Experts weigh in on how to make your hair look its best.

By SOUTHERNLIVING.COM/Kaitlyn Yarborough and Tessa Petak
Updated Apr 21, 2021 @ 3:15 pm
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8 Hair Mistakes That Are Making You Look Older
Credit: Kristin Sinclair/Getty Images

The first rule of choosing a flattering haircut is getting one you like — because nothing glows like the confidence in feeling like the true you. But if the look you're wanting to project is a few years younger, there are haircut hacks that can help or hurt this effort.

We spoke with NYC-based hairstylist Roxana Pintilie from Warren Tricomi Salon and Greg Cassese, director of education at Cutler Salon in NYC to get their dos and don'ts for picking a hairstyle that keeps you looking young.

First things first, Pintilie says any good stylist should consider your face shape and hair length and texture when deciding the best look for you. And if they don't, well that's your cue to get out of the chair.

Keep reading for some of the common hair mistakes that lead to an older appearance.

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When Your Hair Is Too Long

Long hair can sometimes act like gravity in that it pulls your facial features down, which is not a problem in itself but when the hair has been damaged by the effects of time, too, this can act like an anti-facelift.

"Our hair depletes off moisture and tenacity as we age, just like our skin," explains Cassese. "A long head of damaged or unkept hair can age you." But if you've been blessed with beautiful, healthy long hair, Cassese says why not embrace it. "If your hair is healthy and in good shape and you like it long and it suits you then by all means wear it with pride."

If you do choose to keep your hair long, Pintilie recommends having your ends trimmed and cleaned regularly (every six to eight weeks when it is safe to do so) because split ends can also lead to thin and unhealthy-looking hair. And if you want go for a more drastic change, there are some very flattering short cuts out there for you, of course. Which leads us to the next mishap.

When Your Hair Is Too Short

Super short, that is. If you make sure to keep your hair healthy, there's no big rush to suddenly get a pixie or other mega-short style, unless you want to. If you want to keep your length, experiment with layers and color tones to keep your hair a little longer and find the style that suits you.

Either way, Cassese suggests going with a cut that makes you feel your best. "I think any woman at any age should feel strong and confident with a haircut that makes them feel good."

When Your Hair Is Too Dark

As we get older, very dark, dyed hair can look too harsh — but this doesn't mean you have to leave your brunette life behind. It's all about dimension. The monotone look of dyed-dark hair — that can seem necessary for fully covering gray strands — ages you because it lacks dimension and can look dull and lifeless. A skilled colorist will know how to blend in grays and build supple, sparkling browns.

When Your Hair Is Too Light

Pintilie says that in general, light hair around your face makes you the centerpiece. But of course it's important not to go overboard. Not only can light hair wash out your complexion, but bleaching can add too much damage to your hair. Add dimension with lowlights to give life to your hair and darken the overall tone a bit. Of course, consulting your trusted hairstylist first is always the best move.

Getting the Wrong Cut

Length aside — the actual cut is important too. Hair that is all one length can pull down your features and lack movement. Layers are the easiest way to give the hair some bounce, as they add movement, color, and dimension. Pintilie also advises staying away from "heavy on top" cuts and to be careful with bangs, depending on your face shape.

At the end of the day, Cassese just recommends going with a cut that makes you feel your best. Because when you feel your best, you'll also look your best.

Using the Wrong Products

As with any beauty concern, the first mistake is trying too many solutions. You think your hair is dry, and then you get a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, a styling cream, a toning rinse, a deep condition, and so on and so forth. Product buildup will just weigh down your hair, contributing to that gravitational pull we'd want to avoid. But, you probably do need to add some moisture back in.

A weekly treatment is a great way to deliver a surge of moisture without going overboard. Cassese recommends the Olaplex No. 3 Hair Protector treatment to repair damaged hair or the Pureology Hydrate Superfood Deep Treatment Mask for colored hair.

Washing Your Hair Too Often

Cassese strongly advises against washing your hair every day. As most of us know, washing too often can strip your hair of important oils. If your hair tends to get oil or greasy between washes, try a moisturizing dry shampoo, like this Bumble & Bumble Pret-a-Powder Tres Invisible Nourishing Dry Shampoo with Hibiscus Extract. He also recommends using conditioner every time you do wash your hair. Those with naturally curly and coily hair should wash once a week and always deep condition.

Using the Wrong Styling Tools

Pintilie stresses the importance of quality hot tools to perfect your styling game and prevent heat damage. "Use a professional, top-of-the-line blow dryer and the perfect brush so it does not damage the hair," she says.

Ignoring Heat Damage

Going off of our last point, quality and professional tools (like this Cura Luxe Professional Ionic Hair Dryer) are completely worth the splurge. Cheap hot tools and a lack of protectant products can lead to hair damage, especially after consistent use over time. And heat damage can increase split ends and makes your hair look fried. You can invest in pre-heat product (like the Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Primer) to protect your strands before applying any damaging heat.

Not Embracing the Gray

There are great reasons to embrace your silver strands. You can skip the many trips to the hair salon for coloring (good for your hair quality and wallet!) and still have stylish hair. If you invest in keeping your hair healthy and get the right cut, it'll still look great no matter the color.

"These days there is a whole revolution of women embracing their natural progression of gray hair," notes Cassese. "The perception that gray or silver hair ages you is outdated and more times than not with the proper care and maintenance to keep your natural gray and silver hair shiny, it can be very chic and beautiful and a lot less of a hassle than coloring every six weeks."

He suggests embracing your gray by taking proper care of your silver strands to keep them soft and shiny. "You'd be surprised, with the right tone of gray, you will get complimented more than if you color it," he adds.

Following the Wrong Trends

The bottom line here is you need to go with a style, cut, length, and color that suits you and makes you feel your best, no matter your age. If you feel youthful with a certain cut, then you embrace it! Your confidence will transcend any tradition or perception of age-appropriate styles.

Cassese couldn't agree more saying that he doesn't "buy into 'traditional beauty standards.'"

"I'm more from the school of thought that if you want a haircut and you are going to feel good having it thank regardless of age you should have it and enjoy it," he adds. "Your confidence about it will defy tradition."

After all, "young" is a state of mind.