The reason: Deb Amsler, 55, has worn her hair pulled back in a ponytail for as long as her daughter, Denise Duckson, can remember. Duckson is, ahem, 36. That's why she brought her mother in for a makeover. "I thought about buying [Hopkins'] book, but I didn't want to offend her," she said, figuring a day at a salon would soften any hurt feelings.

She needn't have worried. Amsler, of Stacy, Minn., was game from the get-go, although quietly so. Primping takes a hit when you rise at 4 a.m. for work. She's closing in on 30 years working for Honeywell, installing components in circuit boards. "I was in soldering school last week," she said.

The new look: Her husband likes her long hair, but it had to go. Snip, snip and two 6-inch ponytails were on the table. "She has small features, so when the hair gets big, it overwhelms her," Hopkins said. Her locks also were lightened with tones that were more buttery and honeyed. Hair colors with tasty associations have the most appeal, Hopkins said. "No one wants taupe hair."

Her bangs were cut shorter, their edges softened into slimming diagonals to better blend and not "split" at the part. The texture of her hair proved a challenge because it was smooth on top, but had some curl beneath. Hopkins evened out the texture with a paddle straightener and bent the ends with a curling iron. Always, he worked the hair up from the roots, finally doing some quick back-combing on top to give it some lift.

Brown eye shadow seemed too dramatic at first, but Hopkins believes that brown really is the only color anyone needs. The trick is finding the right shade and to blend well. Amsler's hooded lids receded under a neutral chocolate shade. Again, brows received careful attention, which also opened her eyes.

Mascara provided the finishing touch. As with all the other makeup, the key was to keep from being timid. "Lashes, lashes, lashes, lashes," was the chant.

The reaction: Amsler, who'd sat almost silently through the afternoon, finally relaxed and beamed. "I'm very happy," she said, giving her daughter a long hug.

Her husband had said they needn't rush home -- he had no idea what they'd been up to -- but she insisted. "At first, he looked at me and said, 'Oh, my,' but he loves it. My youngest daughter stared and stared at me until I said, 'What?' She said, 'Mom, I've never seen you in short hair.' ''

At work, people wondered who the new person was.

A weekend later, "I'm pleased that I'm still excited about it," she said. She bought a hot-air curling iron and realized she can handle it. One more thing: "I haven't had any hot flashes since then. I'm on a new medication, but I think getting all that hair off my neck helped, too."

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185