Be honest. When was the last time you changed your hairstyle?
I don’t mean a bit of a trim. I’m talking about a real change – a haircut that takes you from long to short, one length to layered.
The truth is, we are all guilty of playing it safe, and more likely to change the colour than experiment with a new cut.
"So many of us become attached to a specific style and this is even more of an issue as we age," says hairdresser Richard Ward, who counts the Duchess of Cambridge, Samantha Cameron, Cath Kidston and Bear Grylls among his clientele. The reason?
"We cling to the same cut, not only for comfort, but because we associate it with our younger years and so mistakenly think it will keep us looking youthful."
That’s not to say that you have to go for broke and have a short back and sides, or that you can’t have the haircut you had 20 years ago. The secret is to take into account that your hair has most likely changed texture and that your colour will also have changed – few of us have hair that doesn’t eventually succumb to grey in some form.
It’s also important to consider subtle changes in features – our jaw might not be quite as defined as it used to be, and there may be a frown line or two! "A well-judged haircut that emphasises your strong points and adds softness to your brows or helps to redefine your jawline can take years off," says Richard.
We invited three Saga Magazine readers to take the Cut a Decade challenge and put their hair in Richard’s expert hands. We think the results are definitely decade-diminishing. Judge for yourself!
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Wendy Yates, 55
Wendy works part- time and is devoted to dog-walking, running and cycling. She keeps her hair long so it can be tied back for exercise.
"I want a style that doesn’t need lots of primping. I’d love to go short, but I’m not ready for a massive change."
"Wendy has a lot of hair but it’s very fine, so lacks volume and definition," says Richard. "I’m going to keep the side fringe – it’s very flattering – then add long layers as she wants to be able to put her hair up.’
Richard: "Adding long layers and taking off five inches has given Wendy’s hair a lift and introduced volume, making it look thicker and healthier. It also ‘kicks out’ at the back, rather than hanging like a curtain, and is easy to style."
Richard used Anti-Ageing Argan 10-in-1 Styling Spray (£5.99) to boost volume and protect hair from heat damage, followed by Anti-Ageing Argan Hairspray (£5.99, both from The Chelsea Collection by Richard Ward, available at Waitrose) for hold and shine.
Wendy: "Although it’s shorter than I had originally wanted, I trusted Richard’s judgment. I’m glad I did – it’s fabulous!"
Katherine Hardy, 60
Ascot-based fashion designer Katherine runs her own couture design company and has recently launched an online clothing brand, theshirttails.co.uk. She likes to spend her
spare time running and being outdoors.
She's open-minded when it comes to having a new hairstyle. "I would love something that I could literally wash, shake – and go! And I’m not at all apprehensive – I know I’m in safe hands."
"Although Katherine’s hair is in great condition – she has barely any grey, so doesn’t colour it – it looks more like a cut that has grown out," says Richard. "She has the confidence to carry off a statement hairstyle. And she also has a face that will suit a short, choppy cut."
Richard: "By taking off three inches all over, adding lots of layers and introducing a flattering fringe, Katherine’s hair will be quick and easy to style and will fall into place – even when she doesn’t have time to blow-dry."
To boost volume, Richard sprayed on L’Oréal Professionnel Volumetry Spray (£14.50, lookfantastic.com) then defined layers with Shu Uemura Kengo Feather (£23.10 feelunique.com).
Katherine: "I absolutely love it, love it, love it! The fact that it’s totally low-maintenance and won’t need much styling is exactly what I wanted. 10/10.
Valerie Ottewell, 69
Now retired, Valerie has a busy social life. Although she is open to change, she is wary: "I wouldn’t want a crop!"
"Valerie’s hair is in good condition, but the Cleopatra style is too long for her face. I’m going to make it shorter and sharper – but with softness at the front," says Richard.
Richard: "To revamp Valerie’s cut and transform it into a more defined bob, I took off four inches and graduated the hair at the nape of her neck. I’ve cut long layers into the fringe and at the sides to soften the edges. This also creates volume."
Richard warmed Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Oil (£30.49, amazon.co.uk) in his hands, then smoothed it through the ends before blow-drying. He spritzed on Kérastase Volumifique Spray (£16.73, amazon.co.uk) and finished with Shu Uemura Sheer Lacquer (£17.70 feelunique.com)
Valerie: "Richard really wanted me to go much shorter than I would feel comfortable with, so we compromised! I love the soft layers and the fact that it has given my hair much more body – as well as enhancing my natural hair colour."
The hair stylist
With an international reputation for creating wearable hair that looks healthy, shiny, red-carpet-ready, Richard is renowned for creating the Chelsea Blow Dry, as sported by the Middleton sisters – a loose, softly defined style that is his signature look.
Richard's tips on anti-ageing hair care
"As we age, our hormone levels rise and fall," says Richard. "This has a direct effect on the quality and condition of hair, making it thinner and more susceptible to damage and dehydration."
Use nourishing hair care products
Hair texture can become coarser, so invest in a quality nourishing shampoo and conditioner to help strengthen hair.
Get regular haircuts
Due to the change in texture, grey hair can look unruly if not cut regularly. A trim every six to eight weeks will keep hair looking groomed, polished and healthy.
Experiment with colour
For some women greying hair can be ageing, although it can look amazing if it’s well-maintained. If you are unsure, ask your colourist to blend your greys with a complementary shade for a natural look.
Turn down the heat
Hairdryers, straighteners and tongs can damage fragile hair if used too often. Try to use your dryer or styling tools on a lower heat, and allow your hair to dry naturally once or twice a week.
Always use a thermal hair protector to reduce damage when you are heat styling, such as Kérastase Discipline Fluidissime Spray £21.80 feelunique.com.
Should you go shorter?
When it comes to length there are no hard and fast rules. ‘It’s a myth that you can’t have long hair once you reach 50,’ says Richard. However, if you do have long hair, keep it well-maintained and in good condition.
Whether you have shoulder-length hair or a short bob, ask your hairdresser to ‘chop’ into the ends. ‘When you’re over 50, softness is key, so avoid hard edges whatever style you opt for,’ says Richard.
Beware of layers
"Short layers work if you have thick hair or a crop," explains Richard. "But they are best avoided if you have fine or thinning hair as they can make it look wispy and frizzy."
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Next article: Should you say goodbye to the shampoo bottle? >>>
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