The 40 Best Hairstyles for Women Over 40
It's all about finding a look that highlights just how gorgeous you are. These expert-recommended hairstyles for women over 40 will do just that.
Haircuts for women over 40 you’ll want to show your stylist ASAP
The best hairstyle for women over 40? Whatever makes a woman feel comfortable and confident. Truly, that’s the big secret. Despite what you may have heard, when it comes to the “right” hairstyles for women over a certain age, there are no strict rules. For example, one of the biggest hair myths is that older women can’t have long hair. Not so! “Hair is a very personal choice and should reflect your individual style,” says Mark Daniels, a hairstylist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. “It’s all about what makes you feel good.”
That said, there are certain styles that are more flattering as your features and hair change with age, and you may have different goals or needs from a haircut later in life. For example, perhaps in your 20s and 30s you wanted to try all the hottest color trends, but now you’re just looking for the best hair color for your skin tone. Or maybe you want a hairstyle that takes mere minutes to look fabulous or one that makes you look younger. (And to that point, long hair can make you look younger if you know a few smart hair tips.)
No matter what your goal is, we have a whole slew of options for you to choose from—along with tips on which face shape and hair type each one is best for. Here, top hairstylists share 40 haircuts and styles to consider if you’re 40 or older, and we can pretty much guarantee you’ll find something you’ll love.
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Long and soft
Best for: All hair textures and face shapes
Long hair with a gentle wave works on just about everyone, and it can truly be one of the best hairstyles for women over 40. Yes, really. “There seems to be this old narrative that long hair on mature women isn’t right and somehow equates to them trying to be younger,” says hairstylist Christin Brown, an Olaplex global ambassador. “I find that absolutely ridiculous and so far from the truth.” Far from a hairstyle mistake that makes you look older, Brown says that long hair can actually soften your features, which tend to get more angular as you age, and be incredibly flattering. To get soft waves like Julia, use a round brush as you dry your hair, or consider heatless curling products that give you waves as you sleep.
Pro tip: If you’re on the shorter side, avoid going too long—all that hair can overwhelm you. Just below the shoulder is ideal for petite women.
Chin length with texture
Best for: Fine hair
Short, chin-length hair can be surprisingly versatile and won’t drag down your face, says Daniels. Slick it back for a sophisticated look, keep it super straight for a modern vibe or add waves like Naomi Watts for a feminine feel. This short cut works best on fine hair. Thicker hair may look a bit too bulky at this length.
Pro tip: To make the most of this cut, Brown suggests asking for a few wispy layers throughout. This will give your style more texture and dimension.
Bob with waves
Best for: Wavy hair
Mandee Tauber, artist of global content at Oribe, loves this easy wash-and-wear style. “The structure of this haircut does all the work with minimal styling needed,” she says. You can even let it air-dry to prevent heat damage and it will still look great. The key is to ask for a cut that hits midway between your chin and shoulders and also add layers throughout. This in-between length won’t weigh down hair, so your natural waves can really do their thing, while the layers prevent it from looking bulky for those with thicker strands.
Pro tip: After styling, add a little product to give waves extra oomph. “I would recommend using a finishing cream, like Oribe Air Style Flexible Finish Cream, to enhance the layers and bring out the hair texture with a satin finish,” says Tauber. Also make sure to use the best shampoo for your hair type.
Best for: Any face shape
Prefer to look polished? A sleek bob is the way to go. “This is a classic haircut with clean, timeless lines that can be worn at any age, and it enhances your facial features,” says Tauber. In particular, the sleekness will help your cheekbones pop, and the way the ends curve under the chin will strengthen your jawline (an area that can get saggy as you age). Generally speaking, a bob can hit anywhere between your chin and the top of your shoulders, so you have some room to play when it comes to the length. If you need some guidance on exact length, Tauber suggests going a little longer if your face is on the rounder side or is square because it will elongate you; go a little shorter if your face is more narrow to prevent your face from looking too small.
Pro tip: As you age, your hair naturally starts to get drier. But strands need to be moisturized if you want a sleek look like Mindy Kaling’s. Color Wow Dream Coat can help—this heat-activated spray locks in moisture as you blow-dry.
