Ageism in the Beauty Industry

On first sight this cover raised the expected ‘YES.’ from me. I love Helen Mirren, I love Allure, and I hate the term anti-ageing. Always have. Something niggled at me though. I couldn’t put my finger on it until the events of recent weeks made me wake up and smell the ageism.

To make it absolutely clear why they were against the term anti-ageing, Allure felt that they had to use a face that was ‘definitely’ older.

The fact that she is a spokesperson for one of, if not their biggest advertisers, (L’Oréal) I’m sure had everything to do with it. (This is not about Helen Mirren, she’s an absolute don and I love her.)

And it’s not about Allure either. I’ve subscribed for years, love it and will continue to do so. It’s about the bigger, ignored picture, namely..

The wasteland in the beauty industry that is 40+. 

Although women aged 50 and above spend the most money on products, to certain facets of the industry that control who products are targeted to, we may as well be packing for our care homes and talking purple rinses. Or simply and fundamentally invisible.

During a recent PR visit a room of writers including myself, Vogue, Stylist, the Telegraph and others were shown the presentation for a new product targeted to women aged 35-40+.

I am not kidding when I tell you that the model used in the picture to promote this product did not look a day over 18. She was beautiful, but she would get asked for ID to vote and buy booze. When they asked if we had any comments or questions – I said ‘Yes. Why are you using a girl young enough to marry one of my sons to sell a product that is specifically targeted to my age group? I could have given birth to her.’ Once I said it, the others joined in and agreed. Everyone from the brand furiously took notes, and sure enough, give them their due, when the product launched, the visual was different. The model looked like the original’s older sister, but she was at least, slightly older.

In the midst of writing this post, this happened:

The original Supermodels on the Versace catwalk went viral with a patronising ‘ooh they’ve still got it!’ attitude from even the most normally open-minded facets of the media, as if women over the age of 45 should have unanimously taken the decision to let themselves go.

Of course they looked fantastic, they’re supermodels.

When you turn 40 you don’t receive notice from the government reminding you that you are no longer relevant. You do get one from the beauty industry though. It doesn’t arrive in the post, or via email. It’s more subtle that that. Until it isn’t. At some point you just start to realise that the billboards and ads are not talking to you anymore.

One of the biggest launches in recent years, Fenty, although long overdue in terms of inclusion of shades for WOC, still sent a ‘youthful’ message both in its launch campaign and on its current homepage:

Kids. Still, you can’t have everything eh?.. Further delving online gives us this chestnut:

Kendall Jenner was 19 when she made this ad campaign.

Advanced Night Repair is a ‘repair’ product, putting it immediately in the 30+ category. Not much to repair when there are no ‘signs of ageing’ on the face. If you want to sell me (and my peers) a product, we need to at least see something in the campaigns that we can relate to other than hair colour.

The most recent campaign is better though:

This one gave me an audible laugh at my desk:

On what planet do these girls need anything ‘lifting’?

Clinique’s website today. This is the oldest looking model I could find. Again, lovely, but obviously very young.

Where you ‘can’ find some older faces, they are usually celebrities, and usually in the skincare department..

Diane Kruger – 41


Julia Roberts is 50 at the end of the month.


Kate Winslet – 42.

All three campaigns are to promote skincare products for older skins. Are brands worried that we won’t find non-famous women our age aspirational? That a woman without an airbrushed face will put us off?

Clarins have always used older models for the Super Restorative (50+) campaigns, but hardly anywhere else..

Is she over 50? Who knows..


The current Clarins A/W 2017 campaign.

Space NK’s Timeless Beauty campaign from a couple of years ago garnered praise from all corners because they included older women in such a beautiful campaign..

..but it lasted one season and then we were back to 20-somethings..

I do not know a woman my age (48) or older who wants to be 20-something again. I know I certainly don’t. I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin. It’s not about jealousy or envy.
When you’re being purposely looked over and forgotten about, what you’re dealing with is wilful ignorance.
We have the most money to spend, we’re proven to spend that money*, yet we are consistently and persistently ignored by the industry. It’s about representation. Or lack thereof.