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Julyne Derrick

She's 55 & In Love With Her Long, Graying Hair

By October 25, 2010

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Dominique Browning, the former editor of House & Garden magazine, and the author of "Slow Love" a memoir that's been touted as the "Eat, Pray, Love" for the middle-aged set, has long hair.

Her mom hates it. A friend worries she's hurting her career with it, but Browning loves it and she dispels all the long hair/older women myths in an essay for the New York Times.

That's a picture of her from her book jacket. She's gorgeous, yes? If you like her essay, you might find yourself lost for a few hours in her lovely blog, Slow Love Life, as I did tonight.

I'm a firm believer that you can grow your hair long in your 50s and 60s as long as it looks healthy. It's simply an old-fashioned rule that you must cut your hair to your chin the day after your 40th birthday. Most women actually look best with their hair to their shoulders with a few layers cut into it (see "The Most Flattering Cut on Everyone"). If you have to abide by a rule, consider your face shape.

There's something to be said for women who break the mold, these women are my heroes. Women like my 80-year-old friend in Burton, Texas, who builds houses for Habitat for Humanity and rides her bike from Austin to Houston. Women who are single moms by choice. Women like Marly Harris of California, who writes in the comments section of Browning's essay:

At 77, my hip-length wavy hair infuriates many people (mostly other women my age). I used to wear it in a bun; I looked like an over-the-hill ballerina. I've finally found the courage to let it all hang out. There is absolutely no maintenance involved (my last hairdresser appointment was in 1992). I shampoo it once a week and forget about it once I've quickly brushed it in the morning. My delightful son said to me, when I turned 60, "Are you going to cut and perm your hair like all of the other old ladies?" It's dark and silvering and frizzy and I'm finally happy with it. No, not just happy, deliriously happy.


More on older women, hair and makeup:

  1. Hairstyles: What you can get away with at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 & older
  2. Great hairstyles for older women
  3. Is your hairstyle aging you?

Image: Dominique Browning from her book, "Slow Love"


October 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm
(1) Carol Reins says:

I’m going to be 61 in December and I have always had beautiful naturally wavy blonde hair…even my sister has insinuated that it’s time to look my age(with short hair of course!)…I’m done with the fashion and hair police telling me what look is good for me(regardless of my age, these self-appointed guardians of what is beautiful french my fries) and as I run my fingers through my golden locks I can smile and know that I look good.

October 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm
(2) JUDY K. says:

Thank you for posting this. I’m 54 & for the last 2 yrs. have not dyed my hair at all. For yrs. I would dye my hair, get it highlighted & I decided to stop, because my hair was so damaged. My hair color is similar to Dominique’s color, dark brown (almost black). I have more silver than she does & I love it.

I get alot of compliments on my hair & it’s also naturally curly. But everyone is different. This may not look good on every woman. It does depend on how you look & the condition of your hair. I get my hair trimmed every few months (my hair grows very slow) & it’s good to use products for silver hair to. I also agree that just because women are past 40, 50 & up they should not get their hair cut short just because some people say so & think they should.

My hair is a few inches past my shoulders & I have long layers. I have seen younger women with long hair that does not look so good. So, it should not be about age when it comes to your hair. It’s all about how your hair looks long & the condition of it. Short hair is not for everyone. I’m glad to see many women in the city of Chicago letting their hair go natural with grey, silver, salt/pepper, long & letting their curls show instead of paying high prices to get it straightened. Have a nice day everyone.

October 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm
(3) KMS says:

As long as my hair is healthy and I’m happy with my shoulder length hair the world is going to have to be short one chubby mid 50′s woman who has always looked terrible in short hair thin or chubby–your absolutely right the deciding factor should be your face shape not some preconceived notion that’s outdated.

