- Maria, 51, an interior designer from Somerset was given an anti-ageing haircut
- The results can be so effective that they appear as good as a facelift
- Statistics reveal demand for cosmetic procedures fell by 39 per cent last year
As is the way with the best cosmetic work, Maria Matthews’s friends couldn’t quite put their finger on what she’d had done.
The 51-year-old’s wrinkles appeared to have been gently smoothed away, her cheekbones were more pronounced and her face looked slimmer. Her jawline seemed firmer, her skin plumper and creamier and her eyes were now sparkling.
But Maria hadn’t been under the surgeon’s knife, or succumbed to Botox injections, fillers or an extreme skin treatment.
Maria Matthews, 51, pictured before (left) and after (right) the haircut. The 51-year-old’s wrinkles appeared to have been gently smoothed away, her cheekbones were more pronounced and her face looked slimmer
Instead, the secret behind her stunning transformation was something altogether more prosaic — a visit to a hair salon.
Maria, an interior designer from Somerset who has a son, aged 12, was given a new breed of anti-ageing haircut. The results can be so effective that they appear as good as a facelift.
And though they are usually more expensive than a standard cut and colour, they are far cheaper than surgery. And without the health risks of invasive operations, which require a general anaesthetic and significant recovery time.
So are women swapping surgery for the hair stylist’s scissors?
Last week, statistics released by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons revealed demand for cosmetic procedures fell by 39 per cent last year.
There were 30,750 procedures, down from 51,140 in 2015, with a 71 per cent drop in brow lifts, a 53 per cent reduction in face and neck lifts and a 38 per cent drop in eyelid surgeries.
Highlights to hide crows’ feet
Esher Gaul, 43, pictured (left) before and (right) after, loves the new haircut. She said: ‘My face looks lifted and the hair frames it beautifully’
Esher Gaul, 43, a nursery nurse, lives in London and has three children. She says:
‘I’d never have anything like Botox or fillers because I just think they look peculiar, and everyone looks the same.
‘But I’ve noticed the odd line on my forehead and a few crows’ feet round my eyes.
‘I couldn’t see how a haircut might make a difference, but I love it. The new colour is so flattering — I felt it made my eyes stand out more — and my children all commented on this. My face looks lifted and the hair frames it beautifully. Most importantly it’s low-maintenance and fits into my routine.’
Fie Karayannis, senior colourist at Jo Hansford, says: ‘Unfortunately Esher’s existing chunky highlights had the effect of dragging her face down so she was a good candidate for contourage.
‘We painted highlights onto her hair, with lighter tones around the face to brighten facial features, helping them seem lifted.
‘The mixture of light and dark tones adds depth and dimension, making hair appear more voluminous and youthful — fine hair looks older.
‘Esher had a few layers put around her face to help work with the contourage and give a lifting appearance.’
From £155, johansford.com
This is being interpreted as evidence that attitudes to ageing are changing.
Instead of trying to halt nature in its tracks with brutal — and often obvious — surgical intervention, women are looking for subtler ways to cheat the ageing process, says celebrity facialist Joanne Evans.
‘The ideal of beauty — in particular how we age — has become softer,’ she says. ‘We’re turning our backs on frozen features.’
Women over 50 recently overtook their younger counterparts as the biggest buyers of beauty products in Britain, a phenomenon said to be inspired by companies employing natural-looking beauty ambassadors such as Helen Mirren and Charlotte Rampling.
As the focus shifts from cosmetic surgery, hair salons are bridging the gap with effective new techniques to turn back the clock.
Undeniably, the hair care market in Britain is booming.
Thickening cut to fill out my face
Pam Lloyd George, in her early 60s, pictured before (left) and after (right) the haircut. She was sceptical that it would make a difference, but said the cut made her jaw look firmer and her hair thicker
Pam Lloyd George is in her early 60s and works for a lettings website. She lives in Hungerford, Berkshire, with her husband David. They have two grown-up children. She says:
‘I’d never considered that a haircut could erase the years. My hair has never been my crowning glory and I felt my style didn’t flatter my face.
‘I was sceptical that it would make any difference, but the cut has made my jaw look firmer and my hair thicker.
‘I’m not convinced I look any younger, though — and I’m not keen on the feel of the extensions. Jamie Stevens, owner at Jamie Stevens, says: ‘Pam’s face is very striking, with high cheekbones and expressive eyes, yet it’s let down by her hair; it was ageing her.
‘We put a lovely rich brown tone all the way through, to make her skin look warmer as well — a little highlighting can lift the look of the face.
‘Rather than colour her fringe, I cut it then put in tape (hair glued to strips of tape) extensions. They add colour and volume, and last up to four months.’
From £115, jamiestevenshair.com
A recent survey by L’Oreal suggests that almost 16 million UK women coloured their hair in the last year and a report claims the average women spends around £30,000 on her hair in a lifetime. The older generation seems particularly willing to invest time and money in salon visits and products.
And the older you are, the more frequently you’re prepared to visit: 15 per cent of women aged 65 and over have re-styled their hair four or more times compared to nine per cent of 16 to 24-year-old women.
