We all know that it’s what’s on the inside that really defines a person. But in the real world, your external appearance, including your hair, can do a lot to affect your success in life. Hair care and styling can be a factor that may affect your ability to get a job, get a promotion or a raise, or succeed in the dating world and other personal relationships.
"We have many decades of research that physical attractiveness -- including hair -- does affect how others perceive you, and the opportunities that are created," says Carla Lundblade, MS, a clinical therapist in Beverly Hills and a sports and celebrity counselor. "For example, studies have shown that attractive men earn an average of 5% more than unattractive men. And attractive women are also presented with a wider range of opportunities in their careers and personal lives."
So what kind of message are you sending to the world with the appearance and style of your hair? While a stylish haircut and color may not be what gets you that job or that raise, it may be true that the opposite -- an unkempt or uncared-for look -- could make a recruiter think twice about hiring you. And in today’s economy, you don’t want to let any negatives drag you down, so your hair is important!
"Hair and appearance are part of a total package for anyone looking to move forward in their career or in life, and should be considered as something you’d improve just like your resume," says Lundblade. "This doesn’t mean looking like somebody else -- it means looking like the best 'you' you can be."
Finding Your Best You
So how do you find that best you and bring it out with your hairstyle? Rowena Yeager, who owns Salon Wish in Streetsboro, Ohio, and serves on the Salon and Spa Council of the Professional Beauty Association, says it’s about finding something about you that’s striking and beautiful, and then using your hairstyle to highlight it.
"Some people focus on hiding flaws, but to me, it’s more important to find where the beauty is than to look for flaws to correct or conceal," she says.
Do you have high, strong cheekbones? A great smile? Large, captivating eyes? "Your stylist should try to enhance your best feature through your color and haircut," Yeager says. For example, if your cheekbones are your best feature, consider styling your hair so that layers brush gently in toward the face at cheekbone level.
Maintain to Gain
No matter what style your hair is, make sure that it’s well kept and cared for. "If you have color, make sure that you don’t have a regrowth line, for example," says Yeager. "If you have dramatic, straight, Bette Page-style bangs, you need to take particular care of your eyebrows, since they’ll draw attention there. You want to project that you care about yourself and care about the position you’re applying for, or the people that you’re meeting."
Consult a Professional
You should work with a stylist to find the length and shape of cut and hairstyle that best suit you, says George Gonzalez, owner of George -- The Salon in Chicago and a former freelance stylist for many of Oprah Winfrey’s celebrity guests. In other words, the night before you have dinner with your future in-laws or go in to meet with your boss about a promotion is not the time for do-it-yourself haircuts or hair color.
"Ideally, you want to have a haircut that creates an oval face shape," Gonzalez explains. "If you have a round face, you’ll want a more square haircut, while if you have a long or rectangular face shape, you may want interior layers that break up and create a bit of width around the cheekbones, and bangs to shorten up the face shape."
There’s no one 'perfect' style for any person or event, Gonzalez says. "For some hair, the texture means that it looks better when it’s longer, and with other people, they have such fine hair that when it’s too short, it has no shape."
Keep It Simple
Many people planning for a big day try for a big hair change, says Scott Buchanan, owner of the Scott J Salons and Spas in New York City and vice president of the Professional Beauty Association Salon and Spa Council. But sometimes, less is more.
"Don’t be drastic with your hair," he says. "If you have a big date or a big job interview the next day, don’t go into the salon with long brown hair and come out a double-processed blonde with highlights and short hair. You want to boost your sense of self and sense of security with your appearance for a high-stakes situation, and if you don’t feel like yourself, the way you’re perceived will be off."
But while you shouldn’t make huge changes in your hair, a new cut or style or freshened hair color can make all the difference in your confidence level. "When your hair looks good, you feel good. Anything fresh makes you feel fresh and confident," says Buchanan. "It very much affects your mood. When you feel more put together, you act more put together, and that definitely has an effect on how people perceive you."