Last August, Patti Smeed, a retired nurse from Tennessee, took to Twitter to show off her new hair colour—cobalt and violet streaked through her white hair. “I am 74 years young and had this done to my hair today. I love it!” she wrote. Her selfies have since racked up more than 362,000 likes, and her Twitter thread was flooded with women over 50 sharing photos of their own dye jobs, ranging from red to fuchsia to arctic blue. “I’m glad I could be an inspiration,” says Smeed, who never expected her tweet to strike such a chord. While she certainly isn’t the first person her age to dye so boldly, her post proved that your options don’t have to narrow as you get older. Some women, like Smeed, are just now seeing themselves in a whole new light.
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“Years ago, people would go, ‘Oh, that lady with the pink hair is crazy.’ But now it’s fashionable,” says Michael Matula, owner of New York’s legendary Mudhoney Salon, which caters to clients of all ages looking for something a little radical. (Punk icon Debbie Harry has been a client for 30 years.) Aura Friedman, the colourist behind this feature—and known for her portfolio of Rainbow Brite–like hair transformations—feels excited about what she’s witnessing. “All of these women are so liberated—they have conviction in who they are and what they love,” she says. If you’re ready to get more adventurous with color, there are a couple of rules: Wash your hair less frequently, using the gentlest formula you can find. Friedman’s favorite is R+Co Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner ($32). Also, use a hair mask, since strands tend to be coarser with age (especially if they’re gray). Friedman loves K18 Biometric Hairscience Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask ($75), which boosts shine and softness. And the most important part? Wear it with confidence. “You don’t have to wait until you’re 85 to try something new,” she says.
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“Going lilac took me back to one of the most outrageous times in my youth, when I was in L.A. in a punk band. I can step out of my comfort zone.”
—Judith Ann Warren, 67—
“Colourful hair will make you feel a little braver and more adventurous. One of the things about aging in our country? You feel invisible. I don’t feel invisible.”
—Roberta Haze, 84—
“There’s a confidence that comes with age. I got it after I retired. You can’t be worried about what other people are thinking about you.”
—Irene Coyazo, 72—
Photographs by: Coliena Rentmeester
Styling by: Deborah Afshani
Hair Colour: Aura Friedman for Sally Hershberger
Hair: Roberto Di Cuia for Redken
Makeup: Laura Stiassni for Estée Lauder
Production: Nathalie at Kranky Produktions
Casting: Cast Partner.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.