(AND EAU THERMALE AVENE ARE LEADING THE WAY)Over the last decade the beauty world has become obsessed with the concept of 'anti-ageing'. Every product launch sees a new wave of claims that promise to "rekindle our lost youth" or "turn back the clock," but when did ageing become such a bad thing? When did wrinkles and laughter lines become something to be ashamed of? In other cultures age is associated with wisdom; wrinkles command respect. In the western world fine lines, grey hair and a somewhat expanding waistline are met with apprehension and dread; it seems that past the age of 25 we lose our social equity entirely - because if we're not beautiful in the traditional 'Victoria Secret model sense' then what's our value on this earth? Botox has never been more mainstream; eye lifts have never been more affordable; the shelves of our local Boots have never been so full of false promises. Women are spoken to in an increasingly patronising and derogatory sense, with brands scaring us into parting with our cash in the hope we'll wake up tomorrow with the skin of a teenager. However, there's a growing section of society that are standing up and saying enough is enough - something needs to change.
If you're a member of my 30 Plus Collective then you may have seen the conversations that evolved last week when we teamed up with Eau Thermale Avène to discuss these very issues. Our objective was to open up a conversation about ageing with some of the leading experts in the field (including Jane from British Beauty Blogger, clinical dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopolous,) as well as with women who are struggling to navigate their way through their ever-evolving skincare needs. The discussion was fascinating; the outcome was unsurprising: women don't want to be told that they shouldn’t have wrinkles, but they do continue to strive for smooth, radiant and glowing skin. Dr Linda summed up our collective feelings perfectly: "We’re made to feel like we’re 'works in progress' - it never ends." There's always something to improve, fix or eradicate; the beauty industry may want to help us feel good about ourselves, but many brands are going about it in the wrong way - by scaring us into thinking that wrinkle is the reason why we're not reaching our full potential.
Jane Cunningham from British Beauty Blogger said: "The beauty industry doesn’t want women to think for themselves; they want women to copy. They don’t want women to feel confident and feel amazing, because then they wouldn’t sell anything!" Dr Linda Papadopolous continued: "A wrinkle is just a wrinkle; we can only decide to see this as a negative. Your skin is supposed to be different at 20 to 40." It seems that the industry is encouraging men and women to re-capture something that is impossible to do; we're not meant to have the same baby soft skin in our 30s, 40s and 50s as we did when we were a teenager, because time moves on and our needs change. But instead of embracing this and providing products that meet the demands of older skin, the industry (often run by those much younger - or worse, men - who can't relate to their consumers at all) continues to be obsessed with promising the world and completely under-delivering.
But why is ageing such a scary concept, and why are we so obsessed with trying to prevent the inevitable? Dr Linda Papadopolous said: "In the West we have completely devalued ageing. In other cultures it’s still very much respected, but ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. From an evolutionary perspective we’re getting older; women are taught to put all our eggs in our beauty basket - the most precarious basket we’ve got!" So essentially, we don't have the role models to help empower us; all we see are photoshopped images of women that are wrinkle free with not a grey hair in sight. There's a reason the recent L'Oreal campaign with Helen Mirren was perceived to be so revolutionary - she's the first spokesperson they've had over the age of about 40, ever! This is increasingly a feminist issue and not just a beauty problem; women are underrepresented in every facet of life, boxed into either the 'old hag' who's past it, or the 'bimbo' that spends too much time worrying about her appearance. We're underrepresented in politics; we're force-fed images of the Kardashians and told to contour the sh*t out of our drooping jawlines; we're made to feel guilty, because mothers who work will damage the emotional intelligence of their offspring in the long run. GAH.
Although we're by no means going to fix this huge problem in the short term, how should brands be talking to consumers in 2016 and beyond? Dr Sam Bunting says "it’s about greater emotional intelligence. It’s about vitality, it’s about health. It’s about wellness, it’s about feeling sexy - and conveying that in a way that empowers women." It's not about telling women that they need to 'fix' their face, or making them feel guilty for having laughter lines; it's surely about a universal language of positivity that helps us to feel comfortable and confident in the skin we're in. From the conversations we've been leading on Twitter it's become incredibly clear that women want fabulous skin, no matter their age - and that doesn't mean they don't want to embrace the odd fine line and wrinkle simultaneously. Texture, tone and radiance are the key words that pop up over and over again; it's about maintenance and looking after our skin in the most effective way, rather than worrying about creases we genuinely can't do a lot about.
