Health & Wellness

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Make-up brands: stop ignoring the over-40s

01.02.2019 Beauty : Ageism : Colour Cosmetics

At a time when Flat Age women are making themselves seen and heard, why are colour cosmetics brands seemingly ignoring them?

Babor and All Womxn Project campaign, US Babor and All Womxn Project campaign, US

Many make-up brands champion self-empowerment, individuality and breaking boundaries on gender and diversity. But this only matters to you – it seems – if you’re under 40.

Jessica Smith, creative researcher

Let's talk about the colour cosmetics industry. It occurred to me recently, while scrolling through various beauty blogs, that there are few women over the age of 40 representing make-up brands. Although many brands tap into the beauty zeitgeist of today and champion diverse features and faces – ageism remains a major issue.

We've made leaps and bounds in the skincare category, ridding the industry of its bias towards younger models and embracing age positivity. Brands like Dove and Space NK have made a conscious effort to use models aged over 45, while luxury skincare brand Babor recently launched an awareness campaign in collaboration with All Womxn Project, pioneering unretouched images of older women. It's also promising to see this attitude continue across beauty media, with platforms such as Allure banning the term 'anti-ageing' from its reportage as a stand against the message that ageing is a condition we need to fight.

So why isn't this mindset present in colour cosmetics? Considering that 21% of consumers say perceptions of older people in the media have worsened from 2015 to 2018, and a sizeable majority (68%) of those aged over 65 believe advertisements still stereotype people in their age bracket, there is clearly an opportunity for cosmetics brands to help wipe away the stigma associated with ageing (source: UM London).

Customers get older – and they increasingly want the brands they love to grow with them.

Suzi Grant, @AlternativeAgeing Suzi Grant, @AlternativeAgeing
The Ordinary make-up The Ordinary make-up

Many make-up companies base their brand propositions around self-empowerment, individuality and breaking boundaries on gender and diversity. But this only matters to you – it seems – if you’re under 40. But customers get older, and they increasingly want the brands they love to grow with them. Armed with this knowledge, isn’t it time the companies ignoring older women rethink their marketing strategy?

Cover Girl is one of the few positive exceptions, featuring 70-year old Maye Musk in recent campaigns, complete with smoky eye make-up. With the tagline ‘All Ages, All Races, All Genders’, MAC director of make-up artistry Romero Jennings often spotlights his mother in full MAC make-up. The brand has also previously worked with nonagenarian style maven Iris Apfel on a capsule collection of bright pink lipsticks, varnishes and eyeshadows. But older women's faces are otherwise (and ironically) invisible among the many self-proclaimed inclusive brands of today.

In the age of The Make-up Movement, it's about time that make-up brands and campaigns move beyond the teen beauty market to embrace age diversification, encouraging the wearing of make-up and celebrating self-expression through cosmetics at any age.

For more on the changing attitudes and expectations of women, explore our Flat Age Women Market.

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