“The mistake women over 40 make with their hair color is either trying to look too young or thinking they have to look old,” explains Carlina Ortega, a colorist at Rita Hazan Salon, in New York. To pinpoint your issue, scan this list of the most common mistakes and learn how to fix them, no advanced coloring degree required.
1. Too dark
Going too dark with your color creates the illusion of more fine lines and wrinkles, says Michael Dueñas, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Hair Room Service. Also, if you have gray hair, you can make the line of demarcation more apparent when your hair starts to grow in. Opt for a warm tone a shade or two lighter that adds light reflection to your skin and lowers the harsh contrast dark colors create, says Michelle Lee, a stylist at Salon Eva Michelle in Boston. Or you can add subtle highlights that create dimension to the all-over dark hue.
2. Too ashy
From blonde to brunette, your color shouldn’t appear ashy, which makes hair look flat and “inky,” Lee says. Especially if you’re pale, the smoky look will make you look washed out. The fix: Add some warmth to brighten up your skin again, she advises.
3. Too trendy
“Leave the dip-dye to the next generation,” Lee says. Having lighter tips on the ends of your hair can make your face appear wider and age you. Go for lighter all over with strategically placed highlights to bring the focal attention to the right places, she recommends. “If you have a narrow forehead, you might want highlights and brighter pieces towards the top of your head and face to balance you,” she says. “However, if you are wider around the lower face, you would shadow with a darker shade around your face, cheeks and jawline.”
4. Too brassy
Too much reddish orange undertones in your hair can make your hair look dull and damaged—the typical signs of aging hair, says celebrity hairstylist Gabriel Samra. The red tones can also make your skin look redder and rob skin of a youthful glow, adds Kyle White, senior stylist at Oscar Blandi. If your brassy color is not to the scalp, it can look good (Jennifer Lopez’s highlights are a good example). However, “If your entire color is brassy, it could definitely age you,” Samra adds.
To ban the brass, use a purple shampoo to help eliminate the yellowness. Because they are opposite each other on the color wheel, he explains, they will neutralize each other. Another option Samra suggests is asking your hairstylist for a toner, which will do the same thing as the shampoo to help neutralize the unwanted tones.
5. Too light
Hair that is too light may come across as gray. “I always say that going too light can be just as aging as going too dark,” Samra adds. “It’s important to maintain a certain level of contrast between your hair color and your skin tone.” Otherwise, your hair loses depth and you’ll look washed out. Darken the lightness with a hue that’s a shade or two lighter than your natural hair color with subtle lighter highlights, Samra advises.
6. Too highlighted
If your hair is over-highlighted, Samra says it probably looks damaged and lack luster. Also your hair may appear too thick and dried out, White adds. “Even if your hair has highlights and lowlights,” Samra explains, “they need to be strategically placed to bring out the right tones in your hair and skin.” Stay away from cool-toned highlights. “When you are young, it’s easier to get away with those tones,” he explains. “But when you are over 40, you should look more for the golden tones.” Make sure these tones are brightest around your face and on top to make your skin look warm and youthful.
7. Too red
sure way to date your hair is by dying it an all-over red color. Samra says it’s an old-fashioned look because “very deep color may have looked good in your 20s or 30s, but skin of all tones starts to lose pigment after 40, and the contrast between hair and skin becomes stark.” And if your skin doesn’t look stark, instead it could make you look flushed and enhance uneven skin tone, White adds.
Remedy the red with a glaze, a color-enhancing shampoo or a few highlights, Samra suggests. “The color red can make a statement and be beautiful and youthful, but sometimes it needs a few highlights or a bit more copper to look natural,” he adds.
8. Too bold
Often bold colors look too chunky and unnatural. Be sure the color looks naturally blended in. “You can keep up with the trends as long as your colorist takes a nuanced approach, so that you maintain an air of sophistication,” Ortega says. “Kelly Ripa, for example, took a risk experimenting with pinks and blues but was able to pull it off by not going as edgy with it as, say, Kylie Jenner would.”
It’s all in the placement. You can dye a section in your bangs or around your hairline to frame your face, Lee adds. “For example, when I got married, I had bright fuchsia pink highlights traditionally placed that it almost looked natural—except the color was so wild it could never be,” she says. Also if you’re grayer, Lee says you can experiment with pastel tones like pale pink or smoky blue.