From Anti-Ageing to Age-Embracing: The Evolution of Ageing in the Beauty Industry

The world is getting older. According to Euromonitor, as of 2017, 1.7 billion people globally, or 23% of the global population, is aged 50 or above. Life expectancy is rising around the globe. The average global life expectancy is 72.3 years with some countries exceeding this average, such as Japan at 84.1 years, the United Kingdom at 81.3 years and the United States at 79 years. Alongside a declining birth rate, these factors are contributing to a growing ageing population, which is expected to rise as the current 43% of the population aged 20-49 eventually joins the ranks of the population aged 50 or above.

Because people are living longer, consumers have a growing desire to be healthier. Healthy living is no longer a sub-culture; it is a prominent part of mainstream culture globally across all industries, ranging from sleep devices to supplements, healthy snacks and beverages to athleisure apparel. The pursuit of healthier lifestyles is driven by a desire for two things:  the ability to live a quality life in the present and the ability to live a long life in the future. It is the distinction between prolonging life and prolonging quality of life, which differentiates the topics of health and ageing. Healthy ageing balances both.

The desire to be healthier is changing the narrative of ageing, moving away from fighting the signs of ageing to focusing on “looking and feeling good at any age”. This shift is most evident in the beauty industry. Trade press, manufacturers and retailers in the beauty industry are shifting how they communicate with consumers about ageing, evident in a recent shift in North America away from “anti-ageing” terms to “age specialist” or “age specific” positioning. Beauty companies have tweaked their terminology to be either age-neutral or age-positive. Clinique’s De-Aging section in Sephora shelves, Dove’s Pro Age line, L’Oreal’s Age Perfect line, and the Nia (“Not Into Aging”) brand are among the few examples of this changing narrative. Industry press have also supported this shift. In August 2017, Condé Nast’s stalwart of beauty Allure declared that it would no longer use the term anti-ageing. Editor-in-Chief Michelle Lee said that “whether we know it or not, the term is subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle.”

While this trend creates an economic challenge, it also poses business opportunities for industries, particularly beauty, which has emphasised different perspectives over time with respect to ageing. There are opportunities to communicate different aspects of ageing to three consumer groups: 1) the young, who are pursuing prevention over cure strategies when it comes to ageing, 2) the old, who are pursuing specific solutions and cure over prevention and 3) the ageless, who respond to a positive ageing narrative and favour segmentation based on needs, interests and values. The changing narrative of ageing is a ripe opportunity for beauty companies to not only emphasise the technology-backed efficacy of their products to target audiences, but to link particular products to lifestyle routines that emphasis holistic health and wellness that resonate with all three consumer groups.

Learn more about the evolution of ageing in beauty at Cosmoprof North America during Euromonitor’s education session, “From Anti-Ageing to Age-Embracing: The Evolution of Ageing in the Beauty Industry”, on Sunday, July 29 at 11:30 AM.