Best for: Oval face shape
Pixie cuts are always fun, and they’re minimal-maintenance hairstyles for women on the go, says celebrity hairstylist Sophia Porter. When your hair is this short, you can literally wash your hair and let it air-dry, and it will still look like you have a finished style. Just keep in mind that this haircut shines a spotlight on your beautiful face, so you’ll need to be comfortable with that.
Pro tip: Make sure hair has a bit of texture. If a pixie cut is too flat, it can put saggy skin or aging angular features center stage. A styling cream can help give your short hair just a bit of texture like Michelle Williams. “I love to use Pai-Shau Style Soufflé to style shorter cuts like this,” says Porter. “It gives just enough control and definition to create an effortless look in minutes.” Simply apply a bit of the product to your fingertips, and muss up your strands for that slightly textured look.
Best for: Oval face shapes, and fine or thick hair
A classic pixie has a bit of texture and is short all over. For an updated take on this short hairstyle for women over 40, follow Sarah Paulson’s lead by keeping the top a little longer so it can be tucked behind the ears. This creates a sleeker look that is super poised. “A powerful, androgynous haircut can only be matched by a confident woman, and that confidence comes with age,” notes Tauber.
Pro tip: A middle part on a cut this short will feel really harsh. Add just a touch of softness with a side part, says Tauber.
Jane Birkin fringe
Best for: Oval and heart-shaped faces
This look is an homage to ’60s French songstress Jane Birkin, who is also the namesake of that famous Hermès bag. Birkin was known for bangs that hit at the eyebrow and felt wispy and light, rather than heavy and curtain-like. “This hairstyle enhances features and opens the face without creating harsh lines,” says Tauber.
Pro tip: Skip the round brush when blow-drying bangs, which will give you a dated ’80s look. Instead, use a paddle brush, and brush downward as you dry. This will help bangs look more natural.
Best for: Thick hair
If soft and girly isn’t your thing, consider a style that will make a statement—like the updated bowl cut that Jennifer Hudson is rocking here. “A bold power cut that’s edgy and chic is a fun cut for a strong working woman who wants a cool-yet-put-together style,” says Tauber. “It’s very structured with graduated lines.” This type of cut works best on thicker hair—fine hair will wind up looking sparse.
Pro tip: Hudson has little wispy parts by her ear and pieces on top and at the back that have a bit of texture. These little touches prevent this kind of style from looking like a helmet. A good hair product—specifically, a quick spritz of dry shampoo or texturizing spray—can emphasize that texture and add definition.
Long, face-framing layers
Best for: All hair types and face shapes
Jennifer Aniston just might be the queen of layers. Her “Rachel” cut was all about short face-framing layers, but as she’s aged, she’s embraced slightly longer layers. “This haircut adds a youthful appearance by making the face more round and full,” says Tauber.
Pro tip: Layers should start below your chin, rather than above it. This will cradle your face rather than dissect it, giving it a more youthful feel.
While you’re at it, also check out what’s currently hot in fashion over 40.
Collarbone-length curly hair
Best for: Naturally curly hair
Raise your hand if you have curly hair and spent much of your youth trying to straighten it. As you age, it’s time to embrace what you’ve got, and keeping curly hair at shoulder length does just that. “This cut preserves the natural spring in a curly texture,” says Tauber. “The length is playful and the softness of the cut give a youthful look. It also accentuates décolletage.”
Pro tip: To get the most bounce out of your curls, Tauber suggests drying them with a diffuser. This helps air circulate around them for ultimate volume.
Short and bouncy
Best for: Fine hair
As you age, you may notice some hair thinning. This can result from everything from hormonal changes as you approach menopause to years of heat styling catching up with you. Or perhaps you just have fine hair. Whatever the case, Porter says a shoulder-skimming cut is a smart option when it comes to the best hairstyle for women over 40 with this issue. “Shorter cuts appear fuller since you’re removing damaged ends that look stringy,” she says. To enhance the bounce, blow-dry hair with a medium-sized round brush, alternating the direction in which you wrap strands.
Pro tip: Give hair even more oomph by spritzing a texturizing spray on dry strands, says Porter. Then scrunch strands a bit with your palms for a tousled vibe.
