Beauty in 2018: Age – the new diversity issue

Beauty in 2018: Age – the new diversity issue

We started the year in the midst of a huge diversity and inclusivity drive and it’s shown no sign of abating since – we’ve celebrated all genders, all colours, those with disabilities, those with skin conditions – you name it, it’s been championed by a beauty brand. Except, that is, for one marginalized demographic – the majority, in fact – and that’s our aging populations. According to a study conducted by We Are Super Human, 70 percent of women in their 40s and 50s feel ignored by mainstream media.

And that’s a problem when you consider that, together, Gen X and the Baby Boomers make up 75 percent of the population. So why do cosmetics brands remain very much focused on the millennial demographic? Or do they? For towards the end of this year, there have been signs that times are a-changing.

First, older faces are appearing everywhere. Charlotte Tilbury, MAC and Revolution are just some of the brands who have been posting images of older women (for older, read, 40+) on their Instagram account – and the engagement that these have generated has been more than worth their while. Of course, given that the eldest millennials are now exiting their mid-30s and headed for 40, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that these steps are future-proofing rather than the beauty industry finally batting its eyelashes at the invisible middle.

Second, our language has been steadily changing – no longer are we ‘anti-ageing’ instead, we’re all aiming for a ‘healthy glow’. Product names and claims are being tweaked to reflect this – the emphasis is on being your best self. We’re also celebrating our first gray hairs – or so Clairol hopes with its #FaceYourFirst campaign, which aims to encourage us to do precisely that.

There’s also been a noticeable shift in product development. Skin care has taken back the baton from make-up and the trend is increasingly towards multifunctional, results-focused products that are surely designed to cater for this time-poor generation’s needs. Increasingly, we’re hearing that a cleanser, moisturiser and sun screen are the ‘thinking woman’s skin care arsenal’ – a wholly approachable routine that is more likely to hook the decidedly more cynical Gen X than the ‘try anything once’ millennials who enabled the K-beauty 12-step, glitter masks and crystal-infused skin care that’s dominated of late. Function, in the form of single-ingredient products such as retinol or vitamin C, is having a moment.

And with authenticity a buzz-word and taboo subjects in Vogue, it’s only a matter of time until we start to see a raft of products aimed at menopausal women. Get the Gloss is touting this as ‘a new beauty category’ with ‘cosmetic HRT’ a key marketing claim. Meanwhile, 2018’s wonder ingredient, CBD oil, is being hailed as the new miracle cure for menopausal symptoms. It’s only a matter of time before the cosmetics industry connects the dots. There’s also been increasing chat around the microbiome and menopause – so we can no doubt expect to see skin care innovation spring up in this area too. 

One stumbling block the industry does need to tackle is that, from baby boomers to the eldest millennials, we’re increasingly loathe to see ourselves as old and often identify with the prevailing consumer trend regardless of our age. It therefore follows that marketing to a particular age group is necessarily going to be a challenge. The new consumer aligns by lifestyle more than age –  64 percent of millennials and Gen Xers, and 75 percent of Boomers believe in the idea of ‘healthy aging’, according to Allure magazine – it’s worth bearing that in mind.

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