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9 Updo Hairstyles for Women Over 40 That Work for Any Occasion, Plus DIY Steps From Celebrity Hairstylists

From topknots to braids, pompadours and half up 'dos there's a style for every hair length and texture

You probably haven’t given much thought to updo hairstyles — from buns and top knots to chignons and twists — since, well, maybe the last wedding you attended or red carpet you watched during award season. And who could forget all the updos from formal dances like homecoming and prom? Now, that’s a throwback! Updo hairstyles aren’t just for teenagers, brides and celebrities, though. They’re incredibly practical hairstyles that can be used for everything from work to play. They can be subtle and super easy to execute or intricate in order to dial up the drama. They can channel old Hollywood glamor or look modern and minimal. You just have to find the right updo for your hair — and the occasion.

“An updo is an amazing way to show your personal style without saying much,” says celebrity stylist Sophie Rose Gutterman. “You can add accessories to the hair, or braid and twist the hair to create a different texture, or you can throw it up in a messy bun, creating a simple look. An updo can be all of those things.”

Even better? You don’t have to be a pro stylist or sit in the salon chair for hours to create the perfect updo hairstyle. Here, you’ll learn all about the benefits of updos, get some inspiration from the stars’ different styles and hear all the best tricks for creating gorgeous, long-lasting updos at home. 

The benefits of updo hairstyles

back of updo hairstyle
Andreas Kuehn/Getty

Updos sometimes get a bad rap for being too stuffy or fussy, but today’s versions run the gamut. Sure, they’re always going to seem a little fancy because they require a bit more effort than just wearing your hair down and letting it be beyond brushing. But that doesn’t mean you have to look like you’re on your way to a gala — unless you want to. “An updo hairstyle often creates an elegant and sophisticated look,” says celebrity stylist Danielle Priano. “It can range from formal and polished to relaxed and casual, depending on the style and execution.” Updos come in plenty of shapes and forms, and that’s just the beginning of their benefits, according to the pros.

1. Updo hairstyles versatile

Updos can work for so many different types and textures of hair; you just need long enough strands to be able to secure them in an “up” position. “They’re for any occasion, from casual to formal,” says Priano. She adds that they complement a variety of different outfits and accessories. They’re also easy to transition from day to night with the right accents, like clips, barrettes, headbands and bows.

Related: 7 Wedding Guest Hairstyles for Women Over 50 + the Easy Steps It Takes To Create Them

2. Updo hairstyles comfortable

Sometimes, styling your hair just comes down to practicality, and updos get an extra stamp of approval for how easy and breezy they can be, literally, for the wearer. “Updos keep the hair out of the face and off the neck, which can be more comfortable in warm weather,” says Priano.

3. Updo hairstyles have staying power

Ever notice that an updo can survive a hot day, long party and sometimes can even be intact after sleeping overnight? That’s because hair that’s pinned up tends to stay put and is less vulnerable to frizz-causing humidity. “Updos often last longer than other hairstyles, especially with proper products and techniques,” says Priano. Gutterman agrees: “My favorite thing about an updo is that you don’t have to think about your hair falling flat from dancing too much or the weather ruining your hair,” she says. “You set it, and most of the time you’re good to go for the night.”

4. Updo hairstyles are style extenders

Unlike bouncy or sleek blowouts, where clean hair is the best canvas, dirty hair can actually be an advantage for certain updo styles. “You can also make day 4 or 5 hair look really good, which saves you time in the morning,” says Gutterman.

5. Updo hairstyles are flattering

When your hair is styled “down,” it can obscure part of your face, whether that’s your high cheekbones, sparkling eyes, or pretty smile. But with an updo, your hair is typically pulled up and back, meaning your face is on full display. “Updos will accentuate and highlight facial features,” says Priano.

6. Updo hairstyles can be heatless

Though updos can call for clean, blown out hair — or a curling wand or flat iron to style — many don’t require any hot tools at all, especially if you’re doing one on a few day’s old hair. “The benefits of having an updo are you don’t have to add as much heat to the hair,” says Gutterman.  

Related: Heatless Curls For Short Hair — 4 Ways To Get The Bounce Without The Burn

How to pick the most flattering updo hairstyles for you

side view of updo on mature woman
jacoblund/Getty

When choosing a type of updo, both Gutterman and Priano like to ask about the look and feel their clients are going after — and they suggest you do the same. “When putting the hair up, consider the outfit and event you’re attending,” says Gutterman. “Never should you consider age because these styles are classic and timeless no matter who wears them.”

