6 Biases Against Women’s Hair
As women, we put up with a lot of opinions about our hair, and this (often) unsolicited advice only increases as we age. We all know that age bias exists, and our hair is no exception. There's ageism in hair care, in advertising and in much of the media we consume.
So many "shoulds" are piled onto women, especially after 40: We should wear certain hairstyles "appropriate" for middle-aged women, we should cover our grays and we should chop off longer locks—and many of these have permeated the workplace as well.
If there's no one drowning out the judgment, this can feel overwhelming!
At Better Not Younger, we get it. Our company was founded specifically to push back on the belief that there's no market for quality, aging hair-care products. Newsflash: Women don't simply disappear after we hit menopause!
We compiled a list of past and present hair biases, including aging hair-care biases, that women have been hearing for far too long, plus our take on these false, outdated myths!
1. Women Shouldn’t Dye Their Hair
In 1956, legendary copywriter Shirley Polykoff coined two famous lines in her effort to pitch Clairol's at-home hair dye to skeptical consumers: "Does she … or doesn’t she" and "Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure." Polykoff was marketing to women who had reservations about hair color, as the topic of a woman coloring her hair as a self-care measure was still considered taboo. Coloring your hair was stigmatized as something done only by stage performers or street walkers, so for everyday women, hair coloring didn’t take place, and on the occasion it did, it happened in secrecy.
The point of the slogan was to change women’s perception of hair color and to give consumers the confidence that Clairol's new line of at-home hair dyes looked so natural that no one would suspect the color wasn’t her own! So now, if you were a middle-aged woman seeking a new hair color, or looking to cover your grays, you could have at it! Polykoff's campaign was a hit, and it helped banish the stigma of dying your hair.
Regardless of where and how you color your aging hair, we say do what makes you happiest! Ignore what society wants. If you're turning 60 soon and want a bright, vibrant color, have at it!
2. Women Shouldn’t Show Their Grays
Fast-forward several decades later and not coloring our tresses became taboo, too! Coloring our hair can truly feel like a darned if we do, darned if we don't proposition. If we color our hair too brightly or color it too often, there's a stigma. But if we embrace our gorgeous grays? Look out!
Once more for those in the back: Gray hair is natural, and gray hair is beautiful! Aging and hair color don't go hand in hand. A middle-aged woman doesn’t need a new hair color simply because she’s starting to see some grays. There's no reason to color aging hair if you don't want to!
Today more women than ever are transitioning to their natural gray hair and redefining what going gray actually means—and much of this can be attributed to the global pandemic. “COVID brought the silver revolution,” says Sonsoles Gonzalez, founder and CEO of Better Not Younger. “Many women stopped coloring during lockdown and decided to ditch dyes all together saying, screw it, I’m wearing my unpigmented hair with pride and feel just as beautiful.”
So if you want to bid farewell to hair dye, we say go for it! To keep your silver hair bright and shiny, we recommend a sulfate-free purple shampoo like our Silver Lining Purple Brightening Shampoo for Grey & White Hair. It contains D&C Violet 2 to prevent brassiness on lighter locks and keep your true hair color looking its best!
Pro tip: For a more uniform look while your roots grow out, try asking your stylist to add "gray blending" highlights. This helps eliminate the stark contrast between colors as you transition to your natural shade.
3. Long Hair Isn't for Women of a Certain Age
This myth has overstayed its welcome because age does not determine which hairstyles we're allowed to rock! Similar to the ageism in fashion that women in midlife have faced, society has tried to set rules around beauty and hairstyles. But we’re here to set the record straight: Aging hair doesn't have to be chopped short. In fact, Better Not Younger has played a role in breaking this bias.
“My favorite bias that we’ve helped to break is that older women should not wear their hair long,” says Gonzalez. “To hell with all that! If you want to shave your head, dye your hair pink, show your natural curls or go gray, go for it. Do whatever makes you happy—there’s no age barrier to choosing how you want to look!”
When wearing long hair after menopause, it's important to pay attention to your aging hair's texture. As we age, our hair often gets drier, so ensuring your locks are moisturized becomes more important than ever. Using a hydrating shampoo and conditioner along with an occasional deep conditioning treatment will help keep your tresses ultra-hydrated and healthy.
