With the first lines on the face comes discomfort at being subject to the aging process. But when exactly do women want to start concerning themselves with anti-aging products? Earlier than you would think is the result of a qualitative, psychological agency-initiated study by concept m (Berlin/ Cologne/ Munich) — the users just want to be correctly addressed.

40 women aged between 25 and 35 were interviewed in depth-psychological face-to-face interviews, partly in home, to gain an overview of the used set of cosmetics. The first thing to emerge was that the subject is very much taboo: “When I buy such products, I feel as if I’m one of these ‘old’ women” is the typical quote of a user.
This taboo has its roots in an underlying dilemma-based tension. On the one hand, young facial skin is an object for the projection of ideals of youth and beauty. By using restorative cosmetics the user feels she has command over the preservation of her youthfulness. On the other hand, she is permanently confronted with unavoidable signs of aging from external sources, for example in the media.
The current zeitgeist additionally fuels this tension: the mantra applies of continuous self-optimization with higher and higher demands on the personal appearance. Moreover, the standards by which beauty is measured are incessantly shifting upwards – as can be seen from the example of the perfect photoshopped models on the cover pages of magazines. Today’s zeitgeist supplies fewer stabilizing images of aging but instead makes the self-preservation and conservation of youth into a life-task. However, since a woman inevitably ages, this results in a feeling of powerlessness.

Youth and Anti-Aging

At a deeper level the wish to retain youthfulness indicates the urge to keep a self-determined, not fixed social role — i.e. independence, multi-optionality of life plans, full vitality, competitiveness in working life. “This is the best time of my life right now. I’d like to halt it if I could”, to quote from one interview. Nevertheless, the consciousness of the own advancing aging process grows at the same time, evident for example in the rising needs for care of the own skin.

It is interesting to note that the increased wish for restorative cosmetics is accompanied by an observable breakdown of clear life-stages, which used to shape the biography of a woman. Motherhood, formerly normal in one’s early 20s to early 30s, is today increasingly becoming the rule for women in their 40s. Basically speaking, after the fading of puberty, women today live in a phase of post-adolescence which lasts several decades and in which the women want to be open to all life plans (job, single, family, motherhood). Psychologically, a clear dividing line is just drawn from women who have grown really old. The consequence of this conglomerate of life-stages is identity conflicts: women on the wrong side of 40 come into competition with 20 and 30-year-olds. The call to have an identity of their own can be heard from younger women.

For marketing, the prolonged period of post-adolescence leads to a gap, and pushing into this gap could present many products with new potential. In the view of the younger target groups, an early anti-aging brand should protect from aging like a “shield”. The younger users in the 25 to 35 age group want to be specifically addressed by the products (own identity compared to the older users).

The classic effects promised by the anti-aging brands are based more on restoration. Younger target groups do not feel served here because they sooner want to “conserve” their current status. One of the deductions of the study for brands and manufacturers is the insight that the down-aging trend and life-task to stay young arouses a strong need in the women for their own brand which clearly differentiates from the “real” anti-aging products. Based on the results of the study, on which concept m would be happy to provide further information, the manufacturers need to develop guidelines for marketing which ought to be specifically valid for a specialized early anti-aging product line.

(Authors: Veronika Falk, Rochus Winkler)

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