Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
As advertising continues to become a highly visual medium, beauty companies are doing away with stick thin models with perfectly symmetrical faces. While companies like Ulta, Dove, Venus, Fenty and Revlon are incorporating racial and physical diversity, they continue to leave out one essential population: middle aged and older women.
It seems that beauty companies forget that women who age at a normal rate even exist. Although companies like Covergirl are slowly incorporating models over 50 like Jennifer Lopez, Ellen DeGeneres and Maye Musk, they choose to only highlight women who appear significantly younger than their actual age. The elimination and neglect of older models emphasizes American cultural views that the female aging process is a grotesque, downward spiral toward death.
Women over 50 are considered disposable and useless to the film and beauty industries. For this reason, it has become an ongoing joke in Hollywood and the modeling industry that once actresses and models reach age 50, they are sent to a proverbial farm upstate like a beloved childhood pet. Producers and advertisers consistently avoid marketing to older women because they are not seen as attractive as their younger counterparts.
In addition to American culture’s need to erase aging women from the beauty landscape, they continually advance their cause by bombarding the public with anti-aging products. The global anti-aging market reaps over $50 billion annually and only continues to grow. Companies like L’Oreal and Estee Lauder market their anti-wrinkle products as fountains of youth. They seek to eradicate all signs of aging in women as young as 30.
After these anti-aging products fail to fully combat wrinkles and sagging skin, many women in the public eye turn to more drastic measures of plastic surgery. Going under the knife may seem dramatic and unlikely, but nearly 20 million plastic surgeries are performed in the United States every year. This number does not even include treatments like Botox or lip injections which have become increasingly common in the past decade.
The need for eternal youth has gotten out of hand, and beauty industry leaders need to accept their role in changing public perception of aging.
While practical precautions should be taken to avoid premature aging like healthy eating, exercise and avoidance of smoking, there is no need for the modern cultural obsession with looking young.
American society praises individuals for living a long life. It seems every week there is a local news story about a senior citizen finally reaching their 100th birthday. Society continues to contradict itself by admiring a long life but penalizing individuals whose physical appearance shows that long life. If longevity of careers, memory, influence and lifetime are to be honored, society needs to be accepting of faces and body types that match.
Societal acceptance starts with awareness. Just as it has become more mainstream to see plus size and multi-racial models, the inclusion of older models will hopefully spread industry wide, making aging less of a taboo.
Aging is not the worst event in a person’s life, and a woman’s value should not decrease in society because she has grey hairs, wrinkles or crow’s feet.
For the vast majority of women, aging is a growing source of stress as time relentlessly ticks onward. Being a woman causes enough stress as it is; there is no reason for the beauty industry to perpetually add aging to the list.
This refusal to acknowledge the aging process in the beauty industry perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards. Aging is a crucial part of life and should play a prominent role in beauty advertisements for years to come.