A Hair Makeover at Any Age
Before: Leigh Torretta, 26
“My whole life I’ve had one hairstyle,” says Leigh, an advertising account manager at Real Simple. Partly, this was because her fine strands seemed to do only one thing: hang straight. “I have a hard time doing anything with it”—curls won’t hold for more than half an hour, she says. But, she adds, she wasn’t doing much to help the situation: “I’ve been the same blond for years.” In other words, she was stuck in a rut. (Her T-shirt by Splendid.)
After: Leigh Torretta
Fighting Mother Nature was ill-advised in this case, decided the team from Cutler/Redken. Instead, stylist Heather Packer lopped off just enough to give a lift to Leigh’s locks and to offset the fullness in her face. She layered only the ends of the resulting long bob to give the hair some swing, while colorist Shannon Foreman swapped out Leigh’s somewhat brash blond for a softer honey hue. “This cut frames my face better,” says Leigh, who adds, “I feel younger, more fun.”
Best for: Pear-shaped faces; straight hair with fine texture.
Styling tip: To get hair that’s sleek but not flat, use Fekkai Coiff Bouffant Lifting and Texturizing Spray Gel ($25; drugstore.com), concentrating it at the roots to give hair body, and blow-dry with a flat brush. Spray on a bit of Cutler Specialist Shine Tattoo ($23, beautyofasite.com) to make hair extra glossy.
Before: Julia Reed, 27
“I’ve always had issues with my hair,” says Julia, an executive recruiter, who despairs that her basic-brown strands fall flat no matter how she styles them or what products she uses. “I’d be happy to spend 20 to 30 minutes every morning to make my hair look fuller.” But Julia doesn’t want to sacrifice length for more body: She often has to be at work by 7:30 a.m. and likes that she can just put her hair up in a ponytail and run out the door. (Her T-shirt by Splendid.)
After: Julia Reed
Julia’s strong features needed some balance, which stylist Dean Holcombe achieved by creating a long shag—the tousled layers helped to soften her long, angled jaw and her Roman nose. The cut also created the fullness she craved—just a bit of spray wax kept the layers piece-y without weighing them down—while chunky toffee highlights, applied by colorist Paola Veron, lent even more dimension to the edgy style. “And I can still wear it in a ponytail,” she says of the new look, which she describes as “really cute and fun.”
Best for: Diamond-shaped faces; fine to medium hair with straight to wavy texture.
Styling tip: Wrapping hair around a large round brush while blow-drying it will add body. When hair is 80 percent dry, work in a bit of Redken Tousle Whip ($18, amazon.com) cream wax for texture and separation.
Before: Colleen Wheelahan, 27
Colleen is drawn to shorter cuts—she thinks Ginnifer Goodwin’s crop looks incredible—but she found her current style too aging. “I’m the first one of my friends to have kids,” says the church music director and mother of a 2-year-old boy, “so I already feel older than they are without the Mom hair!” (Her T-shirt by Lilla P.)
After: Colleen Wheelahan
Stylist Rodney Cutler, owner of the Cutler/Redken Salons, agreed that Colleen’s hair lacked sophistication—and with her gamine features offering “so much potential,” why not go for it? After cropping her style into a modern-day Jean Seberg do, he had colorist Paola Veron transform Colleen into a platinum blond. The verdict? “I like the pixie-ness” says Colleen, though she admits the bold color has taken some getting used to. But since her roots will grow out in no time, she can easily go back to her natural brown if she likes while keeping the chic cut.
Best for: Heart-shaped faces; straight, thick hair.
Styling tip: For a tousled look, allow hair to air-dry, then work in Cutler Hair Care Specialist Fly-Away Control Stick ($23, dermstore.com), a wax-based balm that adds shine and separation, and muss top layers with your fingers.
Before: Kathy McHugh, 41
Kathy, a busy mother of three, dyes her graying hair a uniform brown but otherwise doesn’t fuss much with it. “I wouldn’t know what to do with half the products out there,” she says. And while she acknowledges “it’s time to do something different” with her long, minimally styled locks, “I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard,” she says. “Just give me something that suits my face and lifestyle.” (Her T-shirt by American Apparel.)
After: Kathy McHugh
“I love the color!” Kathy says of the shade—a warmer but still deep brunette—that colorist Summer Parham created for her. The new hue, along with the tumbled layers and sweeping bangs cut by stylist James Feng, makes her look years younger. “Her hair was just a long, dark curtain that didn’t flatter her,” says Cutler (indeed, her ends had been dyed so often they were black). And while he used a curling iron for this look, she can wash it and go, too. “It dries so fast!” Kathy enthuses.
Best for: Long faces; straight, wavy, or curly hair with medium to coarse texture.
Styling tip: To get smooth layers, spray Redken Layer Lift 07 Length-Elevating Spray Gel ($20, amazon.com) on damp hair for volume and blow-dry using a round brush. For a more tousled look, wrap hair loosely in sections around a medium-barrel curling iron.
Before: Tara Amaral, 49
Tara is a mom of three and a vice-president at a payroll services company, so she wanted “a style that’s easy to take care of and age-appropriate. I don’t think I should have the haircut my [teen] daughter does.” But with little time to style her thick, heavy hair, Tara didn’t always look polished, she admits. She hoped to step it up with a still-low-maintenance update and maybe tweak the color she uses to hide her gray, too. (Her T-shirt by American Apparel.)
