Does Long Hair Make You Look Younger?

long hair makes you look youngerReader A has an interesting question about the perennial problem of looking too young…

I’ll be spending this summer in my Michigan hometown working as a student ADA. They’ve even promised to let me try some misdemeanors. My problem is that I will be working in a very small town where many of the people knew me as a child. Furthermore, despite my conservative and classy attire (thanks for your help on that!) people still guess I am a mature 20 year old, rather than the 26.5 year old I really am! I’ve decided that the problem might be my long hair, which falls approximately in the middle of my back. My boyfriend, like most guys, doesn’t want me to cut my hair into an “old lady hairstyle.” Can you recommend an appropriate place between sorority girl and dowdy matron? How long is too long?

Hair is a highly personal thing — it really depends on the woman, her stature, how she carries herself, and more.  Most will tell you that a length somewhere between your shoulders and the top of your bra strap in the back is acceptable. Some women look great with it longer than that; some don’t. (For this author, for example, hair that reaches the bottom of my bra strap makes me look as if I’m headed to Woodstock.)  We would also suggest you consider your makeup carefully for the summer — a bare face can look just as young as an overdone face, as readers have noted previously.  (Pictured:  Long Hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by madaise.)

If you really don’t want to cut any of your hair, we would advise you to learn how to put it up in a way that is professional yet flattering.  For example, we’ve written before of our love for the low ponytail tucked-into-itself, and we recently(ish) saw the blogger at I Am Style-ish describe how she did a big bun. Real Simple also recently described how to do a “quick” French twist and YouTube is filled with women talking about their hair, in depth.  Even just a big claw can help you pull your hair up in a way that’s flattering.

If you do end up deciding to cut your hair, please consider donating it — you have to cut at least 8″, but it can make a difference in someone’s life.

Readers, how long do you think is too long?  What are your favorite up-dos for the office?


  1. I go between two hair styles: (1) very long (which I wear tied up or in a bun) and (2) short stylish bob.

    Shorter hair, if it is cut well and healthy, can keep you looking young! I get a lot of complements on my shorter hair cuts. . . more than when it is long.

    PS. BF prefers short hair. He thinks long hair is often dirty and gross (I am starting to see his point – too many American women have long, burnt out, mistreated hair).

  2. If you’re still measuring your age in half-years, then maybe the problem is you? Just saying.

  3. I also have the “problem” of looking much younger than I actually am. A year ago (when I was 21) I, per my sister’s request/insistence, went to visit my sister’s office. She introduced me to her superiors, one of whom expressed genuine shock when I mentioned that I was 21 since apparently she assumed I was 12. Yes, TWELVE.

    As I do have long hair (it falls about three inches past my bra strap), I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to cut off at least six inches once I graduated law school and was searching for a position, if I hadn’t already cut my hair during the course of law school in order to interview for summer positions.

    Although I am willing to cut my hair in order to secure a position, I would much rather not. Not only do I prefer the way I look with long hair, I also feel more comfortable when I have longer hair and, surprisingly, I find longer hair easier to style/otherwise take care of than I do shorter hair.

    Corporettes, given the above pros and cons, would you still suggest, when the time comes for me to commence my job search, that I cut my hair or that I stick with what I am comfortable with and keep my beloved long locks?

    • If you really love your hair, then I say keep it! As long as it is cut neatly and you don’t touch it or play with it, you should be fine.

    • Just ask your hairstylist to help you style it so it looks professional. Long hair does look younger, but no one can tell how young it is if it’s pulled back. Develop one go-to “older-looking” style and use it when you’ll be meeting people for the first time.

      Styled long hair also looks more mature than hair that just hangs there. You could consider getting layers or blowing your hair out if you want to wear it down.

    • Be careful about why you feel more comfortable with long – do you hide behind your hair? For instance, is your hair often covering part of your face, or do you find yourself purposefully ducking your head in uncomfortable situations so your hair covers your eyes? If it has become a protective defense measure, you need to do something about that. Even try just wearing it back for several weeks, to see how your behavior changes.

    • Amber, Erin M. and Emily:

      Thank you for your input! I never really thought about the “playing with hair” issue. It looks like I’m going to be keeping my long hair…but my side bangs will have to go.

      Also, Emily — I think the reason why I feel more comfortable with long hair is twofold. First, I feel more attractive. Granted, I know that I should not be focused on being attractive at the workplace but feeling more attractive *does* help me exude more confidence in everything I do, work most definitely included. Second, shorter hair tends to either tickle my back or neck, making me feel more uncomfortable. I seem to be more aware of my hair when it is shorter — then again, that may be because I’ve had long hair for most of my life.

      Thank you again!

      • NB, I know the job market is insanely tough out there, but the only employer who might feel that your hair is “unprofessional” would be a jealous woman who has already cut hers, and has bought the limiting short-coif canards. Actually, attractive long hair may well give you an edge with a male interviewer. That’s being honest.

