Anti-ageing claims in beauty and cosmetic products are accused of provoking ageism and lowering self-esteem in consumers. Some have called for prohibiting the use of such claims in the beauty industry, but would the world suddenly become more accepting towards ageing if there were no anti-ageing products on the market?

The idea of the ban came from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK, which found almost half of women and a quarter of men feel stressed about trying to look youthful. The organisation blamed the media for its bad influence, as it constantly trivialises, vilifies or catastrophises ageing, which is a natural physical process. It further suggested that the beauty industry should remove the word “anti-ageing” from products, adverts and marketing materials, as it implies that ageing is shameful.

Banning anti-ageing claims won’t solve deep-rooted ageism in beauty

The ‘anti-aging’ culture suggests everyone should make an effort to reverse aging, which would eventually happen to everyone, and it causes unnecessary stress to those who are unhappy about aging. But surprisingly, the majority of consumers are not going to be bothered by aging. GlobalData’s 2016 Q3 consumer survey found that two thirds of global consumers are either unconcerned about what age they look, want to look more mature or want to look their true age.

This means the remaining third are those who want to look younger, and they are the target audience for anti-ageing products. However, the removal of anti-ageing claims on products does not necessarily mean these consumers’ desire to look younger would be diminished. Peer pressure and social norms that youth equals beauty would continuously drive them to look for alternative anti-ageing solutions, for example non-invasive cosmetic treatments.

With no anti-ageing products on the market, negative views towards ageing and an older appearance would still persist. The proposed anti-ageing ban is unlikely to serve its purpose of improving the perception of ageing.

Having said that, the beauty industry plays a crucial role in helping consumers build a healthy self-image, which has substantial influence on how society’s views on ageing evolves. Removing anti-ageing claims on products is not the answer to changing the fact that for many people beauty equals youth, but what brands can do is stop setting unrealistic beauty goals through advertising, and stop using ‘fear of ageing’ as a marketing technique.There will be value and opportunity for brands who promote a healthy lifestyle/skincare/make-up routine that helps consumers look good at an older age, hence de-stigmatising ageing.

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