After: Tara Amaral
Stylist Emma Heser cut Tara’s hair into a chin-length bob with just enough layers to add movement and make her thick locks manageable. By adding width at the sides, she took the emphasis off Tara’s strong chin. As for her new hue, colorist Carly Missico chose a warm brown shade to highlight Tara’s peaches-and-cream complexion. “I’m so happy,” Tara says of the results. “I can wash it and leave it wet, and it still looks great. I love that I don’t have to work so hard!”
Best for: Square faces; thick, straight to wavy hair.
Styling tip: To create fullness at the crown and sides, apply TIGI Bed Head Superstar Queen for a Day Thickening Spray ($17.50, amazon.com) to hair and blow-dry, using a medium round brush to lift hair at the roots and flick out hair at the sides.
Before: Giunia Gatta, 40
As an adjunct professor of political theory at Columbia University, “I don’t have to be overly formal at my job,” says Giunia, who gets a cut a few times a year and blow-dries the result for “a couple of minutes” every other day. Still, she wishes her hair weren’t so frizzy and thinning—which is why she doesn’t grow it long. Though she likes to mask her grays, she finds endless trips to the salon “a big expense and time commitment.” (Her T-shirt by American Apparel.)
After: Giunia Gatta
To open up Giunia’s eyes and show off her bone structure, stylist Dean Holcombe gave her a messy, short cut with volume at the crown and sides—which also makes her hair look fuller and more dynamic. “It looks less matronly,” says Cutler. Her new coppery auburn shade, courtesy of colorist Christy Marino, plays up her skin tone without changing her color so drastically that she’d be a slave to the salon. “I never would have thought of going red,” says Giunia. “But I like it. My son told me, ‘Your hair has never looked so pretty!’ ”
Best for: Round faces; straight to wavy hair with fine to medium texture.
Styling tip: Give a beautifully layered cut definition by applying Bumble and Bumble Sumowax ($26, bumbleandbumble.com) and blow-drying while using your free hand to “kick out” pieces around the face.
Before: Cathy Pasquale, 60
A onetime beauty-college student who now goes on archaeological digs in places like Ecuador for fun, Cathy, a retired preschool teacher, has tried it all when it comes to her hair (even an Afro). And while she thinks her current bob suits her stick-straight, superfine locks, she figured her style could use a little shake-up. “I am what I am and I recognize my limitations. Raphael waves? I don’t think that’s gonna happen!” she says with a laugh. “But I’m getting bored.” (Her T-shirt by American Apparel.)
After: Cathy Pasquale
Even a small change can make a world of difference. In Cathy’s case, trimming a fraction of an inch from the bottom of her A-line bob and working in a few graduated layers “softened her square jaw,” says Cutler, who gave Cathy her cut. Shawn, a colorist at the salon, applied large swaths of rich highlights that “bring lightness to her eyes,” Cutler says. The best part? With the easy cut and color, maintenance will be a cinch. “Everyone’s raving about it,” Cathy says of her new look. “It definitely stays!”
Best for: Square faces; straight hair with fine to medium texture.
Styling tip: Give straight hair a smooth finish by applying Redken Sheer Straight Straightening Gel ($15.50, ulta.com) while damp, then blow-drying with a flat brush. Finish by flat-ironing the ends.
Before: Judy Capel, 64
A volunteer for a nonprofit, Judy admits, “I hate going to the salon. I really have so little patience for it.” Which is one reason she chose to color her graying hair an ashy blond—allowing her to let the roots grow out (and more or less blend in) for a few extra weeks. But the downside was that the blah shade tended to wash her out. And while she wanted to keep the length, she knew her style could use a refresh. (Her T-shirt by Splendid.)
After: Judy Capel
After snipping off just enough to remove the dry ends, stylist Dean Holcome cut in layers to make Judy’s hair seem less lank, then added bangs to draw attention to her eyes. But the biggest change came when colorist Roxy applied a vibrant, reddish-brown shade. “It brings a glow to her skin,” Cutler says. While Judy is still adapting to the new hue, she’s thrilled with the cut, pronouncing it “bouncy and young—my hair was too weighed down before.”
Best for: Oval faces; medium to coarse hair with wavy to curly texture.
Styling tip: Enhance curls and minimize frizz by using fingers to comb a small amount of Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious Calming Creme ($28, bumbleandbumble.com) through damp hair, starting underneath and moving from roots to ends. Use hands to gently scrunch hair while blow-drying, and finish by wrapping sections loosely around a one-inch-barrel curling iron.
Before: Lorraine Adler, 60
Lorraine was saddled with an awkward cut—heavy and blobby with layers that looked like wings—that did nothing to help her coarse hair’s tendency to frizz. The overly dark shade she used to hide her gray wasn’t doing her any favors, either. “I’d like to go more natural and try something more feminine,” says the social worker. “But I don’t know how to transform myself. What’s an older woman supposed to look like?” (Her T-shirt by American Apparel.)
After: Lorraine Adler
Cutler saw that Lorraine’s hair “needed a much stronger shape,” so he had stylist Kelsey Osterman cut it into a graduated bob that tapers in back, with brow-grazing bangs and layers on top to add height. Colorist Dallace Walsh then lightened the hair, using a chestnut base with tone-on-tone caramel highlights. Says Lorraine, “It’s the perfect cut for my hair texture—I just push it into place.”
Best for: Oblong faces; medium to coarse hair with straight to wavy texture.
Styling tip: Combat frizziness with a combination of product and blow-drying technique. Work a small amount of Fekkai Advanced Silky Straight Ironless Straightening Balm ($25, drugstore.com) through damp hair, then blow-dry, wrapping hair around a flat paddle brush one section at a time, moving across the scalp as you dry.