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Aging Gracefully: Beauty Standards and Double Standards

Age-defying.
Anti-aging.
Turn back the hands of time.
Look 10 years younger.

If you’re a woman, you’re probably familiar with these terms. And they probably sound appealing to you, given the emphasis our society puts on the importance of women looking as young as possible.

As a hairstylist, I frequently have women in my styling chair who are dealing with their feelings about aging.

I hear things like “Am I too old for this cut?” or “I can’t pull off purple highlights-I’m too old” or “I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard”

Every single one of these statements makes me sad. And then angry.

Not at the women asking them, but at the society that has conditioned women to believe that at a certain age particular hairstyles are no longer an option for them.

This conditioning is total and utter nonsense. And it extends way beyond hairstyles into hair color, makeup, and fashion. The entire beauty industry is full of ridiculous double standards and expectations.

It is my opinion, professional and personal, that the idea of aging gracefully is a bunch of malarky wrapped in a pretty bow.

“Graceful” is a beautiful word. It evokes pleasant images, full of poise and loveliness, elegance and beauty. But it relies on the outside view. I may sound hypocritical since I work in the beauty industry. And to be perfectly honest, I am a total makeup junkie. No joke, my lipstick collection is impressive, numbering in the 30’s and climbing.

No apologies here, I freaking love makeup. But that is MY CHOICE. I am not staying away from my forest green lipstick because I’m in my mid 40’s. I do not wear fun makeup because I want to look “age appropriate”, I wear it because it is fun and I enjoy it.

I want women to base their fashion on their own desires.

One of the biggest double standards in our society in relation to aging has to do with gray hair.

How often do we hear that men look more distinguished with gray hair, Anderson Cooper is a Silver Fox, salt and pepper hair looks sexy on men? A lot. We hear it a lot. Meanwhile, the vast majority of my color clients are there to cover their gray. We constantly hear that gray hair ages us, and women genuinely freak out when they discover their first silver strand. Some of us try to claim them as badges of honor, but society still tells us we are old, and by extension, no longer attractive or valuable. That is messed up, y’all.

Instead of trying to defy your age, OWN IT.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not here to tell you not to color your gray hair. A large part of my livelihood depends on it!

But what I AM saying is that you should only do it if it makes YOU HAPPY. Not because you think you are supposed to. If you have been coloring your hair for years and you are just done with it, by all means, let it go. I have helped several clients (and am currently helping clients) accept their gray by gradually phasing into it. Depending on the client, this can take a few months up to a year. But I love watching them come to the realization that their hair color does not define them, it is an extension of them.

As for myself, I will probably have a purple mohawk when I’m 85, because I simply adore changing my hair color and style.

Do you want to color your hair? Do it.
Do you love embracing those silver strands of wisdom? Do it.
Does that crop top make you feel sexy and powerful? Wear it.
Are you super happy to embrace the drawstring waistband? Wear it.

Rock that bright red lipstick.
Rock that wash and go ponytail.
Proudly proclaim your age instead of apologizing for it.

I’ll be the grandma in the combat boots, pink highlights, Ramones shirt and fuschia lipstick.

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