Press release

Over 50s toned, tanned and tinted

Wednesday 15 September 2010

  • Saga Generation making most of cosmetic treatments to maintain their looks
  • Plastic surgery doubles in popularity
  • Fake tans and teeth whitening becoming more prevalent
  • Over half feel the same or better about their appearance than 10 years ago

Men and women over 50 are taking full advantage of cosmetic treatments to keep them looking young and beautiful according to a new study by Saga.

The survey of more than 10,000 people looked at changing attitudes towards personal appearance over a generation and revealed that spending on treatments such as hair tinting, fake tanning, teeth whitening, cosmetic surgery and other beauty treatments is soaring as they grab with both hands the opportunity of ‘staying sexy’.

The report discovered that people over fifty are more appearance conscious than ever, with two thirds (62%) believing they are more likely to be judged on their appearance than previous generations. One woman in seven (15%) said they wore padded bras. Five times more women today would use such breast enhancers than their mothers at the same age. Cosmetic surgery has almost doubled in a generation, although fewer than one in fifty women have taken this route. Almost two thirds of women colour their hair to disguise the grey (compared to 4% of men). This compares to one third of women a generation ago (2% of men).

In addition to this, compared with a generation ago, today’s over 50s are:

· Twelve times more likely to exercise to ‘tone up’

· Ten times more likely to use ‘fake tan’ tanning lotion or sun beds than they were a generation ago

· Seven times more likely to have had their teeth whitened

· Fourteen times more likely to use anti-wrinkle cream (men) with 10% now using age defying serum

Emma Soames editor-at-large, Saga Magazine commented: “Today’s over 50s are a generation that has successfully re-defined attitudes to age and ageing finding itself confronting the ‘politics of beauty’ at ever-later ages in life. Perhaps ‘age positive’ images of the likes of Helen Mirren simply create a new ‘beauty myth’ for older people (especially older women) to have to contend with. However they are clearly taking matters into their own hands and using every method possible to remain as young looking as possible.” she said.

The survey reveals a generation who are more fashion conscious than their parents at the same age – completely updating their personal look regularly. Women over fifty update their appearance every four and a half years. However, men are much less concerned about ‘keeping up with the times’, updating their appearance only every 19 years.

Men and women in the North East are the most fashion conscious, typically updating their style and personal appearance every six years on average. But it is over-fifties in Northern Ireland who are most self-confident about their style, with almost three quarters (71%) saying they are happy with their ‘look’, and with the average length of time between ‘style make-overs’ being eight years.

How do over 50s feel about themselves?

Today’s over 50s are comfortable in their own skin. Over half (54%) say they feel the same or better about their appearance than they did 10 years ago. The study also shows that satisfaction with appearance becomes significantly less important to overall happiness for people as they move through their sixties and seventies.

The increased opportunity for people to fight the signs of aging has fuelled a spectacular rise in over-fifties’ spending on their appearance in the last 10 years:

  • Share of total cosmetics spending rises from £1.9bn to £2.1bn
  • Spending on beauty treatments and hairdressing rises from £2bn to £2.2bn
  • Spending on clothing and shoes also rose sharply (35%) from £4.7bn to £12.2bn

Emma Soames concluded: “Today’s over-fifties are embracing the opportunities available to them to keep looking as young as they feel. It is however also heartening that as we move into our sixties and seventies, our looks become ever less important to the quality of our personal relationships and our overall happiness.”


Data was collected using Saga’s Populus panel, which delivered a total sample of 10,803 people aged 50+. Using quotas established by the Government Actuaries’ Department and the National Readership Survey, a nationally representative sample of over-50s was derived from the Populus panel, with an effective sample size of 3,483 (having taken design effects into account). This sample is nationally representative of UK over-50s by age, gender, social grade, and (broadly) by mobility (reported ease of walking one mile or more, and climbing stairs). Mobility measures were repeated and checked against evidence from the same questions asked in the BHPS (2007/8) – this revealed that the (weighted) Populus panel sample is not significantly different from the UK population in terms of mobility, allowing a derivation of a robust indication of the health activities and attitudes prevalent in the UK 50+ population. Unless otherwise sourced, all data presented in this report is based upon this derived nationally representative sample.

Alongside the main source of original survey data, analysis of the Family Expenditure Survey and the British Household Panel Study was used to provide broader perspective and an insight into trends in health and over the past generation.

For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529



    Press Office

    01303 771529