      • I had long hair, nearly waist-length and wavy, reddish-brown, for years. I remember thinking the exact same things, that I would feel less attractive in some way. Then, I realized that I hadn’t been “styling” my hair, I had been simply trying to get it out of the way with brains, buns and ponytails; it wasn’t as though I curled and styled my long hair.

        I cut it off in two stages: first, to just below my collarbones, and then to shoulder-length when I realized how amazing it felt. I actually felt more confident, which is the first thing that affects how attractive you seem. Long hair doesn’t work for everyone; it didn’t frame my face well.

        Good luck in your decision, and if you want a small change, try cutting four or so inches and see how you feel.

  4. That’s weird. Every time I cut my hair, people kept saying I look younger. And I already look younger than my real age so I kept my hair long.

  5. I’ve never been accused of looking younger than I am – when I was graduating middle school, the local librarian wondered if I would be needing literature on choosing the right career – she thought I was graduating from high school…

    But I’ve had the same hair-do for a long time, and that was long hair, that just kept growing longer. (Strange, right?) Every time I would go to the hair dresser, I would end up with a similar hairstyle as the one I’d had when I came in, only a few inches shorter.

    So on last Wednesday, I ended up going into the salon, telling the stylist that he could do what he wanted but that I wanted a change from my old style.

    It’s quite a bit shorter than what it used to be. Now it barely covers my neck, whereas before it was a long way down my back. But what he did, that I love, was cut it up in layers, so that it is not a sleek bob that looks like something my mother would wear. Instead I can now play with it – make it look rougher when I’m going out with friends, and sleek it down and make it look professional when I’m going in to work.

    Despite being able to put my longer hair up, or in a pony tail, or pig tails, or whatever, I feel like I have much more versatility with my new hair, without stressing much about it. I look thinner, taller (not so much hair dragging me down) and the age that I am, instead of younger or older.

  6. “shaped well, clean, styled nicely” – I’d add – not in your face. You should be able to do your work without flipping it around or needing to brush it out of your way.

    Leave the issues of boyfriend/self, short/long, young/old alone and just be sure that’s it meets the above criteria.

    I think the shorter hair you see on many older women is more an issue of time to spend on it.
    Notice how much longer Mrs. Clinton’s hair has gotten lately now that she’s not on the campaign trail daily?

    • Good point. If I had long hair, I’d pay close attention (or ask a close friend/co-worker) to make sure that I am not twirling my hair, excessively playing with it, etc. That’s what is going to make you look young. To answer the original question, yes, i do think that chin to shoulder length hair looks more professional and less “young” (or stated another way, I don’t know of any lawyers whose hair is longer than that, except for those who are just out of law school.)

  7. Wow, this is such a common problem! I got asked by the cafeteria check out woman last week how old I was and she told me that I looked too young to be working here. I was wearing a gray pencil skirt and black sweater – looking quite professional, if I do say so myself. Being 5’1″ doesn’t help.

  8. I had the same problem when I started working after law school a year ago; at the ripe old age of 27, I still looked 20. Long California-blonde hair down to the middle of my back. One day a gentleman in the elevator in my building asked if I was “going to visit my dad at the office,” and that’s when I knew I had to make a change.

    I got this haircut, and it worked like a charm:

    Slightly longer in the front than in the back, it is a bit more modern and angled than your typical “bob” and it is flattering to most face shapes. It’s easy to take care of and I get compliments on it constantly. The best part: I look like I know what I’m doing, which helps at the office. :) Best of luck to you!

    • That wouldn’t have ever happened had you been wearing your hair up. Anyway, there is no shame in looking young. I wish that I still did. As short haircuts go, however, that one looks good.

  9. I am finding a good sylist for $22. She is actually a barber (licensed) and is the best haircutter I have ever had. Long hair does not make us look younger or older. (If only.) Hair of any length can be great if styled well. 1% of all women have truly beautiful hair and should not cut it. As for the rest of us…if the boy fried squawks, he will soon get over it.

  10. shallotry :

    It’s hair. It grows back. A slightly shorter, more professional looking cut for your summer gig will grow back into long locks soon enough.

  11. can anyone point to some decent websites with haircut photos of cuts you could actually wear to the office? I am looking for a new style and I the sites I find on google are a total nightmare.


    • Try searching Google Images ( ) for pictures of the style(s) you have in mind. Type in “haircut” or “hairstyle” and Google will suggest various search terms (e.g., “short hair” “round face” etc.). I find it’s easier to scan the Google results than to look at styles on the typical hairstyle websites.

  12. I’m from the old school, so I think that virtually ALL women should wear long hair. And usually the longer the more beautiful and youthful. My wife and sister are both in their 50′s. My wife hasn’t had a short haircut in 12 years. It’s at her hips now. My sis was coaxed by me and a male friend to grow out her 2-3″ pixie cut two years ago. She tried it, and now she and her hair look so pretty it’s staggering. She LOVES it!
    For younger women, hairstyle is not AS important, but my honest opinion is that a Norah Jones, Katherine McPhee or Hayden Pantierre looked twice as hot with longer hair. Very few women look better with cropped locks, but they do exist. The time will come when young women WISH they were mistaken for being much younger. Don’t rush time…

  13. Anonymous :

    youll look like a rugby player. Hair styles are for oldies who have hair loss.

