Older women are more represented in the beauty and fashion industry now than ever before. When Allure magazine announced in 2017 that it would no longer be using the term ‘anti-ageing’ it marked the beginning of a movement to eliminate words like ‘age-defying’ and ‘anti-wrinkle’ from the narrative. Older models graced the catwalks, celebrities like Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench took the Vogue front cover, and some of the elite makeup brands dropped younger models from their advertising campaigns. And yet – google the word ‘anti-ageing’ now and you’ll find it there on page after page of well-known brands advertising their products in a language that still assumes we must wage a war against fine lines and wrinkles – against the natural process of simply ageing.   

Midlife women make up a significant proportion of the consumer market for skincare products, and with more disposable income than younger generations they are prepared to spend. The advertising language and imagery surrounding this understandably has to target the importance of care for mature skin, yet the anti-ageing labelling of these skincare products carries with it the implication that a woman’s value lies in how she looks. That without the appearance and glow of youth we are somehow not acceptable. At the same time we are told to embrace our age and that we are beautiful just as we are. This has to be the beauty industry’s biggest contradiction. 

In recent years we’ve seen a huge upsurge in skincare products for men. An equally impressive array of moisturisers, serums and creams, and yet at barely any point in the advertising narrative circling these products do we see the term ‘anti-ageing’. Instead they use words like ‘line control’, ‘age defender’ and (here’s a good one) ‘firmer visage’! Nothing to suggest that men should be ‘anti’ their ageing process at all. Salt and pepper hair, a few lines and the odd wrinkle here and there all enhance the heralded look of a silver fox. If they want simply to protect their skin or use a well-placed moisturiser for the added benefit of a dewy-looking glow, then even better. Hardly seems fair.

Labelling a product as ‘anti-ageing’ is unrealistic and demeaning to women. We aren’t fools. We know that time marches on and that trying to hide or halt the process is ultimately a pointless exercise. At some point in time it will catch up. The real issue for us is more about protecting our skin as we age. When we look for moisturisers and serums today, we look at the ingredients. We want to be informed. We research online to find products with natural components that will nourish and feed our skin, help with pigmentation or shield against pollution. This is what is important to us – not the pursuit of looking ten years younger.

Every one of us at some point or another is going to lament the discovery of the odd wrinkle creeping in, but surely this is more to do with our recognition of how quickly time is passing, rather than defining how we feel about the way we look? Valuing women for their youth and attractiveness by advertising anti-ageing products is not unacceptable. Of course we don’t particularly want to be the one who actually looks like an old crone when others around us seem to float about with a youthful glow, so if we choose to wear a foundation that covers age spots or a bronzer that gives natural radiance then that is our choice, but it doesn’t mean we are anti the ageing process. We’re not striving to look years younger than we are, we simply want to look and feel our best for a little longer.  

Grace Fodor – PRO AGE warrior, Beauty Expert & Founder of Studio10. Passionate about challenging outdated stereotypes, anti-ageing and ageism to celebrate age. Providing education on how to apply makeup for older women.

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