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Mom Hair Styles: Advice

By Amalah

This may very well be the most important Advice Smackdown column I have ever written.
Because it’s all about me. And my hair.
I need you to tell me what to do with it.
See, after months and months of procrastination, I finally made an appointment for highlights AND a haircut. The appointment is tomorrow, and people, I’m getting that dangerous desire for “something different.” I’m bored — beyond bored — of my hair. It’s long and layered, natural dirty blond with blond highlights, and…blah. Bored.
But you know what happens when you just wander into the salon and start asking for something different without specifics? Other than a vague desire for “shorter, wash-and-wear, you know, easy“?
So tell me. What should I do? Short? Short-short? Shoulder-length? Keep as-is? Grow out? Less layers? More? Bangs?
I’m thinking bangs. Or some kind of side-sweppy thing? (Look at that fivehead! Am blind!) God, I always end up hating bangs.
(Just for the record, I snapped these photos [with a cameraphone, yikes] last night while getting ready for dinner out with a girlfriend, so these are by no means an accurate representation of what my hair looks like on a regular basis. This is washed and hot-rollered and all product-ed up. This is about as good as it gets, which obviously isn’t saying much.)
And then there’s the color question. My hair usually gets really, REALLY blond in the summer, but this year? Not so much. I duller than dishwater.
Should I try going like, platinum? Or keep it natural? Oooh, what about red? Should I try some red?
Help. Tell me what I should do, or God knows I’ll leave the salon looking like the unholy lovechild of June Cleaver and Britney Spears.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Secha

    July 20, 2007 at 10:42 am

    I say keep it long. Long suits you.
    But I like the red idea!
    And bangs… I tried ’em once (I have a huge forehead), and where as it broke up the forehead, and it looked OK… hated ’em. When I wanted to pull my hair back, it just sucked.
    Maybe try growing out the layers?

  • tiaisha

    July 20, 2007 at 10:47 am

    I agree, keep it long. You have unbelievable hair. I’d go with a color change. Red(ish) would compliment you I think. Or you do a drastic change to brunette?

  • Tone

    July 20, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I agree with the two above comments…I think the long hair really suits you. I would even consider letting it grow a little longer. But a strawberry blond color would be gorgeous! I also think a drastic color change would add a lovely drama to your hair.

  • Marnie

    July 20, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Love the red idea – maybe strawberry? I do like the long hair on you, but just to be different, what about a bob? But, not just a regular mom-bob – more like an angled-forward bob. Then you can really play with product, making it bigger, flatter, more angled, pink, whatever. And totally agree about the bangs – I have a pretty high forehead, but have given up on the bangs. Too many days of fighting cow-licks and bangs plastered to my forehead. Have fun!

  • Alli

    July 20, 2007 at 11:28 am

    On bangs… I had them chopped a couple of months ago. And they are cute. Cute in pictures, cute in the mirror, and oh dear heavens annoying! I mean, really, how often do I have my picture taken. It can’t be worth this annoying in-my-eyes crap! But… then I see the pictures, and they make my face look softer, instantly more “done” with sideswept bangs, and pretty. I like pretty. So I got one cute-ish headband and one of those Goody elastic headbands and I wear those when they’re driving me crazy at home. I just had them trimmed again. So apparently I’m keeping them for a while.

  • BridehoodRevisited

    July 20, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I think you need to play with that clairol hair site thing where you can try different hair on your head. And I vote for shoulder length. It will always grow out and you’ll at least have a taste of something different. Also check

  • Madz Jones

    July 20, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I used to be blond and then I went crazy red. Mainly due to the fact that I was in that funny mood just before a hair appointment one day and I say go for the dramatic change!
    Also? Side sweepy bangs (hee hee I’m British, so that sounds weird – it’s a fringe goddammit) would look awesome on you. Keep that longer so you can tuck behind your ear, esp when tied up.
    If you went brunette, go a lovely deep chestnut colour – would look gorgeous!
    Looking forward to seeing the results!! 🙂

  • Geeky Girl

    July 20, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I love the strawberry blonde idea! Just becareful about going go too dark because red doesn’t wash out, it grows out. Even if you put really dark brown over it, it’ll have a red tint. (lesson learned). Then again I’m kind of a red addict and even after spending like 4 hours in the salon getting it stripped re-colored and treated I’m thinking about going back to it. (lesson ignored).

  • new rustic

    July 20, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Hands down – totally The Most Important Column Ever! I have taken into consideration the gravity of this advice and I think you should go shorter! Your long hair is beautiful (and oh-so-handy for technique demonstrations) but I really think you could pull off a short Victoria Beckham. Did you see her TV show? I don’t normally like short hair but at the risk of embarrassing myself I thought it was “major”. Go blonder, edgier. You’re a rockstar!