Best for: Medium to long hair
Eva Longoria has the right idea with this bun that has face-framing pieces pulled out. “For those with longer hair, keeping your up style loose looks softer without much effort,” says Porter. “It’s also easier on your hair. Tight buns can cause hair loss when worn regularly.”
Pro tip: To protect hair even further, secure your bun with an elastic band that doesn’t have any metal or rough edges (which can rip out hair). A spiral hair tie or a silk scrunchie that matches your hair color can keep your style in place without causing damage.
Best for: Fine to medium hair
“Bangs are a fantastic way to add softness and hide any dynamic lines on a person’s forehead,” says Porter. However, if you don’t have thick hair, bangs can look sparse and sad. If your hair tends to be on the finer side, Porter says the key is to embrace a wispy look like Anna Faris is sporting here. “It is a stylish look for women of all ages.”
Pro tip: Rather than styling this type of fringe straight across, sweep it toward one side or let the bangs fall to either side. This will keep them looking soft and fresh, and can help hide crinkles around your eyes, making it one of the smartest hairstyles for women over 40.
Best for: All face shapes and hair types
Also known as the lob, this style gives you the polished vibe of a shorter bob but the versatility of long hair, says Porter. A middle part, like Kristen’s, can add fullness if your cheeks have started to look a little sunken in as you get older. And the super-sleek styling makes hair look shiny and youthful.
Pro tip: For Kristen’s straight look, blow-dry hair by pointing the nose of your dryer down at hair and using a flat brush in downward strokes as the hot air hits strands. This seals hair cuticles downward to give you ultimate sleekness.
Loose, natural waves
Best for: Long hair
“Embracing your natural waves is a beautiful idea for almost any length of hair,” says Porter. But it can be particularly feminine and youthful when you wear your hair a few inches past your shoulders like Drew Barrymore. This is also a great style for those who prefer a wash-and-go look; since you are working with your natural waves, you won’t have to whip out the hot tools. One thing to avoid: too many layers, especially around your face. As hair drys, those layers can go every which way, making the style look overly messy.
Pro tip: Porter recommends deep-conditioning prior to styling and then defining the curls with a styling cream. An air-dry styling cream, like this one from Ouai, will add texture and volume sans heat styling.
Best for: Thick hair
Think of a heavy curtain of bangs as a quick and painless Botox alternative! They also distract from tired eyes, explains Brown, making them doubly appealing. For a modern look, you want these bangs to go straight across before slightly tapering down into a rounded shape as they reach the sides of your forehead, just like Christina Ricci’s. That slightly rounded edge helps keep the look from being too harsh and highlighting angular, aging features.
Pro tip: To keep your bangs looking their best, our experts recommend getting them trimmed by a hairdresser every two to three weeks.
Best for: All hair types
Aging is all about being fully confident in who you are and not trying to hide or blend in, says Brown. So, why not pick a style to match? Tracee Ellis Ross is a prime example of this with her voluminous, look-at-me body wave curls. Not familiar with this term? Body wave curls are a looser wave pattern, as opposed to tighter ringlets, and they’re great for women with naturally textured hair, which tends to be on the dry side. That’s because this type of wave doesn’t require any heat styling.
Pro tip: To get waves like Tracee, you want to prep your strands the night before. Create four sections of hair. Then, take each section, divide it in two, and twist those two sections together. Once the four sections have been put into twists, wrap hair in a silk scarf or bonnet and go to sleep. When you wake up, pull the twists apart, run fingers through your hair and you’ll have big, voluminous waves.
Tousled with volume
Best for: Round faces
A slightly messy ‘do is a great way to distract from neck wrinkles. “The key to making this work is adding lift at the roots,” says Porter. And rather than perfect waves, tousled is the way to go. This helps keep the whole look youthful and fun.
Pro tip: To get the slightly roughed-up look that Gabrielle Union has, use a two-inch curling iron. Take two-inch sections of hair, and going in alternating directions, wrap it around the barrel halfway for just a few seconds. When you’re done, run your fingers through to loosen the style and make it look effortless.
Deep side part
Best for: Round and heart-shaped faces
Are you ready for the easiest styling trick ever? Where you part your hair can really switch things up, and a deep side part is by far the most elegant option. Whereas a middle part feels young, Reese Witherspoon proves that a deep side part gives off a pulled-together vibe.
