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"There are plenty of things to be anti about: anti-discrimination, anti-drug, anti-oppression, anti-poverty, and anti-sickness. Aging isn't one of them. We need to become pro-aging and embrace the opportunities that aging provides."

Jamie Lee Curtis

I want to say straight off the bat that this is not an 'age naturally' post to shame or criticise women who take care of their appearance or choose to engage in cosmetic treatments.

One of our guiding principles affirms that Silver Sirens has no opinion on a woman's decision to engage in cosmetic or medical procedures. It is important to not jump on the bandwagon of dictating how women should or should not age. It's also fair to say that most women do not want wrinkles, sagging skin, or other physical signs of ageing.

Although this is the first time that I am talking about this topic, it's important to note that this push against the cosmetic industry's use of terms like anti-ageing, age-fighting and age-defying is not a new one. While researching for this piece I came across this article, Time to ditch the term ‘anti-ageing’ by Alison Walsh. Alison wrote that in 2017 Allure, which is the US’s best-known beauty magazine, announced it was to stop using the expression 'anti-ageing'.

The then editor of Allure, Michelle Lee summed it up perfectly, by saying: “Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle. Changing the way we think about ageing starts with changing the way we talk about ageing”.

On the Pro-age Beauty website on March 30, 2022, Leigh Coleman wrote:

"Anti-aging vocabulary became the buzz word of the beauty industry back in 1980s. This marketing catchphrase was designed to sell products to older women by triggering their insecurity, vulnerability, and their internalised fear of ageing by convincing them that they could slow, stave off, or eliminate the signs of ageing by using the right anti-ageing products."

According to a recent article by Mamamia, recent statistics show that the global anti-ageing market is worth a whopping $71.1 billion USD in 2023 - and it's only set to keep growing. By 2030 it's predicted to grow to 120 billion USD.

At this stage, it's important to distinguish between the biomedical perspective of anti-ageing treatments from how the term is used by the beauty industry.

Institute of Healthy Ageing, and Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London states that a common conception among biogerontologists of anti-aging treatment is based on the premise that a biological process, ageing, gives rise in later life to a broad spectrum of diseases. Therefore, any intervention that inhibits aging itself will reduce the incidence of a broad range of late-life diseases (Butler et al., 2008). This definition would encompass preventative approaches aimed a broad spectrum of age-related pathologies.

What is Anti-Aging?

According to the Fighting Ageing website, in the scientific community anti-aging research refers exclusively to slowing, preventing, or reversing the aging process. In the medical and reputable business community, anti-aging medicine means the early detection, prevention, and treatment of age-related diseases.

On the other hand, from a beauty industry perspective, anti-ageing is any cosmetic product that reduces the physical signs of ageing, mainly on the face, decolletage, and hands.

Everything you need to know about anti-ageing products - Victorian Dermal Group

Anti-ageing products are serums and creams that have been specially and clinically formulated to combat the signs of ageing. Anti-ageing products are made from a range of materials and chemicals including:

  • Retinoids — Vitamin A compounds that help repair sun damage, some of which are clinically proven to improve skin's ageing.

  • Ascorbic acid — Vitamin C compounds that reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Hydroxy acids — Citric and lactic acid that remove dead skin.

  • Peptides — Improve skin texture by stimulating collagen production.

  • Antioxidants — Found in tea extracts, antioxidants help nourish ageing skin and fight environmental factors.

  • Anti-inflammatories — Reduces damage from the sun and other trauma.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, women spend billions of dollars on anti-ageing products each year. But for many creams, lotions and vitamin supplements that claim to reduce wrinkles or slow down premature aging, there isn't sufficient evidence to show they work. There is ongoing debate about the effectiveness of the above ingredients.

The Victorian Dermal Group's article on anti-ageing products claims that their 'anti-ageing' creams and 'anti-ageing' serums are specially designed to help you turn back the clock.

Many good things happen to us as we get older. We accumulate beautiful memories, grow in learning, emotional strength, and forge community bonds with the people we love. But the physical effects of ageing, like wrinkles, sunspots, sagging, and uneven skin? Well, those developments are rather less desirable.

The terminology and the function of anti-ageing products can be confusing. An article on the L'oreal Paris website, titled Anti-Ageing Creams: Fact vs Fiction sought to educate women on the difference between Anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams.

It claims that anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams tackle different problems. An anti-ageing treatment will combat all signs of skin ageing including age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, loss of density, dullness and dryness. On the other hand, anti-wrinkle creams just deal with reducing wrinkles.

My concern is not about the products themselves as I am sure that these cosmetics produce results for many women. My objection is about changing the labeling to a more age-empowering language that moves away from shaming women as they age.

"If I wanted to be prettier, fillers, botox and a neck lift might help, but I think I'm past all that. My feelings come out in my face and show who I am inside in ways that words can't express."

Diane Keaton

Roselind Heygessy below is over 70 and one of the Silver Sirens 2023 campaign models.

It is also disturbing that these products not only capitilise on ageing women's vulnerabilities, but they are also targeting women as young as in their twenties. I see many women around their fear of ageing and the youngest women I do this work with is 27.

