The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December saw the stars of the franchise once again in the spotlight and the result sparked a social media debate about how older beauty is perceived, focused around Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia.

Carrie Fisher prompts pro-ageing movement

In December 2015, 59-year-old Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher was subjected to criticism online from those commenting she had aged badly since the release of the original film in 1977. Using Twitter, the actress responded: “Please stop debating whether or not I aged well,” as well as “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they are temporary.”

A number of others joined the debate online, defending the actress and bringing the issue of gender equality in ageing into the spotlight.

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A society focused on youth

Mintel’s Anti-Ageing Beauty UK 2015 report shows that this debate resonates with consumers, as seven in 10 Brits agree society is too focused on a youthful appearance. Whilst women identify with this at a young age, young men do not yet feel this is the case, indicating that it is women who feel more pressure to defy the ageing process.

This inconsistency indicates high awareness of unbalanced expectations between genders when it comes to appearance. Indeed, over a third of women agree young adults should use products to delay the onset of ageing, compared to a quarter of men. Similarly, more women would like to look younger than their age compared to men.

Although the beauty and personal care markets have grown to be more inclusive of older consumers in recent years – with Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling fronting a NARS campaign at the age of 70 – the high proportion of women agreeing there are not enough mature models in beauty advertising indicates further action is required.

Will 2016 bring a new beauty marketplace?

Brands have begun to respond to consumer demand for a less youth-centred beauty market. In June 2015, Estée Lauder introduced its New Dimension skincare range and, although the products did provide benefits associated with anti-ageing such as plumping and lifting, the marketing for the products avoided the term directly, instead offering a “positive change.” In promotional materials for the product range actress Eva Mendes was said to display health and positivity, not necessarily perfection.

L’Oréal has focused on a more age diverse range of models in 2015, with Dame Helen Mirren and Twiggy fronting campaigns for the brand. It has also been reported that in 2016 the brand is set to replace the word ‘anti-ageing’ with ‘healing and health’ on its beauty product packaging. This should appeal to the quarter of women who don’t like to be reminded of ageing when shopping for beauty products.

Charlotte Libby is Senior Beauty Analyst at Mintel, collating and analysing a wide range of data on the beauty markets, including consumer trends, product sales and new innovations. Charlotte joined Mintel in 2013 as an Analyst across the Beauty & Personal Care and Household sectors and now specialises in Beauty.

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