October 27, 2010 at 3:56 pm
(4) Jan says:

I am 61 and have long hair. It is fine and straight. My natural color was mousy brown and I had dyed it for years. I quit that and grew it out. Now I just wash and comb it. My hair is about the middle of my back. It is all a beautiful light silver with fabulous streaks of pure white. My hair is healthy, shiny, pretty, and long. Sometimes I wear it in a high pony tail, sometimes a head band, and sometimes with clips or barrettes. I get frequent compliments on my hair, except from my hair dresser daughter, she HATES it. Short, permed, dyed, frizzy fine hair is just not a good look for me. By the way, I have excellent skin and look 15-20 younger than I am. Yay for going against the grain!

October 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm
(5) charlotte says:

I agree with you ladies. I have had my hair long for so long, I can’t hardly remember when it was short. I am 53, wash my hair once a week and get compliments wherever I go. I call it blk. and silver; never grey.

October 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm
(6) Jane says:

I responded to Ms. Browning’s excellent article (comment #1166). I was happy to learn that many of my peers share my view on the cut or no cut quandary. I also have long hair (to my waist) and am going to be 60 in a few months. I keep it trimmed, dye it (my natural color from years gone past) and the stylists that trim it for me say it’s in excellent shape. It appears we boomers are once again bucking the trend and have no regrets in doing so. That thought makes me smile.

October 27, 2010 at 8:53 pm
(7) pavulona says:

I turned 60 today, and yes my hair is long again, which it was most of my life. Somewhere in my early 50 yrs, people kept asking me when I was going to cut my mane.Well I did cut my hair,about chin length,and I was miserable. So two years ago I decided to let it grow again, and I feel more like myself. I love it, take care of it and it looks great. Go for it, if it is what is in your heart.

October 27, 2010 at 8:54 pm
(8) JUDY K. says:

I loved reading all the comments here so much. It’s the same thing when I go to get my hair trimmed. They are always trying to talk me into dying it. I’m also blessed & lucky to look much younger than 54 & I’m very slim too.

I’m happy to see that many women are making choices about how they look that is best for them & not what someone else wants them to do.

October 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm
(9) Good Karma says:

I am VERY PROUD of ALL of You who did NOT allow others to define what you “should” look like! I went the ‘other’ way, and now I am wishing I had NOT listened to them! I used to be called, “Silver”. SOME people, friends, really liked the Silver streak down each side in the middle of my hair!Then, 1 day, I guess MORE got to me by saying, “You SHOULD dye your hair!” “Why don’t you dye it?!” And so I did, and now it is a PAIN to keep up with, I wish I hadn’t listened to them! I did feel kinda PROUD of those compliments of how much they thought about my SILVER STREAK down coming down each side of my hair! One time, someone asked, “Do you dye your hair to look like that? It looks really Cool!I’ve NEVER seem hair like yours! It’s Beautiful!” So, many people have seen me EVERYDAY with this Dyed Brown Color, I am too “Vain” to let them see the REAL Grey, or Silver that I REALLY am! Thanks for letting me see my REAL COLOR!

October 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm
(10) KFS says:

I am 52 this year, I started turning Grey ar a very young age! Being SO Vain, I dyed it right away! My hair is past my middle of my back almost to my hips! Because I dye my hair now, my ends of my LONG Beautiful Brown/Black hair are Fried! I HAVE to keep up with dyeing my LONG Brwn/Blck hair, which is a headache now! Although I get comments, I stilll hate the fact that I am a LIE! I want to show my TRUE COLOR! I WISH I had not been SO Self-Conscious at such a Young Age! My hat is off to ALL of you who are NOT ahamed to show Your True Color!

October 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm
(11) Juliet says:

I turned 46 this year. I am just now within the last 2 years starting to see beautiful strands of silver in my hair. I took one and measured it. It’s right at 18 inches. I think that is amazing.

