The beauty industry’s new ‘naughty’ word

Let’s look at ageing as a linguistic issue

Biliana Konstantinova Biliana Konstantinova
+1 imagesThe beauty industry’s new ‘naughty’ word

Have you heard recently on TV that you look bad, that your skin is dry or unevenly tanned, that you have wrinkles and need to take due measures to look like 20 years old? You haven’t, right?!

No-one dares talk to you like that anymore. The beauty industry has been going through a linguistic transformation because women shouldn’t be age-insulted anymore (nor should they have been ever). ‘Anti-ageing’ is now a forbidden word and cannot be used neither in advertising messages, nor on the products packages.

To be fully correct we should note that

the word itself makes no sense at all.

It will be hardly surprising to anyone, but it’s still a good idea to note that the death rate for people – regardless of the quality of life – is exactly 100%. This means we all are here temporarily and immortality is still a mirage. The main reason for ageing is… ageing and there’s nothing we can do about it. To ‘fight’ against it using cosmetics sounds rather immature. Science has proven that the only factors about skin ageing that we can control are nutrition, alcohol consumption, smoking, sun exposure and sleep. Let’s agree that cosmetic products – without diminishing developments and achievements in the field – have a cosmetic, external effect.  

The reason we are no longer exposed to anti-ageing advertising messages is neither a scientific, nor a linguistic one. It isn’t even an ethical one.

In early 2016 the beauty industry started to shift after recent data had suggested that millennials who are currently in their financial and consumption peak, were not buying traditional anti-wrinkle/anti-ageing products. Growth for that category had dreamatically slowed down.

Marketing experts put all efforts to find a solution and what they suggested ended up being brilliantly successful.

What is in the little jars, tubules and vials cannot be changed but the message with which they advertise them to us can.  

So now, two years later,

skin care is exploding.


Sales of masks and facial exfoliators, products meant to provide quick, glowy results, aiming to preserve beauty, were up a total of 44 percent in 2017. The beauty industry doesn’t even mention ageing anymore. Instead, it talks about preserving youth, the firmness and elasticity, the glowing tan… We are not being told that we are old and need to do something (ergo, we are not being age-insulted), but that we look great and this can last – if we take proper care. It’s not a message of fear but one of encouragement. It is up to us now to take the next step. The message is ethical. And since we all want to look good for as long as we can, we buy.

Actually, this linguistic conversation ingores the most important issue – the tone of the ageing discourse in a society where asking a woman’s age is still considered to be in bad taste. Women are at a huge disadvantage compared to men. Why is seniority represented as a daemon that comes with the first silver hair and almost invisible eye wrinkles, and by taking away beauty from us it also supposedly takes away our whole life? This creates unrealistic attitude towards a natural process. The logical conclusion of not meeting these expectations is social exclusion, which makes ageing with all its visible consequences unacceptable.  

The message is quite clear:

- youth and beauty are identical concepts;
- youth (along with beauty) is the only value and the only advantage of a woman;
- age is only associated with problems;
- age does not bring anything good;
- age means ugliness;
- age must be masked in all possible ways and by all possible means.

The whole industry, in fact, is insulting. After all, we are as old as we are and it is a pity that many people don’t realize that

aging is a privilege and a gift denied to many.      

There is no need to seek consolation in scientific evidence saying people who have a positive attitude towards their age, live 7.5 years longer.

The positive message ‘I want to age beautifully and I can achieve it’ sounds much more motivating, because it does not bring a sensation of sadness, doom and frustration. The beauty industry wins in any case, but it is preferable to spend our money with a smile and hope, not despair.

The only problem is that while the level of public maturity is such that asking about the age of women is still considered undiplomatic and seniority is a reason for rejection and social exclusion, the effect of changing the vocabulary in the cosmetic industry will only be ... cosmetic.


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