Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston – this isn’t a star-studded cast of a blockbuster movie we’d all love to see (though please, can we make it happen?). These leading ladies are all living proof that women over 50 can rock a wide range of chic hairstyles. Still, there’s something so liberating about chopping it all off, and your 50s is as good a time as any to try out a new cropped ‘do that’s both modern and sophisticated.
Whether you’ve got wavy, coarse, curly, fine, or straight hair, there’s definitely a cut out there for you. We spoke with Sanda Petrut, professional hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago and Savannah St. Jean, owner of Savannah Rae Beauty, to find out the best short haircuts and styles for women over 50.
Meet the Expert
• Sanda Petrut is a professional hairstylist based at Chicago’s Maxine Salon.
• Savannah St. Jean is a beauty expert and the owner of Savannah Rae Beauty in Miramar Beach, Florida.
“Short haircuts are low-maintenance and can be designed for any woman, regardless of her lifestyle, face shape, or hair texture and density,” says Petrut. “Chopping your hair can be liberating, and the right cut can complement the features you want to accentuate.”
Pixie With Long Bangs
A sleeker take on the pixie cut features long, side-swept bangs, á la actress Viola Davis. This is especially flattering on those with finer hair types, as it draws attention to the hair density in the front.
One of the most classic short hairstyle options for women over 50, the pixie cut frames the face and can highlight your best features, as evidenced here on Mad Men actress Randee Heller. Except for the occasional trim, they’re relatively low-maintenance—you can wash and go, or quickly style it with a pomade.
A spiked hairstyle like Angela Bassett’s is a fun way to change up your look. Soften it up by skipping the spikes and letting it fall naturally, or turn up the volume with a teasing brush and some hairspray. With this cut, there’s enough length to change your style day to day.
To style the look, St. Jean recommends a heavy, wax-based spray such as Kevin Murphy Touchable Spray Wax ($30) “This acts as a styling paste would, except it’s in a spray form, so its easier to control how much product you use,” she says. “Simply spray it in and spike your hair with your fingers.”
A textured pixie is an effortless style that’s super hip. The look seen here on Halle Berry is achievable with a shorter or longer cut—just use a little pomade to separate pieces of hair and add texture.
Ellen’s mussed-up, dirty blonde pixie gives off an effortless, cool look and feel. Keep it sleek by going over it with a straightener or finger-comb for a more textured style.
The edgy pixie cut worn by Tyra Banks has no age limit—anyone can pull it off. Choppy bangs give this look an element of modern cool while complementary rocker accessories can complete the look.
Many people with naturally curly hair like Toni Braxton turn to pixie cuts to rid their hair of extra weight and to lessen drying time. Style baby hairs to add some glam to the look.
Short, Subtle Layered Cut
Subtle layers add dimension to this go-to short haircut for older women, as seen on actress Emma Thompson. “Easy to style, the layers add lots of velvety texture while the bangs frame the eyes and accentuate cheekbones,” notes Petrut. St. Jean adds that a light, wax-based texturizing spray “will leave you with movement but will give the piecey look you are trying to achieve.” Try Kristin Ess Dry Finish Working Texture Spray ($14).
To use a texturizing spray, simply spray and tousle with your fingers to give your hair the definition you want.
Vanessa Bell Calloway’s pixie afro is a timeless style. Curl mousse or cream works best to style this coiled look. Pair with a bold eye to take the look up another notch.
Keeping layers longer can add volume to a pixie, which is ideal if you have fine hair like actress Nia Long.
Pixie With Long Side Bang
All eyes are on the long bangs with Kris Jenner’s pixie. Petrut notes that this is the easiest look to style and create texture, whether it’s modern and casual or something funkier. “This style works on straight, wavy, fine or thick hair,” she adds.
A modern take on the classic pixie, a pulled back version gives a sophisticated feel. The slight volume in the front is cool and edgy but not overly so. For added protection, spritz some hairspray to ensure it stays in place.
Jean Baptiste Lacroix
Janet Jackson’s short pompadour might look complicated, but it couldn’t be easier to pull off. “This cut has versatility and is low maintenance,” says Petrut. “It’s ideal for straight hair and it can be styled slicked back or blow-dried forward with a low part and sweeping bangs.”
Tilda Swinton’s undercut-pompadour combo ups the ante and gives the classic style a modern twist. Relatively low-maintenance and easy to style, this look gives off “I woke up like this” vibes. A root powder such as Kevin Murphy Powder Puff Volumizing Powder ($28) can work wonders on a look like this, according to St. Jean. “Simply tap the powder into your roots and tousle your hair to add texture and volume where you need it.”
Short Cut With Soft Bangs
Soft bangs can freshen up even the dullest of haircuts, as they add lightness and dimension all at once. If you want to accentuate your eyes like Helen Mirren, opt for a cut that sweeps downward to draw instant attention.
