Medium-length hair is a great choice as women age. No matter your face shape, you can't really go wrong with a cut that falls somewhere between the chin and a few inches below the shoulders. "You don’t have to put yourself in a box and cut off all your hair after the age of 55," says Alisha Leela, a hairstylist at Bob + Paige Salon in Toronto. 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, your face shape, and your 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 styles include long bobs, shaggy styles, wavy hair, and pin-straight cuts. Bangs can take years off a face, and layers can both lighten thick hair and add loads of body to fine hair. There are plenty of ways to go with a medium-length haircut.
Meet the Expert
Below, we rounded up 20 of the best hairstyles for women over age 50, along with tips from Leela and Giovanni Vaccaro on how best to maintain the looks.
The Classic Lob
This haircut works on Diane Keaton because it doesn't compete with her spunky style. It's simple, flattering, and no-nonsense.
"For Diane Keaton's style, you will have to use a round brush to blow it out," notes Leela. "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." Alternately, you can just smooth out the front section (allowing the back to dry naturally) for a quickly polished look.
Sandra Oh's Curly Curtain Bangs
We often associate bangs with wispy layers or a sleek blunt cut. But bangs are certainly for curly girls too. Exhibit A: this curly curtain-style parting on Sandra Oh.
The Wavy Lob
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 is the best style for faking volume. To achieve a wavy look with minimal effort, Vaccaro recommends sleeping in braids. "Create one or two three-strand braids and secure with a satin scrunchie, so as not to leave creases. This works especially well for straight to wavy hair."
Meryl Streep's Tapered Volume
To recreate Meryl'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.
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.
The Rounded Cut
Rather than looking choppy, Angela Bassett's layers are artfully placed with the shortest ones side-swept for the ultimate volume. To achieve, first give yourself a blow-out with the Hot Tools Signature Series One-Step Blowout Detachable Volumizer ($70), then follow up with a one-inch curling iron to curl the ends outward. Finish off with a strong-hold hairspray to keep the feathery layers tamed into this rounded shape 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 anywhere soon.
The Side-Parted Lob
A deep side part and a shiny, sleek lob is perfect for any occasion. Flip out the ends with a straightener for fun '60s vibes.
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.
Keep in mind it's harder to keep volume in long hair. The shorter you go, the better your hair will be at holding its shape.
The Natural Lob
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. For soft ringlets, use the Naturalicious Divine Shine Moisture Lock & Frizz Fighter ($18) 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.
The Gradual Lob
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.
The Face-Framing Pony
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 the front, piece-y fringe, and a chic hair-wrapped ponytail holder.
The Lightly Layered Cut
The key to a great medium-length cut lies in the layering. One-length hair is great for hair that's not too thick and not too thin—a Goldilocks style of sorts. Long layers add body to flat hair, texture to thick hair, and control to curly hair. Be careful not to layer too much in the back—too many layers could end up making your hair look choppy and jagged.
The Effortless Half-Up Half-Down
A half-up half-down style is simple, but can be equally as chic when done right like Robin Givens. "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." Givens couples her style with curled face-framing bangs, soft waves, and elegant jewels to boot.
Gabrielle Union's Over-Directed Side Part
If you're looking to mix up your already shoulder-length hair without a visit to your stylist, over-directing your part much deeper than normal will make you feel transformed.
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 Sleek Side Part
Lucy Liu's shoulder-length style features a left-sided part and ends flipped slightly inward. The result is sleek and polished—but be forewarned that you'll need regular trims to maintain those clean ends.
The Perfect Center Part
To get this look, prep your locks with a smoothing mousse like DevaCurl's Frizz Free Volumizing Foam ($26) before taking a one-and-a-half-inch curling iron to it. Be sure to keep the ends straight for a natural, unfussy feel à la Cynthia Bailey.
The Low Side Pony
Looking for a super-low-maintenance, shoulder-length hairstyle that'll mask oily roots? Take a cue from Lorraine Toussaint and her effortless red carpet look. To achieve this yourself, work in a volumizing spray onto second-day hair and use rollers to achieve these glam curls. Then, pull the hair back taut into a low ponytail, and pull out a few pieces at the front if you want it to look less structured.