Avène wanted to facilitate this conversation because they genuinely want to lead change in the UK, by talking to women in the way they want to be spoken to. Amanda Miles, Marketing Manager at Eau Thermale Avène, sets the scene: "When preparing for the launch of our PhysioLift range for sensitive skin, we began to ask ourselves, ‘When did ageing become such a bad thing?’ and became aware of the way that society targets women with ageing skin. At Avène, we aim to provide sensitive-skinned individuals with the cosmetic effects they want, whilst also caring for their skin’s heightened needs. When marketing products like this, it seems counter-intuitive to target a customer’s insecurities about their skin, as a brand could easily choose to do. Our products are complicated because sensitive skin has complex needs, so we prefer to take a more subtle, gentle and altruistic approach. This is where our idea for a ‘positive approach to ageing’ came from – to provide women with a range of gentle, caring products and to talk about their skin’s needs rather than their skin’s flaws. Our message is that ageing skin has a different set of needs to younger skin, which is a neutral message, one that doesn’t affect the customer’s self-esteem or image of herself. We strive to communicate empathetically with our customers, because we know how distressing both sensitive skin and the ageing process can be."
It's so important for us to have brands like Avène leading the way and attempting to make change in an industry so obsessed with chasing beauty ideals. Jane Cunningham said during our discussion that "the fact that a brand like Avene is having these discussions is great. Unfortunately the packaging hasn’t caught up with their attitudes, but I think that’s going to be a consistent issue over the next few years as the people working internally struggle with the packaging they’re giving. This is a real positive step forward and exciting for me." She continued: "I think we’re ahead of the curve in the UK when it comes to anti-ageing; the UK has a body of women, largely lead by bloggers, who are powering the way and will become a role model for other countries." We're in a very fortunate position in the UK where we can stand up, voice our opinions and help brands facilitate change. Bloggers are collectively illustrating that it's ok to embrace your imperfections, as well as being far more relatable than most of the brand ambassadors we see on the high street. This is hopefully the first step of many - and I'm excited to see where it takes us.
I started working with Avène because I have a long history with their products. They've genuinely saved my best friend and boyfriend's skin from acne and eczema respectively, but their new Physiolift range brings their expertise to the masses in a whole new way. All five PhysioLift products contain clinically proven active ingredients that are gentle on the skin, so those with sensitive and ageing skin no longer have to compromise. A trio of powerful actives are designed to penetrate the skin to the layers where they’re needed, to leave the skin radiant, replumped, soft and smooth. Firstly Retinaldehyde is as effective as retinoic acid but less irritating on the skin; it efficiently replenishes the skin's level of vitamin A, which helps boost the skin’s radiance. Secondly, Hyaluronic Acid fragments act as a cushioning agent and space filler in the skin, holding on to water; Eau Thermale Avène has identified the optimum size fragment to mirror the physiology of the skin and synthesise with the skin’s own HA. Finally, Ascofilline is a collagen-boosting active that helps to replump skin and help it look fresh. Together they provide a truly effective, pleasant and easy-to-use routine that's not at all intimidating; the focus is on helping your skin look its very best, without promising to eradicate fine lines.
There's no better way to end this post than with a quote from Jane. She voices the opinions of many perfectly: "I’m still learning about ageing and I’m 50; you have to ease yourself into it. We have lots of choices and I think we should manage those. It’s your face, do what you want with it... I’m not anti the beauty industry, I’m anti the bits that make you feel sh*t - but I love the bits that make you feel awesome! Take advantage of the beauty industry, but don’t let the beauty industry take advantage of you." Here's hoping that in 2016 we'll start to see a new way of talking to (men and) women. Here's hoping that language will be more positive, imagery will be more relatable and embracing our own imperfections will be the overarching message.
What do you think about the way in which we're spoken to by the beauty industry right now? What would you like to see change in 2016 and beyond?
Eau Thermale Avène's new Physiolift range is available now, priced from £22.00.
Thank you to Avène for sponsoring the 30 Plus Collective's discussion and event.