10 Hairstyles for Women Over 40 to Try in 2021
New rule: there are no rules.
We're steadfast believers that age is just a number, but there are major positives that tend only to come with getting older.
After turning 40, most women have blossomed and grown into themselves. More often than not, they've ditched chasing trends for an evolved personal style that reflects the self-assured woman they've become: a woman who knows who she is and what she likes. And as the short-haired soccer mom stereotype continues to fade — and let's please retire the bad "mom cut" jokes — we consulted ultra-famous stylists Frédéric Fekkai, Stacey Ciceron, and Michelle Sultan, for their favorite hairstyles for the esteemed 40+ club.
"The only don't for a woman-over-forty-haircut is to get a style that isn't authentic to them," says Ciceron, hairstylist and Oribe educator. "Don't hide from your age because growing older is a privilege."
Read on to learn secrets from the hair maestros for getting a polished cut that works for every hair type and face shape that are anything but stale.
Undefined Curly Bob
"There are no hard-fast rules of what type of hair a woman over 40 should have. She should more so concentrate on what hairstyle suits her lifestyle, her style choice, and most important, her hair type," says Sultan, celebrity hairstylist and creative director for Imbue Curls. "Take someone like Tracee Ellis Ross. She changes her hair with her outfits and always manages to look insanely stylish and never too 'try hard.'"
Sultan's favorite style for a type 3 or 4 hair is a classic bob because it "can be worn curly or blown out and straightened for versatile looks."
To wear your hair's beautiful volume like Tracee, the secret here is to make sure curls are hydrated and moisturized to achieve their very best curl, says Sultan, who recommends a post-shampoo deep moisturizing treatment. She typically reaches for the Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask, followed by a spritz of a nourishing leave-in, finishing with a styling gel or mousse.
Megashiny Collarbone Waves
On the flip side, "this same classic bob can be worn blown out smooth with a round brush, like Michelle Obama's famous inauguration hair, with masses of body and shine."
To master the presidential glamour, Sultan "highly recommends" the Dyson Airwrap collection for "effortless styling, with a small amount of finishing oil to enhance shine and to reduce frizz and flyaway hair," so nary a strand is out of place, just like Obama.
"It's so important — at whatever age — your hair should be healthy and be in its best condition," says Sultan. "This to me exudes age and gives a new level of confidence."
Traditional Chin-Length Bob
"There are many haircuts that are powerful and daring," says the legendary Fekkai, the go-to stylist to countless catwalkers, actresses, heiresses, and even politicians (hi, Hillary Clinton!) as well as founder of FEKKAI Brands.
"I like a sharp chin length bob. Use a straightening balm and blow dry hair pointing the nose of the hairdryer down and slide a round or flat brush downward." Finish by applying FEKKAI Brilliant Gloss cream, or another high-gloss product, to nail the sleek, shiny look.
"Women with shorter hair after 40 usually exhibit confidence and a secure situation both professionally and emotionally," explains Fekkai. "Also, after many years of coloring or bleaching their hair, a good cut that is shaped, sophisticated and alluring is the way to go."
Enhance the piecey strands of a traditional cropped pixie by mixing a medium hold gel with a glossing cream together in your hands then swishing through from side to side for an undone look.
Sultan calls a sleek, one-length style "ageless" and "super slick." Plus, this chop works great with hair types 3 and 4, as rocked by Kerry Washington.
"A cute ear tuck can look youthful and show beautiful angles on an 'older' face," says Sultan. "Hiding behind the hair is not an option here, hold your head high and show them who is boss!"
Fekkai loves a longer pixie cut because it's an easy wash-and-wear look with very minimal styling needed. With the innumerable amount of styles and lengths, Fekkai says that a pixie will work with many women, once the texture of the hair is taken into consideration. Plus, he says: "pixie cuts are always timeless and effortless, truly."
Just mix a medium strength styling gel or cream with a gloss or a lightweight oil together to enhance the cut's layers and bring out the texture with a glossy, satin-looking finish.
This edgy pixie redux style is a total dream for those with tight, springy curls by cutting the sides and back, leaving the length on top.
"Type 4s look incredible with this style, as the volume looks really cool when it stands up high," says Sultan. "You could also use color to create extra dimension throughout the haircut and color can make curls pop and look more defined. This is the time of life you know who you are and you definitely shouldn't be afraid to show it off!"
Layered Bob with Fringe
"A good haircut is all about the client's personality, her features, and her hair texture," explains Fekkai. "For a long oval shaped face, a bob style is very well suited, from chin length to shoulder length, with a fringe, adding some layers for wavy curly hair."
For a spunky personality like the fun-loving Tyra Banks, the soft fringe and faux-wet cascading waves are playful twists on a classic bob silhouette.
"It's always lovely to see a customer over 40 sporting a creative style," says Fekkai. "It's a hairstyle that shows character, personality, elegance and confidence."
Dare to take a page from Charlize Theron's book by rocking a sleek, beautiful asymmetric bob, with one short side and the other extending to chin length or beyond. And for Ciceron, there's nothing she loves more than a little push to get her clients out of a rut.
"I think if you haven't tried something by 40, it might be time to give it a shot," she says. "Pushing clients out of their comfort zone can be anything they haven't done before, like getting bangs, a new cut, or trying out some bold colors. Wild and adventurous is different for everyone."
As high glam as this sultry style is, just know before you chop that if your hair texture is not type 1, it will take a bit of work to nail the pin-straight sleekness.
"I'm loving the lion cut for curly hair, which is when the hair is cut to frame the face, mostly using bangs to create the drama and masses of layering through the top and sides to create a really cool shape that is very sexy," says Sultan. "Just because you are over 40, you definitely shouldn't settle for what the world tells you that you should have. Keep pushing boundaries — older doesn't equal boring, so don't hesitate to try new, adventurous styles."
Boost your curl shape by combing a hydration serum, like the cult-classic gloss from Kérastase, through hair with your fingers to add volume and definition to lackluster curls and waves, taking inspo from the always striking Zendaya. "For me, it's a bit like Botox for my curls," jokes Sultan. "It always makes my curl instantly look and feel sexier."
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter
This story originally appeared on instyle.com