While high-end, ‘celebrity’ salons such as that of leading hair colour expert Jo Hansford (who has tended the locks of the Duchess of Cornwall, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie) and Richard Ward (whose clients include the Duchess of Cambridge, Miranda Richardson and Jodie Kidd) are inevitably at the vanguard of new techniques, they soon filter to High Streets nationwide.
Bob that’s given me a jawline
Nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche, 42, pictured before (left) and after (right) the haircut. She said it made her jaw look accentuated and her face more symmetrical
Nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche, 42, lives in Marlow, Bucks, with her husband, Werner, 45, and two children, aged 12 and 9. She says:
‘In my 20s I had a round face. As I’ve aged the plumpness has disappeared and in some ways I prefer it, but the wrinkles are annoying — especially the frown line in my forehead, which I notice when looking in my rear-view mirror. What a difference this cut makes. My jaw is accentuated and my face appears more symmetrical.’
Premlee Ramasamy, senior stylist at Daniel Hersheson says: ‘I see shoulder-length hair on many women over 40.
‘Jenny is very pretty, but her thick hair is in a bit of a block and the dark shade is also draining the colour from her face, which has an ageing effect.
‘I’ve cut her hair to just below her collar bone so it sits across her shoulders, and given it invisible layers — a clever way of chopping within the hair rather than on the outside so that it moves with a swish. It helps lift her face and defines her jaw.’
Jo Hansford believes good hair has the power to bestow youth, while bad hair can be more ageing than wrinkles. She has developed a new anti-ageing colouring technique called ‘contourage’ which uses strategically placed highlights to give the illusion of a lifted jawline and more pronounced cheekbones.
‘We devised contourage partly as a lifting technique,’ explains Jo. ‘As we age, the face loses muscle tone and droops. Positioning highlights at the jaw and the cheekbones makes them look higher and more defined.’
Over the years, either women fill out and their faces become rounder or they start to look gaunt. Either way, hair can make an enormous difference. ‘Much of what we do is about restoring balance,’ explains Jo. ‘Often this means a thinner face will benefit from a cut with plenty of volume at the sides — to give an illusion of youthful plumpness.’
In terms of colour, because skin tone fades with age, we need to change tints accordingly.
Soft perm to take years off
Louise Asekokai, 42, a charity family support officer pictured before (left) and after (right) her haircut. She loves the way her new hair frames her face at the jaw and thinks it makes her look younger
Louise Asekokai, 42, is a charity family support officer. She lives in Faversham, Kent, with her surveyor husband Daniel, 39, and their two teenage children. She says:
‘After having the children I lost a lot of weight and it has stayed off my face, which I think makes me look older.
‘I didn’t think a haircut could make such a difference — I’d had the same, shoulder length “do” for years.
‘I love how my new hair frames my face at my jaw. It makes me look younger and the extra body has the effect of giving my face volume, too.’ Tom Cruickshank, senior colourist at Neville Hair and Beauty, and Cristian Pignatta, senior stylist, say: ‘We used a soft perm to create fullness from root to tip. This gives a younger look, which is reflected in the face, as it mimics the volume that we lose with age.
‘The most important factor is the face. Louise has a petite face, so we took her hair shorter to lift her features. A textured bob gives natural volume.’
Perm, £150; cut with Cristian, £160, nevillehairandbeauty.net
Subtler colours can help minimise the impact of wrinkles, as the overall effect is more soft-focus, while very light or dark hair colours have the opposite effect. Over time, hair can also more easily be tweaked and updated than any cosmetic work.
Richard Ward, whose team was responsible for the £195 cut and £175 tints and highlight of Maria (richardward.com), says: ‘We’ve seen an increase in older women in the salon.
‘There are many anti-ageing techniques we can use depending on what a client wants, from lifting the face or elongating the neck to defining cheekbones.
‘One of the things older women often struggle with is not having enough volume; graduated haircuts can create the illusion of volume and thickness, which are typical of younger women’s hair, but this doesn’t necessarily mean having to go short.’
Crucially, hair needs to be healthy. Not only do hair shafts thin with age, but many women experience thinning hair, too.
‘There are plenty of things you can do to combat thinning hair,’ points out Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley.
‘A balanced diet is vital, with plenty of protein and iron. Yoga, Pilates and mindfulness can help reduce stress, which is known to raise testosterone levels,’ she adds. ‘If you have hair follicles which are already sensitive to this hormone, it can worsen the condition.’
Certainly, hair plays a vital role in how old — or young — we are perceived to be.
It not only frames the face, it’s the feature people are most likely to notice first and go on to remember afterwards.
‘As well as hair being intrinsic to perception of health and fertility — which stretches back to primitive times — it’s vital to our self-esteem and feelings of attractiveness,’ says behavioural expert and author of You Can Be Younger, Marisa Peer.
‘Young looking hair — by which we mean healthy, strong and shiny — makes the whole person look younger, so wrinkles are less apparent.’
So how effective is it? Take a look at the women above, who road-tested anti-ageing hair techniques available at some of the UK’s top salons, and see what you think.