In general, the tighter and more intricate the updo, the more dramatic and dressier it’s going to look. “A loose, messy bun can be perfect for a relaxed, everyday look, while a sleek chignon (low bun) is ideal for more formal events,” says Priano. That said, the right accessories can elevate even the plainest updos. For example, a French twist secured with a claw clip can be an easy updo for a day of errands, but if you add a bejeweled clip or glitzy pins in the evening, this style instantly becomes party-ready.

You might choose to try braiding or fishtailing the hair to add more visual interest and dimension to it. These styles are beautiful but aren’t always simple to do, especially on yourself. Hone in on what works for your hair’s length and texture with minimal time and effort, if these factors are important for you for getting out the door. Curly and braided updos are just as easy to pull off as straight and sleek styles. You can leave a few strands of hair out to frame your face, and bangs look great with updos, too, whether they’re wispy and styled to the side or cut blunt across the forehead.

Tips for creating updo hairstyles

When creating an updo hairstyle, prep is important for structure and holding power. And the type of updo you’re trying to achieve affects the prep. Most updos can be divided into two main categories that essentially describe the end look: sleek or messy. And they all typically start with either a ponytail (or some variant of a ponytail) that’s wrapped, looped, rolled or twisted around itself then pinned up. Of course, you can leave out a few tendrils next to your face, fancy it up with an accessory, wear your hair straight or curly in the updo or bring in a braid for extra texture — but each of these scenarios still requires you to decide whether you want to go sleek or messy with your approach as the foundation. For any given day, make your choice, and then follow Priano’s pro tips.

How to create a sleek and tight updo:

The best prep here starts with a spritz of heat protectant or blowout spray on clean hair before drying it smooth. Priano likes to follow that up with a few passes of a straightener for extra shine and sleekness. Then brush your hair back tightly, secure it with an elastic and wrap the hair into a bun, chignon or French twist. “Use bobby pins to secure and ensure no fly-aways,” says Priano. Finally, seal the style with hairspray and/or finishing spray. Priano, who is an ambassador for SexyHair, likes SexyHair Big Spray and Play Harder hairspray. That’s because you want something with more hold here, since the style is meant to be tighter.

Related: Pros Share How To Brush Hair To Prevent Breakage and Boost Hair Growth + the Best Brushes To Use

To create hold and texture for a messy updo:

Day-old hair or hair that’s a few days out from washing is ideal for a more undone look, but you can also use a texturizing spray on clean, dry hair to add what Priano calls grip. “Tease the hair at the crown for volume,” she says. “Loosely gather hair [into a bun, chignon or twist] and secure it with bobby pins, allowing some strands to fall naturally for a relaxed look.” You don’t have to go as heavy-duty with your hold here. “Use a light-hold hairspray; for that I LOVE the SexyHair Healthy So Touchable to maintain the style without making it stiff,” says Priano.

Gutterman has a few favorite products for each of these types of updos as well. “My favorite product for my textured updos is Unite Texturiza,” she says. “Using this all over will help the foundation of the style. It is a workable spray that is also buildable.” For sleeker styles, she favors a lighter gel to get that glassy look up top. “Right now, I’m loving the High Definition Gel by All About Curls,” says Gutterman, who consults with the brand. “This gel doesn’t flake and never leaves a flaky finish.”

Related: Hairstylist Secrets for How to Add Volume to Thin, Fine Hair So It Looks Instantly Thicker

The best updo hairstyles for women over 40

Looking for a little style inspiration? These celebs each put their own spin on the classic updo. From everyday wear to formal events, check out these looks that are easy to copy.

1. Beautiful banged bun

Gemma Chan updo hairstyles
Daniele Venturelli / Contributor
Gemma Chan
Mike Marsland/Getty

Gemma Chan’s look above proves blunt bangs are a perfect match for a messy bun. For a similar style, make your bun at the crown of your head, so part of it is just peeking out from the top — this placement gives you just enough height to elegantly elongate your neck.