  • ikate

    July 20, 2007 at 11:44 am

    “washed and hot-rollered and all product-ed up” – OMG! mom or not a mom, who wants to deal with that if the end product does not make you happy?
    I say short (as in above the shoulder, below the ear), red-ish with platinum highlights. I did that coloring once and LOOOOOVED it and so did everyone else. But, I am way to lazy to have kept it up beyond a few months. Punk up the coloring a bit and the cut could never be considerd “mom”.

  • ikate

    July 20, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Oh and I also totally agree with new rustic about super-short a’la Posh Spice. That would rock on you, too. Plus, give your hair to locks of love and you will feel a bit better about the cut even if it takes you a few days to get used to it (I just chopped of 11 inches of hair and gave it away – and I am so happy with my new ‘do)

  • Stephanie

    July 20, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I have a rather large forehead and I think the bangs work for me. It’s kind of annoying b/c I actually have to “do” my hair in the morning now, but really “doing” my hair just involves me wrapping my bangs around a giant round brush and blasting the hairdryer on them for a couple seconds so they don’t lie flat and stringy, and I can deal with it. It did take me a month or so to train my bangs to actually go across my forehead though, which was very annoying. During that time I had to spend a lot more time on them in the morning. The only thing that bothers me now is that I got them cut in the fall where somewhat thick, sideswept bangs worked, but now that it is summer I needed to thin them out… which means growing out about half of them, which involves ponytails and clips. But it’s summer, so I’d be using ponytails and clips anyway. (There are some recent pics on my site that are from before the thinning-out process began to demonstrate what I mean by “longish” bangs. I know it’s not a very descriptive term because that’s what I said when I first got them done and my “bangs” were down to the end of my nose, which was MUCH longer than I wanted.)
    Um, yeah… I guess in keeping with your theme, I turned this into all about me too. I guess my point is, longish sideswept bangs look good on girls with high foreheads, but depending on your hair may take some real work (and time) initially. Plus, it isn’t necessarily ideal in the summer. And I seem to remember you saying you didn’t like dealing with bangs a while back, but you looked cute with them from what I remember of old photos. But, as a plus side, it makes you look “done” with relatively little effort and clips can be cute for those days you just don’t want to deal.
    As far as color, I can’t imagine you going too much darker than you are now, but certainly not platinum either. Maybe just a brighter, non-dishwashery version of your current shade?

  • MrsHaley

    July 20, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    I’m with the “shorter” contingent. All the girls whose hair I like wear it short … The “Rapunzel” tends to look juvenile (ponytail) and messy if you don’t product / blow dry / hot roller it every other day. Who has time for that? We are not runway models, you know? Ponytails are easy, but I see “more” for you, Amalah. Whack it off. Hair grows.
    As for color, I’m gonna say STAY WAY FROM RED. Unless you’re going whole-head pumpkin, strawberry blonde is THE HARDEST color to duplicate artificially. You will end up with peach colored hair. DON’T DO IT. I would say go dark-dark (Maybe chestnut/auburn with blonde highlights?) because a light brown over already processed blonde turns that weird greenish-beige over the highlights. I know you’ve seen it on others. Not a good look.
    Plus I think if you go shorter, you can rock out with a super-different color and it won’t be quite so shocking. What ikate said.
    Be brave! Do something way different! It’s just hair!

  • Dashrashi

    July 20, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I’d go with a shorter, angled bob, maybe a little choppier at the bottom, with a very long sideswept bang. For color, I think some caramel-y lowlights would add drama and contrast.
    Of course, I’m living vicariously through your awesome straight hair; my hair will never accept a bob or a long sideswept bang. But you should totally work with your natural texture and coloring.

  • jen

    July 20, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    my vote – you are petite with very delicate features, so I think you’d be able to pull off shorter hair. I’m not a fan of the Posh bob because I think your fine, wavy hair would look prettier with some soft layers/texture instead of the severe thing she has going on. I also love the idea of strawberry blond color with your brown eyes and a paler complexion – very fresh and pretty. dark brown might wash you out?
    so to sum up – maybe a shorter length (shoulders?) + some color with layers and oh yeah, I definitely vote for some sideswept bangs. would suit your face shape well.
    just my two cents.