    • While I agree with you that younger women are usually more beautiful with long hair, this over 40 opinion is WAY off base. SOME women are wise to cut b/c of extreme thinning, but for those with normal hair, short cuts often exacerbate age. I’ve literally seen women who look much more alluring, and 10 years younger, thanks to a hair grow-out. I can name my wife, sister, SIL and many others in my immediate circles. If the woman feels that pulled-back hair is too “severe”, change the part or add face-framing FRONT layers or light bangs. Never lose the tantalzing length in back.

  14. The problem I have with long hair is it buys into gender expectations and stereotypes of beauty. I’m in technical sales, and every female account manager under the age of 35 looks the same. Boooring!!! Check out Vogue Oct 2009 for pictures of Michelle Williams – adorable! I cut that out and gave it to my funky fabulous hair stylist. No frump for this 43 yo professional!

  15. I look younger than my age (it’s those Asian genes!) and sound older when I speak. After working at the same company for three years, I’d like to think that my reputation for competence and excellent work has transcended my age and/or my appearance. Sometimes my managers exclaim “I forget how young you are”–always a great compliment.

  16. This is whole thing is kind of a moot point. Hair and face shape is so, so different from person to person, and without knowing what A’s hair texture and thickness is, it’s impossible to suggest that having shorter hair will make her look older.
    I’m 22, and I’m only just starting to not be mistaken for a 14 year old because having a baby has aged my face and thinned it out. I have long, wavy, layered hair because anything shorter than my shoulder blades poofs up and looks absolutely hideous with my face shape. I like it long.
    I say, wear your hair at a length you like. If people always think you’re young now, cutting it short isn’t going to magically transform their opinions. Have a mature attitude, have confidence… and maybe don’t refer to your age in half years.

  17. Re a suggestion about hair donation — keep in mind that most donated hair can’t be used. It has to meet specific conditions:

  18. I think, that only healthy long hair make you look younger.

    • Healthy hair looks better, no matter the woman’s age or length, of course. As a rule, hair with length exudes beauty and youth. After 40, long hair can take up to 10 years off one’s age, if properly cared for.

  19. I ran for a State Senate position in 2008. I normally wear my hair longer. Its absolutely straight and dark with no graying yet at 50. Its nothing great. But it won’t hold curl and it fits my lifestyle and personality, especially to be able to pull it off my face.

    Then, I put my name on the ballot. Women over 50 years old kept asking me, “What are you going to do with your hair?” Every campaign event I went to – this was the number one issue. They heard nothing I said, they couldn’t get past the hair. So after a few weeks, I went to the best stylist in town and said, “Do what needs to be done.” We talked at length and he cut it in “the only hairstyle” that portrays intelligence, professionalism, confidence, a public persona, etc. Just like Hillary’s. Just like a local successful office holder who amazes me with her lack of intelligence and ability to convince voters over and over that she is a super star.

    Immediately, women and men over 50 years old responded. It was actually very creepy. Overnight, I was transformed into a viable candidate because of a haircut. Is this really how voters and community leaders rank people? I was enraged, curious, hurt, and totally identity confused. I guess there were two different people inside of me? Which one did I want to be?

    On the other hand, the reaction from young people, under 30 was, “Why did you cut your hair?” It was like they could see that I was selling myself out. My family said, “It’s cute, if you like it keep it. It’s just not you.”

    It was a very strange psychological experiment for me. I had no idea the cultural messages that I was or wasn’t sending with my hair. And I am still struggling with trying to find a middle place where my culture respects my intelligence and abilities.

    I definitely observed the huge difference between the generations. The older generations have strong stereotypes and exclusionary criteria built on outdated information. I am excited that the boomers will start to become yesterday’s news soon. We so need the hope, light and change that is following them waiting for a chance to shine!

  20. Kitty, we have two women running for magistrate in my area. Each is about 50. One has mid-back hair and the other shoulder blade. Both heads of hair are stunning. Never listen to what short-haired women say about the luscious tresses of another in their age bracket. It’s fraudulent advice. BUT, for those who are comfortable blending into the crowd, short hair IS the way to go. We guys never tired of seeing beautiful flowing hair on a woman, and it’s sad when a woman goes corporate and “proper”.

  21. Thanks, RC! I very nearly slipped down the slippery slope to “corporate and proper” at that time period of my life. Depression and gut problems finally forced me to a halt. I had to rethink things and listen to my heart. It was a great learning opportunity and I have successfully avoided the whole scene for a couple of years now. Your supportive words were such a gift to me today! Maybe you should be writing a book?

  22. My husband absolutely loves extreme, short hair. So did my first husband.

    I always wear my hair around shoulder length, give or take a couple of inches. They both married me anyway.

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