2. Textured topknot

Jennifer Lopez hair at Met Gala 2024
Dimitrios Kambouris / Staff / Getty

Jennifer Lopez’s messy top knot at this year’s Met Gala is the perfect look for everyday or a dressier occasion. Want a similar style? Try finger combing your hair back before putting it into a high ponytail — this will make the updo’s foundation look less stiff. Then, tease or back-comb the pony for texture and then make your knot by wrapping the ponytail around the base loosely and securing it with an elastic or bobby pins. Carefully pull a few pieces around your hairline out and gently back-comb them to mimic the look of J.Lo’s fine baby hairs.

For a visual, follow this easy how-to by YouTuber Nichole Ciotti.

Related: 10 Easy Topknot Hair Styles for Women Over 50 That Make Thin Hair Look Thick

3. Loose and lovely roll

Kate Hudson with an updo hairstyle
John Shearer/Getty
Kate Hudson with an updo
John Shearer/Getty

A modern way to frame your face is leaving out slightly larger pieces out of your updo, which Kate Hudson did here. They give a style a more laidback look and the tendrils visually soften any fine lines or wrinkles. For just a touch of movement, add a little bit of bend to each face-skimming section with a large barrel curling iron.

4. Eye-catching Dutch braid

Regina King dutch braid
Paul Archuleta / Stringer / Getty

Crown your updo with a romantic milkmaid style braid, just as Regina King did above. You can go Dutch style with your braids, using a reverse technique, or try a French braid for a more traditional look. The braid beautifully frames facial features and adds playful pizzazz to a simple updo.

Follow this dutch braid guide by hairstylist and YouTuber Mindy McKnight.

Related: 10 Easy Braids for Thin Hair That Make Hair Look Thicker Instantly

5. Pretty pompadour

Maye Musk with a pompadour, one of the most flattering updo hairstyles
Taylor Hill/Getty

Have short hair that’s fine or thin and texture and want to create the look of an updo? A pompadour style, like the one Maye Musk has above, can help you fake thickness and body. Plus, it sweeps strands up and off of the face. To create, apply your choice of volumizing product to damp hair then blow it out with a round brush, focusing on creating height at the front and top of your head. Then, leave those areas out but twist the sides up and back, securing them with pins. Don’t be afraid to tease for a little height, and use a paste or pomade to lock your pompadour in place.

Check out the below pompadour tutorial from ghd‘s YouTube channel.

Relate: Hairstylists’ Easy Secrets to a Salon-Worthy Blowout at Home

6. Chic chignon

Allison Janney hair
Steve Granitz / Contributor / Getty
Allison Janney with an updo haistyle
Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Allison Janney’s style here features a flirty side swept bangs, which lends itself to a low, side-swept chignon. But you don’t need bangs to recreate something similar to this look. After blowing out your hair so it’s super smooth, part it on your desired side and then pull it back into a low ponytail at the nape of your neck. Twist the hair into a bun and secure with pins. So simple!

Watch the below video from Kenra Professional‘s YouTube channel to see these steps in action.

Related: 13 Best Haircuts for Thin Hair That Make Hair Look Fuller From Every Angle

7. Bow-tied bun

Nicole Kidman with an updo hairstyle
Steve Granitz/Getty
Nicole Kidman updo with bow
Frazer Harrison / Staff / Getty

Bows are on-trend and Nicole Kidman shows how easy it is to incorporate one into a updo. And it adds a feminine touch to a hairstyle that also gives thinner strands more depth and dimension. All you need is a coquettish accessory like this to elevate your style from day to night. One we like: A New Day Satin Bow Hair Barrette.

8. Braided bun

Sarah Jessica Parker braided bun
Michael Loccisano / Staff / Getty

You don’t have to be an advanced braider to copy Sarah Jessica Parker’s beautiful braided bun shown above. Just follow Priano’s steps from above for prepping a sleek updo. And then simply braid your ponytail, and wrap that around the base for this layered look; pin into place.

9. Half up, half down knot

Julianne Moore hair
Mireya Acierto / Contributor / Getty

Julianne Moore above rocks a “hun,” or a half-up, half-down top knot. This style is ideal for day-to-day or more causal events as it has a polished yet carefree feel to it. To create a similar look: Take a section of hair at the crown of your head and pull that back into a mini bun. Leave the rest of your hair out and down your back.


See more hair tips and tricks:

Menopause Hair Care: What Works Best for Women Over 50, According to Hair Pros

How to Style Thinning Hair So It Looks Twice as Thick — 9 Tricks You’ll Wonder How You Lived Without!

Why Women Over 50 Love the French Bob Haircut Trend: How It Adds Volume to Thin Hair

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