Why do so many view the visual characteristics of growing older with negativity? The signs of ageing – grey hair, wrinkles, jowls, laughter lines, baggy eyes – all come to us all as time goes on.
What has happened to our mind-sets to view these aspects as things to be combated? From where did that awful term ‘anti-ageing’ derive? Why are we opposed to something that’s completely natural and which should be celebrated positively?
All the following aspects of our naturally ageing bodies are under attack in some insidious way:
Facial beauty products like day creams, night creams, under-eye creams, eyelid creams, neck restoring formulas, neck and jowl creams and lip plumpers (every area of the face has a cream!), are advertised with clever marketing promoting the anti-ageing message.
There are many cosmetic and surgical treatments available too to eliminate and prevent the signs of ageing: face lift, neck lift, brow lift, eye bag removal, fillers, Botox injections, micro dermabrasion, laser treatment, chemical peel and lip plumping injections.
Hair-dye companies use negative language about grey hair in their advertising campaigns. Terms like ‘banish the greys’, ‘cover roots’ and ‘age defying’ perpetuate anti-ageing and insult those who have made a conscious decision to go grey.
Hair dye could be marketed and advertised as alternative colour choices without negating grey (which is a colour, by the way).
Increasingly, magazines, newspapers, billboards and websites are displaying overly-edited images of faces with every flaw, line and pore erased from them. A certain amount of editing is required to get the best and most flattering image, and that is understandable.
However, the subliminal pro-youthful message conveyed through the use of the perfect, flawless, non-wrinkled face has a huge influence on consumers contributing to the attitude that ageing is not the way to go.
Unobtainable perfection at our fingertips
With the advancement of technology, the use of mobile phones and the interaction on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the sharing of personal images has become second nature to us all. Everyone wants to look good and we are all now our own personal editors of our photographs.
Mobile phones have easy-to-use apps which enable photos to be transformed into perfect images of ourselves with beautiful flawless skin, bright eyes, glowing white teeth and not a wrinkle in sight. We post our pictures and get a buzz on how many likes and positive comments we receive from our ‘audience’.
The temporary ‘high’ makes us feel good about ourselves and has become an addiction for many.
Silver foxes and no silver vixens
There are far too few role models in the medium of television of women with grey hair. For example, on the mainstream television channels there are no women newsreaders with grey hair – not one! This reality applies to television presenting in general. And, yet, our programmes are filled with numerous male presenters with grey hair. This lack of role model in the media contributes is another example of the subliminal anti-ageing message.
There is a myth that it’s OK for men to show the signs of ageing. With their grey hair and wrinkles they are viewed as ‘distinguished’. However, women have been brainwashed into striving to look younger or they are seen as ‘extinguished’. This is wrong and displays an inequality between women and men.
Help for thinning hair
Embrace the reminders of age
A change in our perceptions of ageing needs to be transformed from negative to positive. We need to remind ourselves that our ageing faces tell a story – our story. They display communication and emotions of joy, sadness, anger, laughter, worry and fear. When we fill the lines and wrinkles and tighten up the sagging skin, whether that is physically or electronically, we take away that facial communication. Faces become puffed, frozen, expressionless and, in extreme cases, alien-like. Our true emotions are hidden and trapped under a mask of rigidness. That special factor unique to each one of us, known as character, disappears. We need to retain our character – it is what makes us human.
Research conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), published in June 2018, stated that almost half of women and a quarter of men feel an immense pressure to maintain a youthful appearance. It is fantastic to see that the RSPH is calling for the term ‘anti-ageing’ to be banned across the beauty and cosmetics industry:
“We call on major outlets such as Boots and Superdrug, and beauty industry magazines, to follow the lead of Allure magazine 84 and ban the use of the term ‘anti-ageing’, and to re-focus their ageing narrative on opportunities to be embraced rather than processes to be resisted.”
This is ground-breaking and it’s great to see the issue being highlighted.
Grey hair should be promoted as a positive choice. Many women have coloured their hair for a long time, perhaps since teenage years, and don’t even know what their natural colour is. However, dyed hair can look too dark against ageing skin. Nature’s colour palette of grey harmonises beautifully with ageing skin and makes wrinkles look softer.
Grey hair brings real freedom: from the pressure of being a slave to covering up roots; from spending so much time at the hair salon; from having chemicals applied to the head (think about why the hair stylist wears latex gloves); and from high financial salon costs. It also brings a freedom on the inside too – a feeling of inner confidence and empowerment.
Going grey: To dye or not to dye
It is important to say that embracing age doesn’t mean we have given up on how we look. We still care very much on how we present ourselves.
But let’s show women how to do it positively with makeup, hair care and styling, fashion, jewellery and accessories. And, we have beautiful role models such as Helen Mirren, Dame Judy Dench, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Walters, Emmylou Harris, Christine Lagarde, Caryn Franklin, Sarah Harris, Yazemeenah Rossi, Maye Musk and Nicola Griffin to inspire us.
One of my personal inspirations is Cindy Joseph (Make-up artist, model and Founder/CEO of ‘Boom!’ cosmetics company) who sadly died this year. It is worth watching this TEDx Talks event, given by Cindy in September 2014. She describes how our anti-ageist viewpoints are formed and offers a new and positive way to consider what getting older is all about. Cindy rightly tells us “Ageing is simply another word for living”.
Whilst it is always personal choice about how we adapt to ageing, and we have the right to do what makes us feel happy and confident, I think we need to re-evaluate what it is to grow older and place value on it.
We need to change perceptions to positively embracing every phase of our lives, celebrating the joy of getting older, showing that our inner beauty, our experience of living and our wisdom shines through from within. The characteristics we have developed reveal that we have lived and that life is good to the very end.
Don’t waste time fighting time – enjoy very minute!
What do you think? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!
Denise O'Neill is from Northern Ireland, is 55 years old and married with two adult children. She has a blog called ‘Grey is OK!’ where she shares her experience of her journey to grey and offers tips and inspiration to other women thinking of going grey. She is registered as a part-time model with CMPR Ireland.