October 28, 2010 at 10:51 am
(12) Jane says:

I am 64 and have hair just below my shoulders (a bit longer in back). It is fine and slightly wavy…I am still coloring it , and although I always was a blond, as I got older blond streaks seemed to work best (no roots).
This past September I dyed it red…I LOVE it..it looks and feels thicker and as long as it looks healthy I will keep it…I am not gray..only a few streaks..as soon as the gray tips 50% I am letting it go..I think long gray hair, when healthy is beautifull!
I will never cut my hair!
(My great grandmother, when in her 90′s, still wore her hair long and in the day time in a bun…I aim to do that…men just LOVE long hair at any age! I think they might be on to something)

October 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm
(13) joanna says:

Most women look terrible with grey hair. It ages them. The hair becomes frizzy, wiry and unbecoming. There are a few women for whom the grey hair is actually flattering and pretty. They are few and far between. As for wearing your hair at waist-length – it’s basically freaky – at any age. That being said, the idea that one should become a cropped short hair old lady at any age is ridiculous and short hair cuts generally look l extremely unflattering unless one has the beautiful delicate features of a halle berry or a young mia farrow. Most women don’t have those features. The author is fortunate that her hair is pretty with grey streaks; for myself and for other women I know, grey is masculizing and downright ugly.

October 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm
(14) Colette says:

Two years ago (at age 46) I lost my waist length hair to chemo. My hair was the only thing I was truly vain about and I loved it. It was highlighted blonde by my very talented colorist.
I too caught a lot of flack for wearing my hair long at such an advanced age.
After 2 years it is chin length and I am growing it back out.
I can’t wait until I can swoop it up in a French twist or braid it.
Long hair is more work – especially as we get older – but for me it was (and will be) worth it.
Thanks for the writing about Ms. Browning’s essay – we shouldn’t have to be badgered into cutting our hair just because we are older.

October 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm
(15) Karen B. Wood says:

I’m really furious with all of you acting like it’s so horrible to color our hair, I color mine and it is NOT a pain, as some stated. It takes less than 30 minutes, total, and it’s not like it has to be done every week! I do it about every 3 weeks, as soon as much root shows. To the woman who said the ends of her hair are fried from being dyed, well, don’t take it to the ends! I never do that last-5-minutes thing where you work the color down the the ends, I only do what’s on my head, working it into that. My hair will a few inches past my shoulders, and I’m 51. I agree with the woman who said that grey hair tends to make women look older, but disagree with her that really long hair is freaky.

October 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm
(16) JUDY K. says:

I disagree with Joanna, that most women look terrible with grey hair & long hair after a certain age. Karen, noone is telling you not to dye your hair. It’s up to you. I don’t understand why you are so angry when women are just posting their thoughts & opinions about the topic.

Maybe the lady who was dying her hair was not coloring to the ends. Dying hair can be very damaging for certain people. I disagree 100% that grey hair makes women look older. I see many women in the city of Chicago where I live who let their hair be grey, silver, white etc. &u they look wonderful. It all depends on how your face looks & what shape you are in too.

The whole picture. No one is telling you it’s horrible to color your hair. I don’t understand why you are so angry & furious over the comments here. Do what you want to do as we will too. When I used to dye my hair it was a pain to do. You will see too, that most of the time the silver does not take the dye & pretty soon you will have to touch up in less than 3 weeks the more you get. Have a nice weekend everybody. Happy Halloween!

December 11, 2010 at 4:47 pm
(17) greygal says:

Wow, joanna, tell us how you really feel. Is it THAT important to you what other women do with their hair? I personally, am in the process of growing out my color while my hair is short, and then growing it long, just to be ‘different’ from the norm. Also, because I think it looks feminine (for me, I don’t choose what’s right for others), and I DESERVE my grey hair, I earned every strand. I think this society gives maturity (and all things that signify it) a bad name….and no respect. I’m 56, by the way.

September 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm
(18) JoVon says:

I’m 48 and going grey. I am not coloring my hair and I have a beveled cut similar to Victoria Beckham’s. My hair is naturally wavy and works better short. My hair stylist has said that people pay big bucks to get the color my hair is because the grey is a silver color and evenly mixed with it being a bit lighter around my face. I am brunette by the way with some reddish copper color mixed in. I’m not going to color my hair and if the mood strikes, I may grow it back out like it was a couple of years ago. I’m not going to follow the so called “rules” just because I’m over 40.

