Earlier this month Helen Mirren made front-page news when she appeared on the cover of US beauty magazine, Allure. As an Oscar winning actress with an admirable no-BS attitude and shameless love of beauty, Mirren’s cover shouldn’t have been anything out of the ordinary. However, in a world where beauty almost always equates to youth, a cover star aged 72 with visible wrinkles and a head of grey hair is still unfortunately newsworthy.
‘The End Of Anti-Ageing, Our Call To The Industry’, the cover line read, and inside the beauty bible pledged to ban the phrase ‘anti-ageing’. Savvy promotional move or not, removing what can only be described as depressing terminology is certainly a positive step to a more age-inclusive rhetoric. Nevertheless, Allure is not alone in their thinking, and this recent decision reflects a current greater industry wide shift. Much like our rejection of fad diets or anti-cellulite products, in recent years anti-ageing has lost its appeal. With a move towards women demanding a more natural aesthetic and away from that concept of ‘a quick fix’, anti-ageing suddenly seems out-dated and old-fashioned.
Recent research from Mintel found that 69% of people agree that society is too focused on a youthful appearance, and 30% of women do not like being reminded of ageing when looking for beauty products. Similarly with our ageing population, attracting an older consumer is becoming an ever more pressing concern for brands. "The 50+ group represents as much as 50% of premium beauty purchases and it’s only set to increase with the World Health Organisation estimating that by 2050 people age 65 and over will outnumber children aged 14 and under for the first time," Beauty Mart’s Anna-Marie Solowij pointed out.
This is something marketers have cottoned onto, and while brands used to scream phrases such as ‘turn back the clock’ and ‘ten years younger’, they’re now using more positive vocabulary with wording such as ‘ageless’, ‘positive ageing’ or ‘pro age’ to promote products. Some of the big launches in the past year – Vichy’s Slow Age moisturiser, bareMinerals’s Skinlongevity range and Chanel’s Blue Longevity serum – all reflect this. While essentially it’s a question of semantics, and one skincare brands are still struggling to navigate, it shows how some steps towards progress have been made.
When I speak to Daniela Rinaldi, Group Commercial Director at Harvey Nichols, she tells me how she’s noticed a change from the customer perspective. "They’re less focused on wrinkles and instead they are looking for products to help them improve the texture of their skin and help achieve a healthy glow," Rinaldi said. And it’s not just how women are shopping, their overall attitude to looking after their skin has also changed. "Customers are now taking a more holistic approach and looking at climate, sun, pollution, diet, stress and health and wellness," Rinaldi commented.
Furthermore, the beauty consumer is also becoming less interested in a product’s messaging around age and more swayed by a brand’s ethics or ideas, Solowij explained. "I believe this is why there has been such a surge of skincare that is led by conscious consumerism (for example natural, organic, vegan or cruelty-free skincare) and in Korean companies that offer alternative and compelling messaging to western brands (for example Tony Moly or It’s Skin)" she said.
It is not just the wording on our products that has changed, we’re also starting to see brands using a more diverse age group of women in advertisements. "Not only is it enough for a product to deliver effective results but there is an appetite for the brand to stand up and speak out for their beliefs and values," Margaret Mitchell, Group Buying Director at Space NK, explained.
Helen Mirren is currently the face of L’Oreal’s ‘Age Perfect’ moisturiser, Charlotte Rampling starred in a Nars campaign aged 68, and over in the fashion world there’s a plethora of examples too: Iris Apfel for Kate Spade, Baddie Winkle for MissGuided and Lauren Hutton for Bottega Venetta. While these women are certainly still in the minority, it shows how brands are finally listening to the needs of their customers, and about time too.