Is it time to redo your hairdo?

You wouldn’t wear the same clothes today that you wore in your 20s or 30s, would Then why are so many of us wearing pretty much the same hairstyles we wore for our weddings or our college yearbook pictures? Times change, and so do the texture, color and density of our hair. Take a good look in the mirror and see if you are keeping up you with the times.

While men and women have similar challenges when it comes to choosing the right hairstyle, both genders recognize that great hair begins with healthy hair. There are many vitamin supplements that   promote healthy hair available at your local health food store. These supplements usually contain vitamin A, biotin and an amino acid found in protein called cysteine.

Protein and good fatty acids like those found in olive, canola and sunflower oil can make hair thicker, faster growing and less brittle. Biotin and cysteine help discourage or slow the normal shedding of hair we all experience as we grow older. In your 20s you might have been able to use anything to shampoo your hair.

Now, be a little more discriminating. Pamper yourself with the best shampoo. Use shampoo that is designed to flush excess androgen from your hair roots. The buildup of androgen causes the root to contract and clog, producing thin and fine hair or eventually no hair at all. And look into products that have ingredients that plump up the hair shaft without weighting it down. Also, treat yourself to a hot oil treatment once a week to give your hair the moisture it needs to keep from getting brittle and flyaway. And that doesn’t just mean women. Men need to dip into the hot oil as well.

Finally, make it a point to have your hair trimmed at least every two months. It will keep your look fresh and will encourage more hair growth.

When you have done your part externally and internally to produce the best crop of hair, how do you choose a style that is flattering and will take years off your looks? For men and women the answers are similar and yet different

Women

The worst hair mistakes for women come down to whether you are a Truman or an Eisenhower baby and when you went from “bobby socks to stockings,” as the song lyrics go. You were either part of the no-muss, no-fuss, just-air-dry, brush -and-go-out-the-door generation or the fussy mousse-and-gel generation. You either was part of the fabulous ’60s or was swept into the one-perm-fits-all craze that swept the nation.

If you went for the long and straight no-muss hair then, chances are you have an aversion to short hair. As soon as your hairdresser starts inching up your shoulder with a pair of scissors, you probably react like the victim in a slasher movie. Do you have to opt for short hair now? No. The idea isn’t what length your hair is but what you do with it. Long hair that is lifeless and flat just makes you look dated and out of step.

And unless you want to spend half your waking hours bent over at the waist brushing your hair forward to plump it up, you’re going to have to either go shorter or use a trick that has been employed by hairdressers for years. It’s called layering. Yes, this is one instance where less is more. Making your hair different lengths and layers does reduce the volume of your hair overall, but the layering actually creates the illusion of more hair because it is not flattened out by its own sheer weight. And layering provides the perfect canvas for using color highlights in your hair. If you’ve never colored your hair before, it may be time to lighten up!

Covering gray is just one reason to experiment with color. Lightening your natural shade of hair just a shade or two brings out the best features on your face and gives your complexion and skin tone a younger glow. You loved low- maintenance manes when you were in your 20s, and the best part is there’s no reason you can’t have one now. It all starts with a bit of imagination, the willingness to change and a great haircut. If you don’t buy that, take a look at Jane Fonda lately.

This Oscar-winning grand who made her comeback in Monster-in-Law has lopped off her trademark flowing long mane for a short, layered, lightened and high- lighted do that frames her face perfectly.

“Permanent” is one of those oxymorons like “pretty ugly” and “jumbo shrimp.” The truth is that there is nothing permanent about a hair permanent. We all grow out of them—at least many of us have. There are some of us, however, who became hopelessly addicted to curling irons and the aroma of perming solution clearing our sinuses while sitting around in a plastic cap wearing a headband made of an absorbent cotton roll to keep this toxic liquid from running into our eyes—all this effort to keep those tight little curls we’ve grown so fond of for so many years.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with curls, but if you find yourself leaving your favorite salon with tiny little curls plastered to your scalp with so much hairspray that your do wouldn’t budge in a wind tunnel and you hesitate going anywhere near an open flame, it’s time to loosen up! There’s nothing less attractive at any age than “helmet hair.” If you want curls, fine. But just make sure you’re going for loose curls that move as you move. Go for wavy instead of curly. It will give you a softer, more feminine appearance.

Men

Not since Yul Bynner made bald sexy have so many men opted for the cue-ball approach to hair care. Going hairless has become a sign of confidence and comfort with oneself. Athletes do it, celebrities do it. And if your thinning or bald spots are making you self-conscious, you can do it, too. But before you grab the razor, see if a little restyling will produce more attractive results. Step one—part ways with the part. Nothing says self-delusion like the classic comb-over.

It starts insidiously enough: Your hair is a little thin on top, and if you just move your part a bit lower, everything looks so much better. The problem is the part just keeps sinking lower and lower until it’s tucked behind one ear and looks as ridiculous as hiked-up trousers. Worse yet is the sweep-around onion-loaf look where the hair across the front of the head starts at the back of the head and sweeps forward. No wonder many men not blessed with the “hair gene” would rather go with any hair instead of some hair. But here’s an idea: Make peace with the hair you have. Cut it short, and comb it straight back.

Don’t play hide-and-seek; be who you are. Don’t think it works? Look at Jack Nicholson. He’s a grand who has his own distinctive and sexy style. What he lacks in hair he more than makes up for with his distinctive tinted shades, killer grin and gregarious personality. If you’re still not convinced, you can always go with the buzz cut and allow yourself some peach fuzz as your head topper.

If you are so fortunate to have inherited the great-hair gene, you have some critical choices to make. If you don’t think it matters as long as you have it, better think again. If The Da Vinci Code taught us anything about hairstyles it’s that the mullet is out of style. If it didn’t work for Tom Hanks, it won’t work for anyone. Like women, men benefit from the layered look, which is the closest thing to wash-and-go hair than any other style.

If your hair is naturally curly, great. But keep it short and neat. A little dab’ll do ya, as they say, in terms of gel and mousse to keep you from popping springs of loose curls all over your head. Go easy on the lacquer or hairspray, however. Neat hair doesn’t mean stiff hair.

Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in January-February 2007

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