The future of ‘ageing’? Beauty needs to be more ‘holistic’ and ‘inclusive’ – Experts

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

As consumers navigate a 'grey hair movement' but preventative skin care holds strong, the beauty industry must follow suit - developing products and marketing materials that match fresh ageing ideals [Getty Images]
As consumers navigate a 'grey hair movement' but preventative skin care holds strong, the beauty industry must follow suit - developing products and marketing materials that match fresh ageing ideals [Getty Images]

Related tags anti-ageing Ageing active beauty Skin care Skin health L'oréal Unilever Beautystreams holistic beauty trends

It is time for beauty to ditch the ‘anti-ageing’ discourse and instead opt for positive and holistic messaging and innovation that takes a preventative and celebratory approach to ageing, say executives from L’Oréal, Unilever and Beautystreams.

At this year’s Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna, Michael Nolte, SVP and creative director at trend forecasting firm Beautystreams, hosted a dedicated panel session on the key future trends set to shape the next five years in beauty. According to Beautystreams, 2023-2028 would centre around ‘celebrating otherness’ – overturning any one-size-fits-all approach in favour of diverse cultural influences and unique points of view.

“This year, we’re celebrating otherness – beauty in the unique. Why is this so important? Obviously, our world has become a little bit more divided unfortunately but still much more diverse. And instead of seeing this diversity as a problem, we want to celebrate diversity,” Nolte told attendees at the first Cosmotalks panel session at the tradeshow last week.

And whilst inclusivity had long been on the beauty industry agenda, he said over the next five years it would become more nuanced and detailed, encompassing much broader talking points. Beautystreams had carved up the ‘celebrating otherness’ focus into five key trends: not about age, just for me, local love, open type and multi-roots.

Healthy ageing – beauty must 'change how people view age'

Kickstarting the panel discussion on the first trend ‘not just about age’, which predicted a future that embraced age inclusivity, Nolte said this was highly relevant as the average age of consumers around the world continued to rise. By 2030, he said one in six people globally would be aged over 60, yet research still indicated 50% of 18 to 24-year-old females still wanted ‘anti-wrinkle’ beauty products.

“The standards of youth are still very young,” he said. So, how could beauty approach ageing, in a more inclusive way whilst still tapping into the needs and expectations of younger consumers?

Lan Vu, founder and CEO of Beautystreams, said: “We’ve been studying the idea of age for a while (…) We see age is not just about people in their middle-age worried about getting older, it’s also progressively younger people obsessed with getting older and wrinkles.”

The beauty industry, therefore, had to “change how people view age” – shifting it from being something consumers should be fighting to something they should be embracing more positively, Vu said.

“In previous cultures, like native American culture, you would aspire to be an elder, older, and that was considered a good thing. But in our society, it’s all about being younger when obviously nature tells us differently.”

Whilst beauty still depended on ‘anti-ageing’ as a category at the moment, she said companies ought to start branching out beyond this, looking at this as a bigger sector and accompanying consumers throughout their lives in a positive way.

Prevention gaining ground as ageing science builds

Michèle Verschoore, scientific directorate of L’Oréal Research and Innovation, agreed it was clear beauty had to shift – taking a more preventative approach versus offering products to fight signs of ageing after they had appeared. And rising life expectancies worldwide and a richer scientific understanding on the process of ageing meant this was especially relevant for beauty brands today, Verschoore said.

“Why anti-ageing products were so famous, and still are, is because we didn’t have all the scientific factors in mind about what caused ageing – sun exposure, pollution, stress etc,” she said.

Now, however, L’Oréal and all other major beauty companies had conducted extensive research on skin biology and better understood the different factors inducing ageing, she said. And this knowledge had also reached consumers, sparking far younger engagement in the ageing skin care category and more of a preventative approach, she said.

'We need to think about advertising and the role that can play as well'

Emma Wingate, pitch global innovation director for beauty and wellbeing at Unilever, agreed there was certainly a rising consumer group looking to prevent signs of ageing far earlier but also more consumers embracing signs of ageing. And this, Wingate said, made it crucial for brands to carefully consider how they presented ageing visually in advertising, marketing and product messaging.

“When we think about our approach to ageing, we also need to think about advertising and the role that can play as well,” she said. “We are beginning to see a societal shift to seeing visible signs of ageing; we are going through a bit of a ‘grey hair movement’, and that started in the pandemic. And part of the reason for that is because we are seeing more acceptance around that.”

Brands, therefore, had to reflect these ideals, she said, in both messaging but also the types of products offered to consumers. People opting to let their hair go grey, for example, still wanted products to maintain a healthy shine and manageable styles, she said.

The end of 'anti-ageing' wording in beauty

Verschoore agreed and said wording would be especially important moving forward. “The word ‘anti-ageing’ obviously is a bit difficult to use but looking ‘healthy’ and ‘not stressed’ is probably the trend where we’re going. You see beauty and skin health are very linked.”

Vu added that this shift towards healthy ageing and comfort, away from anti-ageing, had already started – “it’s more of a holistic view”.

Back in 2021, the head of skin care and innovation at Avon already predicted that ‘anti-ageing’ would disappear from beauty by 2024​ as consumers looked for products addressing specific skin care needs rather than buying into the notion of anti-ageing products.

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