  • Isabel

    July 20, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Oh, this is fun!!
    I just got the best cut I’ve had in years.
    I got good layers and some “long bangs”. I have had a love/hate relationship with bangs for years. But these longs ones are awesome. I can tuck them (if I pull my hair back) but they still help me with my 6-head issues.
    Oh, and red highlights are always fun. But not just red…we’re talking RED RED!

  • Mary Watkins

    July 20, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    You have beautiful hair but I can understand the itching for a change. I’d do a lot of serious contemplating before making a major color switch – it could be fun but it could also be a lot of maintenance and if you decide you hate the new color it can be difficult (and expensive) getting back to your roots (heh). Personally, I think you’d look adorable with the long layery bob that Nicole Richie used to have, side-swept bangs included. So chic and not a mom cut at all.
    Good luck – can’t wait to read about the results!

  • Jamie

    July 20, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Be VERY careful with the red. My hair is a similar shade, perhaps a bit darker, and I did red hilights once. They were rockin’ and fun and great…… for a week. Then they faded to a lovely hot pink (and yes, I use a color protecting shampoo and they were good hilights), and eventually faded out entirely. Red is tricky on us blondes.
    I’d go shorter (around shoulders) with kicky layers. I’m not a fan of the bangs, because I have the same fine, lank hair and they never, ever look good for more than 5min. Lowlights are fun, too- I think they give my hair nice depth.

  • the ass editor

    July 20, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Amy, I read all of your sites every single day but am lazy and shy and never ever comment. However, I’m going to delurk for this since the topic is so important and I’m afraid your other commentors might not give you the tough love I feel morally obligated to deliver (my morals being dictated by the sacred values of makeup and hair).
    I consider myself much more of a make-up maven than hair pro and have lots of problems with my own hair, so please take this advice with many, many grains of salt…but. Knowing that you use expensive, professional hair products and even go to the extra effort of using hair rollers (equipment beyhond a blow dryer is way too advanced for me), I have to say that the final result as shown in these pictures does not reflect the money, time, and effort you put into it. You deserve better and I agree that it’s time for a style change. I think LONG side-swept bangs would look great on you, but they might be annoying in the summer heat. This time of year I’d suggest chopping off a good deal of the length to add some volume and style drama. The long hair looks pretty in the back but too blah in the front. And your forehead does look a bit over exposed in this photo, although I can’t say I’ve noticed it in other pics. I’m thinking shoulder length and layered with the shortest layer being almost a sidesweep bang…something too short to fit in a ponytail but long enough that it won’t fall in your eyes constantly. And I think you could definitely use a color boost as well, either blonde or red would probably look great on you. With your brown eyes I bet even a honey brown with highlights would work and be a really exciting change. Whatever you go wtih, I think the priority should just be a rich, more defined color that contrasts more with your skin color than the dirty blonde does.
    Whew. I said it. I’ve tried a lot of the products you’ve recommended and your demo has transformed my ponytail technique, so I wanted to return the favor. Don’t hate me! I adore you!

  • Notsogirly

    July 20, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    I just hacked mine off from mid-back to above shoulders. I say do it. It feels so good in the summer. I got a side-parted, layered bob with “wispy” ends. It flips up a bit on the ends if I don’t flat-iron it, but it looks pretty summery and cute that way. If I do straighten it a bit then it looks pretty sophisticated. And it still goes up in a (teeny-tiny) ponytail or back in a barrette.
    My hair is thicker than yours, but has about the same amount of wave. So…just a suggestion!

  • Dapbim

    July 20, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    I really like Katie Homes current ‘do, as it looks relatively easy to style, and yet still funky. Don’t know how it would suit you though, I’m rubbish at picturing things like that.

  • psumommy

    July 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Oooh….I’d go with a short bob that’s stacked in the back and angled down toward your face (maybe even as short as to your chin)- you have the pefect face/head shape for a cut like that! And straight hair…I’d LOVE a cut like that, but I look like a poodle when I try it!
    As for color…if you want to go nuts, I’d say some hue of red or brown, ask for a demi-color or something that washes out if you hate it (and if you *love* it you can go back and have it done permanently!).
    that’s just my opinion, though! Because you also look just beautiful the way you are, and I’d love to have your hair!

  • Rachel

    July 20, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Hi! I have mair that is a tad darker than yours naturally, more of a light brown (maybe the way yours is without highlights?). The most fun thing I have ever done with my hair is dye it dark brownish red (I bought in a picture of Angelina Jolie’s hair from Mr. and Mrs. Smith). We have similar fair complexions and the dark color made my skin look radiant! I was afraid of being washed out but the darker color did the opposite.
    In conclusion, I think you would look amazing with dark hair and you can totally rock the short hair. I think a bob with long side-swept bangs (maybe long enough that they just look like your hair is layered in front…does that make sense?) would look lovely. Everyone has really fun suggestions!
    I can’t wait to see what you decide to do!