May 10, 2012 at 11:34 pm
(19) Nan says:

I have had long hair almost my whole life. Now my coal black hair is white. My husband says I am beautiful. My WOMEN FRIENDS USED TO SAY i SHOULD CUT. Now most people ssy keep long hair.

May 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm
(20) Tess says:

My silver hair is growing in just beautifully, I get many admiring glances from men, and from women, who seem to envy my courage,,,,, at letting it grow in naturally. I had dark chestnut hair, and it is growing in a gorgeous silver……I LOVE IT!!! anyone who spews out that it looks ugly, is either a frustrated hairstylist, or just jealous. I plan on growing out my mane….my glory. Until the very end!!! I am beautiful and I know it!

November 10, 2012 at 1:04 am
(21) Susan says:

Joanna sounds defensive. I have let my hair go grey for years now, I’m 62. My hairdresser is a fabulous hairdresser who trained at Vidal Sassoon’s in London during the 70s, and is the best cutter in this city. He repeatedly tells me to leave the colour alone, as it is gorgeous. I have it about shoulder length, longer seems to be too heavy. My hair has always been a sort of ash-chestnut brown, and now it’s still fairly dark, but silver around the sides, and front.

My sister is 7 years older than I am, and when I’m around her, which isn’t often, she hassles me to dye my hair. Hers is almost black, dyed, and I’m sure it must be pure white. If we’re together, of course it bugs her because she’s dyeing hers, and she’s older than I am. Kinda funny, really.

You’d be better off focusing on good nutrition, cut the crap out of your diet, stay in shape and lose weight. It doesn’t matter what you do to your hair, it’s not going to cover up overweight and poor health. Get healthy, then your grey will look good.

November 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm
(22) Sylvia says:

I just turned 50 and I have short hair. I have grown my hair out several times throughout my life, but I just have one of those faces that looks better exposed with a little pixie! Now, my HAIR is beautiful long. It is full, and thick and wavy……..but it doesn’t suit my face. We ladies should wear our hair the length and the color that we love!!

February 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm
(23) Terri says:

Natural color hair is always healthier than colored. No matter what type of grey hair you have coming, it’s all about the proper cut and using quality products. Any color wether it’s natural or not can be unflattering if you don’t take care of it or don’t get a cut that suits your face. There is no need for anyone to get defensive about anyone’s post’s about this topic on here. It’s to each their own what they want to do with their locks. This is just merely an expression board to talk about how you feel with what genetics has given you for your crowning glory. Wear as you like and always remember that confidence with the right cut is where it is at!

March 13, 2013 at 9:11 am
(24) Janna Walters says:

My sister told me I should let my hair grow, and I am 55. She is 63 with longer hair and it looks lovely on her! So glad you posted about aging and longer hair. It is hard being in the middle of the growth stage of my hair, but I know it will be worth it. It should be a ‘myth’ that we need to cut our hair ‘when we get older.’ Older means nothing. We are not old until we say we are!!!

June 3, 2013 at 8:43 pm
(25) Mel says:

I will be 69 this year. I have lovely thick, naturally wavy/curly hair that I have never colored. It has greyed with a beautiful salt and pepper pattern of light and dark streaks. At this stage of my life, I am letting it grow long and I love it. I have received many compliments on it but recently an acquaintance told me that I’m too old for “a hairstyle like a teenager.” I am laughing because her hair is very short, blond from a bottle and looks like a badly made wig. I feel that a woman who takes good care of her hair at any age can wear any style that she desires. I love the freedom to do as I please that comes with my advancing maturity. Who knows, I may not ever cut my hair.

March 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm
(26) kbwales@rogers.com says:

im a young 54, jeans & Tshirts are my thing. After having short styles for many years my hair is now just past my shoulders, its wavy & in long layers. I have not coloured it for 17 months now. The new growth is I guess salt & pepper, medium brown with silver threads & silver at the temples. But… what can be done to the old hair (the length) it has old colour thats gone to different tones & has faded.
Please help.

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