Mussy Layered Look
J. Lo’s piecey ‘do is such an effortless look that works beautifully for both day and night, on a variety of ages and face shapes. The layers fall into place, and a middle-part keeps it polished.
Both sophisticated and sleek, journalist Alina Cho’s classic bob makes a statement no matter your age. Change up the feel by curling your ends in, or keep the ends facing downward for a soft, feminine look.
Steve Granitz / WireImage
For straight, fine hair, the short bob seen on actress Cicely Tyson is a fabulous choice at any age. It’s a length that naturally adds volume to straight hair. And, it can be switched up on the daily: A middle part keeps it sleek while a side part adds volume and takes the style from day to night.
Bob With Side-Swept Bangs
“This is a great haircut for women with different textures (straight, wavy, or curly), and different densities (ranging from fine to thick hair),” explains Petrut. “It offers lots of versatility—from conservative to messy—and it can also be flat ironed to accentuate the piecy-ness and texture at the ends.”
Layered Side-Part Bob
Layers upon layers give a chin-length bob bounce and volume. Add some highlights for dimension or stick to one tone for a monochromatic look.
A straight bob is chic and timeless. Just ask Julianne Moore, who’s rocked the look on numerous occasions. Start with a volumizing mousse on damp hair then blow-dry straight with a round brush for both volume and straightness. “The trick with this style is to maintain the sleek, straight look,” notes St. Jean. “To do this, you need a product to keep the humidity and frizz at bay.” She recommends an anti-humidity spray such as Oribe Imperméable ($23). “Simply style and set the finished look with this spray.”
High-Volume, Wavy Bob
Bobs work on thick, wavy hair quite well. Alfre Woodard’s chin-length bob with long, face-framing waves is both elegant and mature.
A deep side part on a bob never goes unnoticed. Add a slight bend to the front bangs for an element of surprise, like actress Monica Bellucci.
Once a trend, the long bob—also known as lob—is here to stay. It’s a great option for women like Sandra Bullock, who want easy-to-maintain longer hair that can be flexibly styled. This style can be straight and sleek or volumized and retro.
Holly Hunter’s chin-grazing lob is majorly chic. Keep the bangs the same length as the rest of the hair for a sleeker look, or tuck one side behind the ear to add a playful element.
While we love a sleek lob, Lisa Kudrow’s voluminous version is just as head-turning. To achieve, let hair air dry slightly before round brushing straight with a blow-dryer.
Add a few beachy waves to your lob and you’ll instantly take your look from soft and sophisticated to casual and fun. Use a smaller barrel curling wand for tighter ringlets and alternate the direction of the waves for the lived-in natural beachy look of Robin Wright.
Sophisticated meets chic with Oprah’s middle-parted, shoulder-length hairstyle. Create waves with a large barrel curling iron then brush them out gently to achieve a subtle bend.
Volumized Shoulder-Length Cut
A shoulder-length cut can be made to look oh-so-voluminous with a simple at-home blowout. The best part about the cut seen here on Diane Lane is that you can change up the part for endless looks—a middle part gives the look of symmetry while a side part will accentuate a square-shaped face.
Soft, Wavy Shoulder-Length Cut
Soft waves on shoulder-length hair are timeless. If you don’t have natural waves like Salma Hayek, set your hair with big rollers to create this look.
Middle-Parted, Shoulder-Length Cut
Waves (seen here on Mariska Hargitay) offer a dimensional effect to this soft, shoulder-length cut, and a middle part helps highlight the face. Use a medium-size curling iron to create subtle waves from the ears dow. For added interest, try lowlights, as seen here on Hargitay.
Short Cut With Choppy Layers
Sharon Osbourne’s bold cut is the ultimate definition of volume and movement. Pair it with a fiery red color for a striking finish.
Mid-Length Springy Curl
Jane Fonda’s springy curls give this mid-length cut a youthful vibe. A quick spritz of shine spray will enhance the curls and add definition.
The timelessness of an old Hollywood glamour hairstyle, seen here on Nicole Kidman, cannot be argued. Pair a deep side part with bangs curled inward and soft waves throughout for a chic, classic look.
Contrary to popular belief, messy curls like Susan Sarandon’s can still look put together with the right styling and products. A defining cream can help accentuate curls while a light spritz of hairspray can help tame flyaways.
Simple Straight Cut
You can never go wrong with a simple, layer-less cut, like Michelle Pfieffer’s. Break up the length by adding a chin-length bang and leave the rest looking simple, fresh, and polished.
Afro texture is known to be malleable and versatile. Take it to the next level, like actress Jenifer Lewis does here, by fluffing up each layer with a volume mist.