It’s no secret that aging is a taboo subject within the beauty industry. Throughout popular media, we are bombarded with youthful looking faces; with little to no realistic representation of what it means to grow older. For women especially, this has had negative consequences. Countless women feel the need to spend money on products and procedures meant to achieve a youthful ideal of beauty that is simply impossible to always maintain. In fact, our unhealthy societal fixation with youth can actually be thought of as both ageist and misogynistic, as it seems to play into the notion that women are only seen as valuable as long as society perceives them as being physically attractive. Thus, the term “anti-aging” is quite the buzzword.
However, in Britain, the Royal Society for Public Health, Vision, Voice, and Practice (RSPH) has implored retailers to put “an end to the use of the term ‘anti-ageing’ in the cosmetics and beauty industries.” This call to action is part of a larger report by the group about the effects of ageist attitudes on people as they grow older.
The report, titled “How attitudes toward aging affect our health and well-being”, says that aging seems to be a rather gendered issue. Studies show that 49% of women experience pressure to maintain their youthful looks, compared to 23% of men. However, it seems that millennials are most affected by anti-aging rhetoric, as the study finds that 25% of people ages 18-34 think that feelings of depression and general unhappiness are a necessary part of the aging process, while 24% also think that “older people can never really be thought of as attractive.”
These perceptions, which are based upon popular but toxic stereotypes, are simply not true. According to Refinery29, a study last year found that among women ages 45-65, around 56% expressed feeling more confident in their bodies than they had when they were younger. Around 31% reported having embarked on a career change in their 40s and 50s. Therefore, it would seem that people possibly could become even happier as they age. So, why do so many seem to think otherwise?
RSPH says: “The narrative pushed by ‘anti-aging’ terminology and products is one that pervades society and has relevance to us all.” The organization also reasons that “We’re all aging. Yet ageism is the most commonly experienced form of prejudice and discrimination, both in the UK and across Europe,” (Perhaps the same could be said for those of us in the US) “Other forms of discrimination, such as racism and sexism, are rightly regarded as unacceptable, yet ageist assumptions and attitudes often go unchallenged.”
Thus, RSPH is calling on the beauty industry and therefore, society, to reevaluate its treatment of aging. After all, we are likely to benefit from such a change. In the words of RSPH, “All human beings – at all stages of life- are aging in their own way, as a natural consequence of being alive. Hence, the explicit presumption that aging is something undesirable and to be battled at every turn is as nonsensical as it is dangerous. To be ‘anti-ageing’ makes no more sense than being ‘anti-life.’”
Featured Image via pxhere/Public Domain