Pro tip: To keep your part crisp, spritz a little hairspray on your fingertips and pat down along your part. This will keep the hairs from popping up.
Just-below-the-shoulder loose waves
Best for: Round or angular faces
According to hairstylist Vivienne Mackinder, this look can elongate a round face shape, but it is also soft enough for someone with a more angular jaw. When hair hits just below the shoulder, like Kelly Ripa’s does, it grazes your décolletage in an alluring way while gently framing your face.
Pro tip: When it comes to the strands around your face, use an iron (always apply a heat protectant first!) to curl them away from your face rather than toward your face. This will keep your look open and soft.
Best for: Long hair
The right style can draw the eye up, doing a favor for sagging skin. Enter the half-up ‘do. Wearing your hair this way opens and lifts the face, says Mackinder. There’s also a ton of variation to be had. You can keep it sleek like Jennifer Lopez, curl your hair for a more youthful vibe or even try a half-up bun. For a softer look, leave a few pieces out at the front.
Pro tip: To keep hair slick like JLo’s, spray a little hairspray on a comb and gently run it through the hair that’s pulled back.
Layered bob with fringe
Best for: All hair types
Tauber likes this look (as shown on Gayle King) because the soft fringe adds a playful touch to a classic bob silhouette. “This hair shape is ideal for hiding age imperfections around the eyes and forehead,” she says. That’s because the bangs add a little camouflage, and the layers add an element of fun and youthfulness.
Pro tip: Keep bangs on the longer side—think right at your eyebrows. Any shorter and you’ll end up highlighting the wrinkles around your eyes instead of hiding them, which will make you look older.
Best for: All face shapes
Bangs are a big commitment. Long fringe, like Hoda Kotb has here, is a great alternative for those who aren’t ready to make that leap. “They are a versatile style that can lay gently across the face, softening age lines and imperfections, or they can be easily tucked away and pulled back,” says Tauber.
Pro tip: When getting this type of fringe, Tauber suggests asking for them to be cut just long enough to be tucked behind your ears. This will allow for the most versatility. Sweep fringe sideways for a coquettish look, or tuck it straight behind the ears to hide it.
Best for: Any hair texture
Here’s more proof that short hair doesn’t have to be boring or look matronly. Claire Danes’s bob is ever-so-slightly asymmetrical, making it interesting and edgy. It’s a great way to look more youthful without being too harsh, says Daniels. This is a great hairstyle for women over 40 with fine hair, since it adds some architectural interest to hair that normally just falls flat, but it also works on thick or curly strands.
Pro tip: To really highlight this cut, blow-dry hair so it is super straight, or run a flat iron or straightening brush through it. The sleekness will highlight the asymmetrical style.
Best for: Round and square faces
If you don’t want the commitment of straight-across bangs but still want something to soften your face, consider curtain bangs like Sienna Miller. These bangs are cut shorter in the center and get longer at the sides. Often, they’re worn slightly parted, so they fall to either side of your face and create a nice frame. “This hair shape is ideal for hiding age imperfections around the eyes and forehead,” says Tauber.
Pro tip: To style curtain bangs, divide them in half, and use a round brush to pull each side away from the face and in the opposite direction of where you want the hair to ultimately fall. Once hair is dry, use your fingers to comb each section into place. This will help create a more natural shape.
Best for: Long hair
If you’re over 40 and want to keep your hair long, nothing says carefree and fun like beachy waves, says Daniels. Katherine Hahn’s waves are perfect. The secret to a more natural look is to avoid having the wave start right at the root. Instead, waves should start around your ears or just below them. To give beachy waves an even softer, more youthful look, Daniels recommends adding a few lighter highlights around your face—a stylist can weigh in on which hair color will work best for your skin tone.
Pro tip: Skip the curling iron and use a flat iron to get beachy waves. Yes, you read that right—it will give you a more natural, less ringlet-y look. Rather than running a flat iron through strands as you normally would, flick your wrist up and then down as you slowly pull the iron down the length of your hair. Repeat until you reach the bottom.
Best for: All hair types and face shapes
A little oomph at the roots can go a long way. Not only does it give you a va-va-voom vibe, but it can also lift your entire face to reverse aging. Priyanka Chopra gets it right by keeping the rest of her hair sleek and shiny. The end result? Polished and ladylike.
