At the end of June I was on a conversation with three models, all over 50, on aging and beauty. “We need a representation of spring, summer, autumn and winter”, one of the panelists, Swedish model Paulina Porizkova, declared. Fashion model Yasmin Warsame spoke about how aging is treated as a sign of wisdom in her native Somalia. The moderator of the discussion, Allure chief editor Jessica Cruelbrought out the magazine much publicized decision five years ago to remove the term “anti-aging” from its pages. “How are you going to be anti-living?” she asked.
The takeaway from the panel, hosted by the Aspen Institute, was to be that women should demand to be seen, no matter how old they are, and that society should accept all versions of beauty, regardless of one’s date of birth. But a slight discomfort with the premise was apparent. Christie Brinkley mentioned one specific wrinkle that bothered her several times and the steps she took to minimize it. All panelists at least acknowledged the temptation to get some work done, and the conundrum that “you’re ashamed if you do it, you’re ashamed if you don’t,” as Porizkova put it. I left thinking it’s probably time to start looking at fillers.
We’ve learned to pretend we’re celebrating older women, but we haven’t learned to accept what naturally happens to their skin. We celebrate older women, but not face without intervention. This is fueling a billion-dollar cosmetics and skincare industry dedicated to helping people — primarily women — stay young, or rather, try to look like one. According to data from Euromonitor International, the anti-aging market grew from $3.9 billion in 2016 to $4.9 billion in 2021 in the United States alone. The global anti-aging market grew from $25 billion to nearly $37 in the same period. billion.
“Anti-aging is probably the most popular and enduring promise of any kind of skincare brand or injectable,” says Jessica DeFino, a beauty writer and author of The unpublishable, a newsletter focused on the darker sides of the beauty industry. “Youth is the ultimate goal, and of course very useful for the industry because it is an impossible goal.”
Dermatologists say that a lot of this stuff is a scam anyway and doesn’t work. Many companies fail to substantiate their claims of reversing the forward motion of time, and some products irritate the skin and make it more vulnerable to the elements, not less. But even for the products that really make a difference, whether it’s a sunscreen to slow down skin damage or… retinol to try and reduce some wrinkles, there is really a limited amount they can achieve. Marketers know that some consumers will spend a lot of money hoping they will do something, and they will for years.
The moment women reach their 20s (and in some cases even younger) they are told that they are in a race against time that they are destined to lose. And yet they are encouraged to spend thousands of dollars trying to win.
Do you think it’s weird getting older? You are not alone.
The tone of the message about advertiser aging has changed over the years. For much of the 20th century it was delivered with a hammer, a warning – always to women – that the… man in your life won’t love you as you get older. God forbid your husband looks younger than you. In recent years, the message has come more in the form of an enthusiastic but ultimately empty hug. As Amanda Hess Outlined in New York Times Magazine in 2017It’s no longer packaged so much as hiding wrinkles, but instead wrapped in language about glowing, clearer, healthier-looking skin. It’s not about denying the passage of time but challenging the. You are meant to feel empowered to look your best at any age.
Whatever the tone, the goal remains the same: to remind consumers that they are uncomfortable with aging and to encourage them to spend money accordingly. Repackaging anti-aging into a wellness frame carries the same old price tag — and the same psychological weight.
There are many individual differences in how people age and how susceptible they are to external influences such as ageism and ageism, Candace Konnert, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary who studies aging, told me. It depends, among other things, on who they compare themselves to, how the problem is treated by their families and partners, what media they use and their mental health. Still, the clear message from generation to generation has been that the ideal of beauty is “young, thin and muscular,” she said. “Where did boomer women learn about their bodies? They learned from their mothers, who grew up in the era of crazy men.”
There is also a stigma around men aging – there is a growing market also for the anti-aging skin care of men – but in the past this was the case to a lesser extent. The older a woman is, the more invisible she becomesand the more our capitalist society considers it less productive and less valuable.
Show Polls women express concern about looking old when they are quite young, between their 20s and 30s, and are beginning to take action to combat it. In reality, some studies suggest: older women feel better about their bodies as they age than younger women. The fact that young women worry so early helps companies to sell more.
“The target audience for anti-aging products is getting younger and younger,” said Kayla Villena, industry manager for beauty and personal care at market research firm Euromonitor. She noted that the target age for anti-aging products — which are often no longer called that — now starts around 25. “That’s for more prevention.”
“Once they sell you the idea that you have to fight aging, they have a customer for life,” DeFino said. “You always need a different product or syringe or surgery.”
It’s also worth noting that these products are often exorbitantly expensive. NuFace, a combination of cream and contraption endorsed by multiple celebrities, costs hundreds of dollars to get started. Even creams you can find in the pharmacy aisle are pricey — the relatively simple array of skincare products now sitting in my bathroom cabinet cost me over $100 to buy. Found one survey that women will spend about $225,000 on their appearance over their lifetime, a quarter of which goes to their face.
It’s hard to blame anyone for using a cream, or anything else, to look younger and, most importantly, make themselves feel better when they do. At the same time, as DeFino put it, you feel joy when you do “because you felt bad beforehand,” in part because society and marketers said you should. “Beauty culture makes you feel less than before, so you feel better when you have a product.”
It is undeniable nice privilege consists. That doesn’t mean it’s good. It sucks that people looking at themselves so much on Zoom during the pandemic led some to seek plastic surgery, and apps like Facetune have made younger generations paranoid about how they look.
Underlying cosmetic fear is a much more fundamental and human fear of decay and ultimately death. Selling young people is easy in part, because their decline is a much scarier prospect.
Good for Jennifer Lopez for looking young, but maybe not good for society or your wallet
The skincare and cosmetics industry would love for consumers to at least feel like we’ve moved into a new, more progressive era, where beauty is celebrated at any age. It includes examples of women such as Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Aniston as over-50s, and Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, and Jane Fonda as ambitious septuagenarians and octogenarians. That’s all well and good, except what those women have in common about their age is that they don’t look good.
“Part of the problem with marketing is that the models don’t really match reality,” Konnert said. “The new message is, ‘It’s okay to age, but not to have a wrinkled face.'”
Martha Stewart has become a kind of skincare influencer on TikTok. Should that be celebrated? It’s hard to say. “That’s no better,” DeFino said. “You celebrate this 80-year-old woman, but you celebrate her because she doesn’t look like she’s 80. You position this as age positivity and it is not.”
The ways these women have achieved these age-defying appearances are inaccessible to most people, such as expensive procedures, products and airbrushing. Not to mention that most of how you age has nothing to do with what you put on your face – it’s about exposure to the elements, hydration, drinking, smoking, genes, etc, etc.
“My view is that one product won’t fix your aging,” Villena said.
Companies know that and that’s why they always have something else to sell you.
We live in a world that constantly tries to cheat and fool us, where we are always surrounded by scams big and small. It can seem impossible to navigate. Every two weeks, look at all the little ways our economic systems control and manipulate the average person with Emily Stewart. Welcome to The Great Pinch.
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