Anti-aging skincare is a popular and lucrative industry, with many people seeking to preserve their « youthful appearance » for as long as possible. However, the marketing and messaging around anti-aging skincare often perpetuates harmful and sexist stereotypes about aging and beauty.
Look, we want to age gracefully too - but it is almost impossible to age in peace as a woman without being bombarded with commercial messaging that we absolutely need to do something about our ageing skin because God forbid we look like we were born over 25 years ago. We are bombarded with endless ways in which we can hide the signs of time, and we are promised there are solutions to whatever our budget and « damage » is. We are being talked to as if ageing was a disease rather than a privilege.
One of the main issues with anti-aging skincare is the way it is marketed to women. Women are often targeted with messages that suggest aging is something to be feared and avoided at all costs, and that wrinkles and other signs of aging are a sign of failure or inadequacy. This messaging not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes about women and aging, but it also creates a culture that is obsessed with youth and beauty, at the expense of other values and qualities.
Ways to prevent looking your age are more advertised than ways in which you can support yourself and the women in your life through their different ages and stages of life. This is further exacerbated by no other than SOCIAL MEDIA (the exacerbator of all things) where algorithm success is proportional to facial plumpness. By mostly looking at young faces, we condition ourselves to believe that young faces - which once upon a time represented innocence and inexperience - are the epitome of beauty. There is undeniable beauty in youth, but that beauty should be observed with kindness and compassion - not with envy or regret. We should most of all question why is innocence and inexperience the favourite look for women to wear according to society; what kind of society benefits from women not having enough knowledge or experience?
Another issue with anti-aging skincare is the way it reinforces gender stereotypes. Many anti-aging products are marketed specifically to women, with packaging and advertising that is designed to appeal to a feminine aesthetic. This reinforces the idea that women are the primary consumers of beauty products, and that they are responsible for maintaining their appearance and youthfulness, while men are not held to the same standards. This phenomenon is made obvious by the aftermath of this very advertisement: women are held responsible, and even blamed, for not having used the resources that were supposed to offer her a more « youthful appearance ». This manifests as unnecessary gossip such as « omg I could have sworn SHE was X years older » or « she needs to do something about [insert normal natural skin feature here] ».
A further issue with anti-aging skincare is the way it reinforces a narrow and unrealistic beauty standard. The ideal of youthful, wrinkle-free skin is not only unattainable for most people, but it also ignores the natural and inevitable changes that occur as we age. By suggesting that aging is something to be avoided or hidden, anti-aging skincare perpetuates a narrow and unrealistic beauty standard that is damaging to people of all genders. The message is that there is only one way to look, and that way is obtained by those who wish to invest enough funds or energy into the supposedly youthful look. This is made evident by facial feature differences across social classes as the result of « youth preserving » measures not being accessible to all, differences of stress permeability across social classes and the quality of the interventions those who choose invasive procedures can afford.
To address the sexism behind anti-aging skincare, there is a need for greater awareness and education. There is a lot of deconstruction to do. A useful way to unlock this deconstruction is to ask oneself: « what could women do if we could save the energy that is spent collectively worrying about ageing? »
We would love to see more initiatives to challenge harmful stereotypes about aging and beauty, and to promote a more diverse and inclusive vision of beauty that embraces all ages and body types. It could also involve initiatives to hold companies in the skincare industry accountable for their marketing and advertising practices, and to promote greater transparency and honesty in the messaging around anti-aging products.
By working to challenge harmful stereotypes and promote a more inclusive and realistic vision of beauty, we can create a culture that values all ages and experiences, and that celebrates the natural process of aging as a beautiful and meaningful part of life. We can create a world where ALL women are allowed to age in peace, without having to justify their presence and roles to feel worthy.