  • Rachel

    July 20, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    actually I don’t have “mair,” I have HAIR.

  • AmyM

    July 20, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I love the length of your hair now, so I’m not much help in that department!
    But, I’m going to agree with The Red Highlights!
    My hair is dark brown, so I go with a deep copperish color highlights. And OMG I LOVE THEM! I never thought I’d like red in my hair but I LOVE IT! You will probably want to go with a little different shade of red. But…red does fade quicker than everything else. My highlights go from the beautiful deep copper to a brownish-red color. It doesn’t look bad when it fades, but it’s not nearly as awesome as when I first get it done.
    Good luck!

  • jodifur

    July 20, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    I think you would look adorable with a bob! And not at all mom haircutty.

  • kdw

    July 20, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    i agree with the ass editor (hee hee) that all your effort doesn’t yield that big of a payoff. in these pictures, your hair is kind of flat to your actual head, but volumey on the ends, and i think you need more overall volume/height at the crown & around your face.
    what could be really cute: an above-the-shoulder razor cut with longish layers and some chipping (which is a cutting technique that creates volume. the stylist will hold a chunk of hair straight up and take her scissors and make tiny cuts into the underside of it near the roots–the idea is that the shorter pieces make the longer parts fluff out from your head more, especially when you blowdry). also, i think using a razor on the ends would make the cut more ‘shredded’ instead of momish. plus, if you really do have some natural wave, i think a shorter cut would bring it out more. you could easily do your beachy scrunching technique on a shorter style with even better results. as for bangs, as others have said, a few face-framing layers (long bangs) might work better, especially if you scrunch for curl.
    color is more difficult to assess…i think honey-blonde with lowlights would be lovely with your eyes. can’t wait to see how things turn out!

  • Beeeee

    July 20, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    So here’s my $0.02….you probably want something funky, but not crazy like – so for color, I would keep it blond on the top, but do something different on the bottom – like a really rich brown or maybe a reddish-brown…on the underside of your hair.
    But keep the blond on top, since you’re a blond at heart and all. Maybe mixing it up with a few highlights/lowlights in the blond. Oh, and I would keep it longer and do some long side swept layers in the front – in lieu of bangs 🙂
    Good Luck! Can’t wait to see pics!

  • Kimmy

    July 20, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    I have had red hair for yeaarrrrs and years.
    My only word of warning is that most hair does not hold red well. Meaning, you’ll have this brilliant colour for the first week… but after only a few washes, it will have faded out a lot. Often to a very undesirable tone.
    I’m super lucky, I have tons and tons of hair… which sucks up the red dye and holds it. BUT even I still get the fade-out, albeit more slowly than most; it’s taken my stylist about a year of trying different formulas to get a shade of red that looks good right away but also turns into a colour that doesn’t look like a mistake.
    (Plus, I get my hair done every 7 weeks to the day. Yikes!)
    If you are going red (which I do adore and advocate for), I would suggest starting with hilights. You’ll see what colour those babies turn after a few washes and it will give you a better idea of which way to go.
    Oh! Also… my advice for women of our age range… stay far away from any burgundy or purpley tones. Cute on a 20 year old. Ridiculous on a 30 year old. (Trust me. Been there. Bad scene.) Stay on the auburn/orangey side of the scale.
    As for the cut… I think you could easily do the Nicole Richie bangs… and I love the idea of a sheared bob sort of thing on you. A longer version of Victoria Beckham’s hair. THAT is hot! I think you could pull that off. Plus it looks relatively low maintenance.
    Can’t wait for the pictures!

  • leahkay

    July 20, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Two things:
    1. Beware ye of the red. It seems to be the color that goes horribly awry most often.
    2. I have never had bangs that were low-maintenance.

  • Erin

    July 20, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Red doesn’t work very well in dishwater blonde hair. At least not a relatively natural looking read. I have similar color hair to you, as well as texture, it appears, and any attempt at strawberry blonde looks fake and fades very quickly.
    I know it is Nicole Richie of last year, but I think something like this would look fabulous on you.

