a 20-year-old as you.

  • Take care of your hair. As we age, our hair gets brittle. Treat your locks to a hot-oil treatment once a week and get your hair trimmed every six weeks.
  • Layered hair is very flattering, flat hair isn't. Give your fine hair body with layers, no matter your hair length. If you have coarse hair, weigh it down with length and consider thinning it out with a razor cut or layers.
  • Go for color. If you're blonde, try highlights. If you have dark hair, go for caramel highlights or go a shade or two lighter all over. Get the scoop on finding the perfect hair color for you.

Your 50s

At 50, you are not doomed to a short haircut. As long as your hair is healthy, you can grow your hair long and look fantastic. A super flattering cut on all women is shoulder-length. Or consider a bob.

If you're looking for a job or hoping to move up the ladder at this age, you might be competing with younger women. Shave years off your look by coloring your hair and getting a chic hairstyle that flatters your face shape.

  • Try layers. Piece-y layers around the face are flattering. Or go one-length with under layers. This will give hair body and looks great dried under.
  • Hair that is too styled can make you look dated. Even if hair is short, don't go for a spiky look, instead ask for longer layers. Cut out pictures and bring them to the stylist with you.
  • A lighter color can take years off your face. Ask your stylist what color works best for your skin tone.

Your 60s

Short hairstyles, whether you opt for sweet or spiky, are a great bet for you. They frame your face, showing off and highlighting your best features. You'll be glad to know they are also low-maintenance. That said, you don't have to go short at your age. Follow these style rules:

  • Silver hair can be very sexy. However, not all women embrace their natural hair color. Many women become blondes as they get older, a natural move considering gray is a softer, lighter color than a natural brown. But blonde hair doesn't complement all skin tones. A better bet for naturally dark-haired women is to color your hair a dark base and get lighter highlights.
  • Skip the old-lady salons where they cut your hair short and give you curls tight to your scalp, spray it into a helmet, and send you off on your way until next week. Go to your daughter's salon and ask for a new look. Better yet, take your daughter along and ask her advice.
  • Yes, you can have longer hair. Just don't let hair grow below your shoulders unless it's very thick and healthy like Maria Shriver's. Pull your hair back into a sophisticated chignon and show off your beautiful features.

Your 70s

Throw out the old-fashioned beauty rules for women over age 70. You can wear your hair longer and blonder if you please, or let it go gray if that's your choice. In the photo gallery featuring amazing women over age 60, you'll see how great you can look with a classic bob, a long bob, shoulder-length hair and even spiky cuts.