Pro tip: “For volume at the roots, use a round brush while blow-drying,” says Daniels. “Hold the heat at the root and then blast it with cold air before removing the brush to really set the volume.” Here are more tips for the perfect blowout.
Best for: Oval face shapes
Aging is a beautiful thing—it means you have lots of life experience and have truly earned your stripes. Want to show off your gorgeous face? A slicked-back ponytail can be very elegant, says Mackinder. Even better: It’s super easy and can be done in minutes. Just brush hair back and up, and secure it with an elastic band.
Pro tip: Take note of Kim Kardashian’s slight middle part. It’s a subtle, smart way to break up a sleek look like this and add some dimension. This can be especially good for those with faces that are on the rounder side, since it breaks up your face.
Best for: Thicker hair
“One of my favorite styles to bring back on women who want their length, as well as the fun along with it, is the shag,” says Brown. “I know, many of us still have this idea of a shag in our heads from decades ago, and it maybe wasn’t the cutest style then. However, creating the effect of long hair with cascading shorter and flirty pieces in front is such a vibe.” Halle Berry’s long length keeps this cut feeling modern, as opposed to retro.
Pro tip: To get that shag-a-licious definition, put a little styling putty on your fingertips and dab it on the ends of hair. This will add texture and highlight the cut.
Curly shag with bangs
Best for: Curly or wavy hair
Think you can’t rock a shag if you have curly hair? Think again. “Recently, a client who has the most gorgeous silver curls felt her hair was getting too long, and she wanted something new,” says Brown. “I gave her a curly shag and bangs—it was the exact boost she wanted!” Natasha Lyonne is a great example of just how fun this look can be. By really embracing your natural curls, you can emphasize those shaggy layers in a way that feels cool and edgy.
Pro tip: When you have curly hair, it’s necessary to keep bangs extra long. If you don’t, they may poof up and look too short. Another great thing about keeping them long? You can always straighten them a bit and wear them swept to the side.
Super short and curly
Best for: Tight curls
There’s no such thing as too short. “I love a short pixie cut on curly hair,” says Brown. “This style, in particular, can really open up the face and allow for more boldness to come through with clothes and accessories.” Viola Davis’s closely cropped style lets her natural texture shine and shows off her elegance and beauty.
Pro tip: Going super short for the first time? Experts recommend taking it slow. Try a slightly longer pixie cut first and see how you like it. From there, you can go a little shorter, depending on how you feel. Remember, you can always take more off—it’s trickier to add hair back.
Best for: Oval or heart face shapes
Speaking of short! “Shaving your head can be one of the most liberating things a woman can do in her life,” says Brown. “It’s a bold choice, but damn, is it a showstopper.” This can be a particularly fun option for women who have had short hair for some time and want to take a daring next step.
Pro tip: Though it may seem like an easy cut to give yourself, you really should leave it to the pros. A stylist will be able to help you determine just how much to shave off. For example, Jada Pinkett Smith is completely shaved. But you could also opt to leave just a tiny bit of hair at the top. A pro will know what will work best for your hair type and face shape.
Pushed to one side
Best for: Thick hair
If you have a fancy event to go to, consider leaving your hair down. As you age, formal updos can start to look a little matronly and dated. “One of my favorite looks on women is a textured wavy look with the hair smoothly pushed all over to one side,” says Brown. “This style is great because it opens up the face, allowing for some beautifully glam earrings to shine through while also highlighting your face.”
Pro tip: To keep hair to one side, brush it all over one shoulder. On the opposite side, slide a bobby pin or two just behind your ear. This will keep the hair from wanting to slide back over the other shoulder. Just make sure to keep frizz at bay with the right products.
Short on the sides, long on top
Best for: Square or heart-shaped faces
A cut that is short on the sides but long on top will make your cheekbones pop and give you a young, rocker vibe—just like Pink! Many people don’t think short hair has versatility, especially when it comes to hairstyles for women over 40, but a little length gives you just that, says Tauber. You can curl the longer part, slick it back or rough it up for a messy vibe.