In the article At what age should you start using anti-ageing skincare products? Juna Xu asks - "In an age where preventing wrinkles is everyone’s biggest concern, it begs the question: when exactly should you start using anti-ageing skincare products?"

Xu warns young women - "Let me say this – don’t wait until it is too late! Many people often look to anti-ageing products when their skin may have already aged quite a bit. Ideally, you’ll want to approach anti-ageing in a way that is preventative, rather than trying to fix a problem."

I appreciate that Xu attempts to be balanced in her approach by conceding:

“It’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with ageing because the lines and wrinkles can tell the story of a life well lived. However, for many, reversing the signs of ageing isn’t necessarily about ‘hiding’ their age, instead about increasing confidence."

And I totally agree with Xu's sentiment. For most women including myself, the use of cosmetics is about confidence.

In another article - Too Young for Anti-Aging Products?

Shelley Levitt poses the question, 'Are twenty-somethings too young for anti-aging skin treatments, serums, and creams?"

If you're still young and want your skin to stay that way as long as possible, you owe it to yourself to know what's helpful and what's not. Sunscreen and not smoking is useful advice. Wasting money on anti-wrinkle creams or Botox is not.

There is no doubt a lot of merit in using preventative measures to keep our skin healthy. However, we have to wonder about the ethics of treating these young women.

Adam Friedman, MD, director of dermatologic research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine had a woman aged 23 approach him about getting Botox injections. Friedman turned her down.

"I don't believe in treating wrinkles you can't see," he says, "and there’s no evidence that Botox is effective as a preventative tool. Long-term overuse of the drug could possibly lead to atrophy of the muscles. That can cause the face to appear inadvertently aged, despite the lack of wrinkles."

A large body of research illustrates that the most important preventative action people in their 20s and early 30s can take to maintain their skin is to abstain from smoking and use sunscreen faithfully. This is sound advice for everyone!

As we see in the 2017 article about Allure Magazine's challenge to the beauty industry, the tide is changing.

"Thankfully, we are living in an era where many of those products claiming to be 'anti-aging, or 'age-fighting' have been rejected and replaced with more 'Body positive' and 'Pro-age' sentiment."

Walsh explores some of the factors that have brought about this change.

She cites the following: The attitude of 'pro-age' has risen thanks to a number of factors, including the fact that consumers wanted 'pro' language.

Consumer research informed the beauty industry that anti-aging language no longer resonated with the public. In fact, a few years ago Datamonitor Consumer reported that pro-aging was the new revolution in the personal care industry and consumers were interested in pro-age cosmetics.

Jane Cunningham, founder of the site Brittish Beauty Blogger, stopped using the term 'anti-ageing' long ago. When talking about products she would recommend for women over 50 she prefers to use the terms ‘age inclusive’ and ‘for older skin’ because “that’s just fact”. She regularly makes a stand against an industry that consistently champions youth by promoting a more inclusive approach. “Treating age as something that needs ‘curing’ is pointlessly demoralising for anyone over 30,” Cunningham points out, “I’d like to see brands celebrating beauty at all ages. Beauty is not one thing, it’s many things.”

Allison Yee below, Silver Sirens 2023 campaign model

Brands leading the way:

Dove - Pro Age range

L'Oreal - Age Perfect range

Olay - Age Defying range

CeraVe - Skin renewing range

The Body Shop - Drops of Youth (recently renamed 'Edelweiss')

Glow Recipe - removing terms like 'flawless', 'poreless' and 'perfect' from their marketing.

(Source - Mamamia)

Our 2022 and 2023 sponsor - Rageism. I was attracted to this brand because of they did not use the term 'anti-ageing' and instead describe their makeup range as 'for mature skin'.

Billions of women across the globe are afraid of ageing because of the messages of decay, loss of youth, and undesirability. I believe that the cosmetic industry capitalises on this at the detriment of women's self-esteem. I would like to see cosmetic brands being sensitive to this and taking a more positive approach to their labeling of products targeted to our demographic.

The tide is turning, and I believe that we are moving in the right direction. Until then though, I will only buy from brands who are moving in the right direction!

Yolanda Baker below, is another of our beautiful Silver Sirens 2023 campaign models.

Five things you can do to change this narrative on Anti-Ageing labeling

  1. Awareness is key, this is something most women do not even think about. Once we've noticed it, we can't un-see it.

  2. I don't expect you to stop using products that use the term 'anti-ageing', but you may want to challenge the person at the beauty counter next time you go to buy products. Our voice matters, every time someone calls it out brings us closer to change.

  3. Move towards products that use the tag lines, 'pro-ageing', 'age positive', 'for mature skin' etc.

  4. If your fave brand uses the terms 'anti-ageing, 'age fighting, age-defying', send them a message and let them know that although you love their products, you believe the labelling to be out of touch with the evolving view on ageing.

  5. Talk to your friends about this. Many of them would not have thought about it, share this article or similar ones with them.

We are not asking for the products to change as we accept that some are vital for healthy skin. What we are rallying for is the label to reflect the growing awareness and changing narrative around women and ageing.

Words we can use instead:

  • Age inclusive

  • Age positive

  • Pro-ageing

  • Optimum ageing

  • For mature skin

  • Skin renewing or rejuvenating


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