  • BaltimoreGal

    July 20, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    OK, so here’s my piece.
    1. If you have a stylist you REALLY trust- get their opinion. VERY important- especially when it comes to color. Mine convinced me that red would be bad for me- something others have since confirmed.
    2- Longish sideswept bangs are an excellent idea, whether you go long or short. I once had a stylist for a wedding refer to my forehead as “alien-like” so I can relate to the fivehead deal. When I’ve had the longish sideswept bangs that I can tuck behind my ear or pin back when needed, fine. Any shorter- annoying.
    3- The long vs. short thing- I had long hair for years, then grew it out to almost my waist & cut it off for Locks of Love (see pics link at bottom)- it was fun! Since mine grows fast, I figured, what the heck! A big consideration with shorter hair is if you have a longer neck. Longer necks work no mater if your hair is long or short. I may have no chin, but I do have a long neck. Also, I’ve noticed that most people who can carry off really long hair can carry off short hair.
    I say go for it- cut it off and have some fun- then grow it back!

  • wilddreemer

    July 20, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    No short NO RED! I vote keep it long with layers cuz its hot. maybe even put some dark low lights in it or something!

  • wilddreemer

    July 20, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    oh yeah GO BANGS!

  • wilddreemer

    July 20, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    oh yeah GO BANGS! Also, I like Jenny Mccarthys color and cut right now, its a bob, but all straight and choppy, you guys have the same face I think it might be kinda cute on you. BUT NO RED!

  • TasterSpoon

    July 20, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I think it’s really pretty in back, with the layers. But I do always envy people with trendy, choppy do’s. I could never be cool enough to carry one off. You would.
    I agree with the brunette votes – a la Mandy Moore. I’m picturing a dark, warm brown, by trying to imagine that the shadowed hair around your face is its actual color. Really pretty, and would make your brown eyes pop.
    I think color also beefs up your hair a little.
    What if you tried 1-week temporary color to try it out?

  • Kathryn

    July 20, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    I was SO going to suggest red! You have the type of fair skin that would be able to pull it off. I do worry about dyed red hair, but I think a professional job on blond hair would work beautifully.
    I have a hair problem for you, and in fact, I emailed you about it back before you cleared out the Smackdown archives, and just was too lazy to email it to you again. I have short hair currently (crazy short, like shorter than my husband’s), and I flirt with the idea of growing it out like once a week. I have currently committed to it (my husband says I won’t do it, so now I kind of have to), but I’m already bored with it. Any ideas for interim cuts/style ideas? I’ve been using headbands, but they give me a bouffant and a headache.

  • Danell

    July 20, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    I vote for one similar to this because it looks like something fun and different for you, yet something that would be easy for your hair to do, so it wouldn’t be a disaster to maintain:

  • Cari

    July 20, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    I think you should go a little shorter, too. I’m liking Katie Holmes’s new length or the pic of Nicole Richie linked to above. (Anything between your ears and collarbones would be fantastic.) With sweepy bangs, of course. Also, maybe a little darker. Us pale-faced girls can pull off something in a chestnut or maybe an auburn, if you like the red idea.
    I can’t wait to see what you decide to do!

  • *Otter *

    July 21, 2007 at 7:26 am

    I’m a pale-ish dirty dishwater blonde with highlights and a fivehead too and I can say with absolute certainty…I have no idea what to do with this shit.
    Bangs…no. You’ll stab yourself in the eye with a fork later.
    Color…Not to suggest that you go pink again, but when you did go pink, it really drew attention to your pretty face. So, red, maybe? If you hate it, you can have it stripped and they are much more gentle with that these days (I went dark gothy brown a couple of years ago and had to have professional help to get out of it, but my hair came through really well.)
    And on the brown front…for me, it was aging. It made me look even paler than I already did and on the days with little sleep, I looked about a million years old.
    Good luck–I hope you find something smashing (that I can totally steal).


    July 21, 2007 at 10:00 am

    I’m with Otter; I, too, have similar hair, fine, blonde, lifeless, mine is about shoulder length and I don’t know what to do with it either. I actually do wear bangs – they are my security blanket what with the fivehead and all. And? They drive me insane. I mean on days when they behave and go where they’re supposed to, I LOVE them, but those days are few and far between and generally require copious amounts of hairspray, so, yuck. I just went in for a haircut this week and was seriously considering doing something dramatic but decided otherwise. I wore my hair super short thoughout my 20’s which made me look much more mature at a point when I needed to be taken more seriously but now that I’m in my 30’s I like the softness longer hair lends to my wrinkles and tired eyes. 🙂 Although I do covet VB’s hair and would do it in a heartbeat if I could get past the fear.
    Like Otter I would recommend steering clear of going too dark, not that I’ve colored mine but I have played around with wigs and didn’t like how much paler it made my fair skin in contrast. It seemed to age me.
    Anyway, I’m really no help, best of luck to you – can’t wait to see the ‘after’ pics!