Pro tip: This cut is all about the dichotomy of length on top and super-short sides. So ask your stylist to buzz the sides and keep the top at least a few inches long.
Shoulder-skimming with face-framing layers
Best for: Thick hair
If you have thick hair and want to keep it above your shoulders, the key is face-framing layers. “This maintains fullness without it looking bulky, and it will take minimal effort to style,” says Porter. Getting rid of the bulk that thicker hair can have will also help you look fresher and keep your ‘do from dragging down your face.
Pro tip: Your layers should start just below eye level. Any higher will draw attention to crow’s feet.
Best for: All hair types and face shapes
Consider opting for polished waves like Julianna Marguiles. This pulled-together look is great for older women who don’t love the undone look or want a sophisticated style for a fancy event without pulling hair up. To get the look, hold a two-inch barrel curling iron vertically, and wrap two-inch-wide sections of hair around the tool for a few seconds.
Best for: All face shapes and hair textures
One of the beautiful things about aging is that you realize you don’t have to embrace every single trend—and instead can lean into classic looks. A simple twist is always stunning, says Porter. It also works day or night. Pair it with a breezy dress or slacks and a top, and you’ve got a great work look. Throw on a cocktail dress, and you’re ready to hit a party.
Pro tip: Kate Winslet has the right idea by leaving a few loose pieces at the front. This helps soften the look and keeps it from looking too fussy.
Best for: Medium and thick hair
Your birth year may make you a little retro—but you’re still modern and sexy. This hairstyle is exactly like you! It nods to Brigitte Bardot, but the messy vibe feels like a fresh take on it. “This style softens the face, while the volume at the crown slims the face,” says Mackinder of this half-up style that works on most face shapes. While Anne Hathaway has super long hair, it would also work on shoulder-length strands.
Pro tip: Avoid super-straight hair, which will give the look a more serious feel. Anne’s tousled waves contribute to the youthfulness of this ‘do. According to Mackinder, second-day hair tends to have that tousled texture naturally, so this is a great style when you are skipping a wash.
Best for: All hair types and face shapes
To get Kate Beckinsale’s messy bouffant ponytail, Mackinder suggests teasing hair at the crown and using a curling iron to curl strands. Brush out the curls so they’re not perfect ringlets, then gather it into a messy ponytail. “This style is perfect for the woman who loves undone hair but also wants her hair off the neck,” she says.
Pro tip: You may wish you had the skin of a college student, but you don’t want to actually look like one. To avoid having your pony look juvenile, take a small piece of hair from your ponytail, wrap it around the elastic band and bobby-pin it in place. This hides the hair tie and looks more elevated.
Just a little bit of layers
Best for: Fine or medium hair
Shoulder-length hair is a flattering length for women over 40. It doesn’t drag you down, but it gives you enough coverage to distract from fine lines and wrinkles. Consider just a few layers toward the front, like Melissa McCarthy. This will add depth and movement to your hair but also keep the style versatile and low-maintenance, since you won’t have to work with lots of different lengths.
Pro tip: When hair is mostly one length, damage can more readily show. Use a top-notch conditioner, and avoid split ends by visiting the salon for a trim every six to eight weeks. “Regular trims are key to keeping the hair looking young and healthy at any age,” says Tauber.
About the experts
- Mark Daniels is a hairstylist and colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. Born in Ireland, he studied under one of the top stylists in the country before moving to the United States. He has also worked on Fashion Week and in print.
- Christin Brown is a celebrity hairstylist, the co-owner of LunaBella Makeup & Hair Salon in Santa Barbara, California, and an Olaplex global ambassador. She specializes in curly and natural hair.
- Mandee Tauber is a hairstylist and Oribe’s artist of global content. She regularly styles hair at Fashion Week in New York, Milan and Paris, and has worked with celebrity guests for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
- Sophia Porter is a celebrity hairstylist originally from Chicago. She was a biochemistry major in college before she decided to pursue styling full time.
- Vivienne Mackinder is a hairstylist whose decades-long career has included editorial and advertorial shoots, runway collections, special events, TV and online education. She has served as the artistic director for Vidal Sassoon and Trevor Sorbie, and she’s received the IBS Editors Choice Awards three times, as well as the North American Hairstyling Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Additional reporting by Sharon Feiereisen.