To target dry, damaged hair, we love our moisturizing Second Chance Repairing Duo, infused with argan and rice bran oil and a proprietary vitamin blend to nourish and repair dry, damaged hair. And for a weekly boost of moisture, try our plant oil-infused Hair Redemption Restorative Butter Masque in place of your regular conditioner!
4. Hair Color as a Personality Test
When we hear women mention that they don't know if they can "pull off" a particular color, sometimes this is rooted in knowledge about color theory and their skin's unique undertones. And that's okay!
But other times it's rooted in the stereotypes that society has for different hair colors. Redheads are fiery and hot-tempered. Blondes are flaky. And brunettes are serious and smart.
If you think a particular hair color might not be the most flattering for your aging hair, fair enough! But please don't let baseless ideas about hair color and personality keep you from rocking any hair color you want!
5. The Double Standard for Thinning Hair
A common hair complaint during and after menopause is thinning hair. Even though there is more visibility and conversation around hair loss for women than ever before, it still carries more stigma than it does for men—but we’re making progress there. And thanks to brands like Better Not Younger, there are more aging hair-care solutions today for women who deal with alopecia.
Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp and active hair follicles. To nourish the scalp and wake up lazy follicles, we swear by our Superpower Fortifying Hair & Scalp Serum. An essential step in any aging hair-care routine, our Superpower Serum is designed to rebalance the scalp's natural oils and activate follicles to strengthen hair. In fact, 4 out of 5 women said they noticed less hair fall after just 8 weeks of use!
Pro tip: An excellent hairstyle tip for middle-aged women who are experiencing hair loss is to add a zigzag part! (Don't worry—the zigzag doesn't need to be noticeable!)
Part your hair as you normally do, using a fine-tipped parting comb. Then go back and retrace the part, moving from one side of the part to the other, picking up a few strands of hair from each side. Envision how stylists do highlights and just pick up a few strands for each foil. That's what you want to do here. The result will be the same part looking much more filled-in, with less scalp exposure!
6. Curly Hair Should Be Straightened
Girls with curls often have a love-hate relationship with their curly hair. But it’s hard not to wonder if our “grass is always greener on the other side of the hair texture” mentality is rooted in years of bias against naturally curly hair or simply the temperamental tendencies of curls and the styling challenges they often bring. It could be a little bit of both!
Wearing natural curls has long had social and cultural implications—especially in the workplace. Hairstyles that weren’t sleek and straight suggested unprofessionalism or a lack of dedication, and were perceived as a less “put together” look—particularly in more conservative industries like finance. Just think about it: How many times have we tamed our curly strands before a big interview?
And for many women, naturally curly hair isn’t just hair—it’s tied up in our identity. So why should we ever tell a woman to tame her tresses?
There’s also the problematic question for the ages: Which hair type is most attractive? What do people prefer?
Answer: It doesn't matter.
What’s important is we learn to embrace our hair—and if a keratin treatment or perm is what helps us get to a place of self-love and acceptance for our hair, then we have those options to explore, too! With the help of aging hair care, we can do our best to enhance our natural hair by using the right shampoo and conditioner for our hair type. And there’s nothing like the magic of a leave-in spray that’s designed to tackle your biggest hair concerns:
- For curls: Fight frizz and get defined, sleek spirals with a leave-in curl smoothing treatment. Our License to Curl: Curl Revival Boost Spray helps revive curls between washes and offers up to 24 hours of definition and frizz control when used as part of our 3-step curly hair regimen!
- For straight hair: It's all about volume! Because straight strands can often fall flat, we love our Lift Me Up Hair Thickener spray for a lightweight, non-greasy option that adds a major boost of volume! It wraps around strands to make your hair appear instantly fuller, and it contains skin-nourishing ceramides to support a healthy scalp!
Tell us: Have you personally dealt with hair biases or ageism in hair care? Share your experience with us in the comments below!
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Better Not Younger is hitting stop on poor representation and ageism in hair care. Aging hair is gorgeous and should be celebrated, not ignored. We have all the products you need for your aging hair-care arsenal, no matter your specific aging hair texture and issues.