The first wrinkles arrive together with the fear that the aging process has set in. But when exactly do women first decide to look into anti-aging products? The answer is, earlier than you think, according to a qualitative psychological initiative study by concept m (Berlin/Cologne/Munich) – users just need to be approached in the right way.
The survey covered 40 women between 25 and 35, using depth psychological individual interviews, partly at home to get an overview of the arsenal of cosmetics used. What first became clear is that the topic is strictly taboo. “If I buy products like this, I have the feeling I’m ‘old’,” is a typical quote from a user.
Behind the taboo is a wild mix of tensions. Young facial skin is seen as a projection surface for ideals of beauty and youthfulness. Restorative cosmetics give users a feeling of independently preserving their own youth. On the other side, however, is the external threat – for example, from the media – of a permanent confrontation with inevitable aging appearances.
The current mood adds additional fuel to this conflict, with the mantra of continuous self-optimisation, with constantly increasing demands on personal appearance. Another factor is the constant raising of standards of beauty – most evident in the perfect photoshopped models on magazine covers. Our times offer few stabilising images of age, instead making self-preservation and conservation of youth a lifetime exercise. However, since we age anyway, the result is a feeling of powerlessness.
Youthfulness and anti-aging
At a deeper level, the desire to stay young represents the pressure to retain an independent and undefined social role – i.e., independence, multiple options in life, full of vitality, competitiveness at work. “This is the best time of my life. I wish I could stay at this point,” as one interview quote puts it. At the same time, there is growing awareness of the ongoing aging process, apparent for example in the increased demands of skin care.
Interestingly, the increased desire for restorative cosmetics is associated with the evident breakdown of clear phases in life which previously defined a woman’s biography. Motherhood, previously normal from the start of the 20s to the start of the 30s, is increasingly a feature of women in their 40s. Basically, today’s women emerge from puberty into a phase of post-adolescence which lasts for several decades, during which they would like to have a choice of lifestyles (profession, single, family, motherhood). A clear line is only drawn psychologically to mark off those who have really grown old. The consequence of this cluster of phases in life is conflicts of identity, as women over 40 compete with 20 and 30 year olds. There is a growing call for a separate identity for the younger women.
For marketing, the extended post-adolescence creates a gap where many products could find new potential. From the point of view of the younger target group, an early-anti-aging brand should offer a “protective shield” against aging. Younger users from 25 to 35 want to be addressed separately (with their own identity, compared to older users).
The classic effect promised by the anti-aging brands tends more to restorative claims. Younger target groups do not feel affected, as their desire is more to preserve their current status. One of the implications of the study for brands and manufacturers is the recognition that the down-aging trend and the lifelong responsibility to stay young is leading to a strong need among women for a separate brand which stands out clearly from the “real” anti-aging products. Based on its results, the study has developed guidelines for marketing for manufacturers which would have to be followed for a special early-anti-aging product line.
For further information, contact Rochus Winkler, Managing Partner concept m.
(Authors: Veronika Falk, Rochus Winkler)