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Medium-length hair is versatile, low-maintenance, and universally flattering. You really can't go wrong with a cut that falls somewhere between the chin and a few inches below the shoulders—regardless of your age. And while many women tend to go shorter as they get older, we're here to tell you that you don't have to (unless you want to, that is). "You don’t have to put yourself in a box and cut off all your hair after the age of 55," says hairstylist Alisha Leela. A medium-length style is still easy to maintain and long enough to be considered sexy—but not so long that you'll look like you're trying to be 25 again.
Finding the perfect shoulder-length cut for you depends on your hair texture, face shape, and lifestyle—but when all three are taken into account, you can land on a wonderful hairstyle that will make you feel like yourself. The most flattering medium cuts include long bobs and shags ironed pin-straight or enhanced with waves. Bangs can take years off a face, and layers can both lighten and lend movement to thick hair. In fact, there are plenty of ways to go with a medium-length haircut. To prove it to you, we tapped hair pros Giovani Vaccaro and Alisha Leela for their expertise on trendy and timeless medium-length styles.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling for our roundup of 20 of the best shoulder-length hairstyles for women over 50.
This haircut works on Diane Keaton because it doesn't compete with her spunky style. It's simple, flattering, and no-nonsense. You can just smooth out the front section (allowing the back to dry naturally) for a quick polished look. Alternatively, you can use a round brush to blow it out. "A lot of people are afraid and think it will take so long but the bigger the round brush, the larger the section you can take. So you could split hair into four sections, blow-dry with a round brush, and be done in five or 10 minutes," says Leela.
Voluminous layers and honeyed highlights—paired with a quick go-around of a one-inch curling wand—will give you a stunning 'do like Iman's above. Plus, if you have fine hair, this style is ace at faking volume.
To achieve a wavy look with minimal effort, Vaccaro recommends sleeping in twists. "Create two-strand twists and secure with a satin scrunchie, so as not to leave creases. This works especially well for straight to wavy hair."
To recreate Meryl Streep's look, which appears more voluminous on top and thinner at the ends, ask your stylist if you're a candidate to have your hair cut with hair thinning scissors. Thinner ends bring balance to the volume at her roots, and can even cut down on styling time.
Lob With Parted Fringe
Bangs are the perfect way to bring dimension to a straight style, especially when you're working with a shorter length. Here, Viola Davis is wearing her layered fringe parted ever so slightly in the middle. It's especially flattering for a rounder face shape.
Rather than looking choppy, Angela Bassett's layers are artfully placed with the shortest ones side-swept to achieve maximum volume. To replicate, first give yourself a blow-out with the Hot Tools Signature Series One-Step Blowout Detachable Volumizer ($49), then follow up with a one-inch curling iron and curl ends outward. Finish off with a strong-hold hairspray to keep feathery layers shaped and in place all evening.
The '70s had no shortage of middle parts or face-framing Farrah Fawcett layers, and Octavia Spencer's style features both. This modern take on the classic shag is all over the red carpet and doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. Try it out if you've got medium to thick tresses.
A deep side part and a shiny, sleek lob are perfect for any occasion. For this cut, ask your stylist for blunt ends if you're looking to feign a thicker mane. When styling, flip out ends with a straightener for a fun retro vibe. Spritz with a shine-inducing spray for that perfect glossy finish.
The secret to voluminous hair lies in a good cut and great styling (styling sprays, curling irons, etc). Here, Michelle Pfeiffer shows off gorgeous hair that's a bit longer and full of volume. Use a texturizing spray to get her tousled finish.
The shorter you go, the better your hair will be at holding its shape. However, if you want to keep your length or rock a longer style, layers can help to achieve volume and body.
Embracing your natural curls like Oprah Winfrey will make things much easier on your hair. Once you ditch the chemicals and excessive heat, your hair will no doubt be healthier—the trick is learning your curl type and how to accentuate it. To get soft ringlets, use the Naturalicious Divine Shine Moisture Lock & Frizz Fighter ($21) for shine and flyaway protection.
Here, Alfre Woodard's coils just barely graze her shoulders—a perfect length for anyone who wants something simple, but versatile. What stands out most about this look is that side-swept top layer; it's so intentionally effortless. To lend shape to this cut, have your stylist incorporate long layers. And since moisture is key to keeping curls defined and frizz-free, be sure to invest in a leave-in conditioner.
Blythe Danner's gradual lob—a haircut that's longer in the front and shorter in the back—creates the appearance of more length with less maintenance. Throw in a slight wave and you've added a nice boost of volume to thin fine hair. The blonde color blends in nicely with grays peeking through, completing this visually effortless look.
If you can't find us, we'll be attempting to replicate Halle Berry's model-off-duty ponytail. The main components are the face-framing pieces in front, piece-y fringe, and chic hair-wrapped ponytail holder. In case your 'tail could use more body, douse with Sexy Hair Big Sexy Hair Spray & Play Volumizing Hairspray ($20).
The key to a great medium-length cut lies in the layering. Long layers add body to flat hair, texture to thick hair, and control to curly hair. Just be careful not to layer too much in the back—too many layers could end up making your hair look choppy and jagged.
A half-up, half-down 'do is simple, but can be equally as chic when done right like Laura Dern. "This style will keep hair off your face, but still feels a little more done with your length left out," says Vaccaro. "All you need is an elastic, a few bobby pins, and a tail comb to create clean lines."
If you're looking to mix up your already shoulder-length hair without a visit to your stylist, throw on an accessory. Salma Hayek's bejeweled headband is the perfect touch to her sleek 'do. Tease hair slightly at the crown to get instant volume.
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that a classic blowout will never not be on-trend, no matter your hair length. Lynn Whitfield's glossy style can be achieved with a large round brush (try Drybar's Double-Shot Blow-Dry Brush, $150) and a dryer with the nozzle affixed.
For more volume at the fringe, pop on a Velcro roller and let it sit while you perfect the rest of your look.
Lucy Liu's shoulder-length style features a side part and ends flipped slightly inward that lend fullness to her mane. The result is sleek and polished—but be forewarned that you'll need regular trims to maintain those clean ends.
If you're not ready to commit to an asymmetrical cut, opt for an asymmetrical hairstyle instead. Comb hair to one side and secure in place with a stylish pin or barrette. Hair will appear fuller and thicker in this style, especially if you spritz a bit of texturizing sea salt spray à la Blanchett.
Looking for a super-low-maintenance, shoulder-length hairstyle that'll mask oily roots? Take a cue from Nicole Kidman and her effortless red carpet look. To achieve this yourself, work in a volumizing spray onto second-day hair and gently pull hair back into a low ponytail. Pull out a few pieces at the front if you want it to look less structured.
Does shoulder length hair make you look younger or older?
Shoulder-length hair is flattering—regardless of your age. While societal standards might encourage you to go shorter as you age, this is not a must. There are plenty of medium-length styles that complement women, whether they be 30 or 70.
Should older women have layered hair?
You can have layered hair no matter your age. However, what's most important if you're considering layers is your hair texture. Since layers can lighten hair, they're not recommended for fine thin hair. Those with thick strands will most benefit from adding layers since they will remove weight and add movement.
Should a 50 year-old woman wear bangs?
Bangs are stylish and versatile. They are also great at hiding fine lines and wrinkles on your forehead—in case that's a concern of yours. But, to find a bang that's most flattering to you, be sure to consider your hair type,hair texture, face shape, and lifestyle.