Allure magazine announced last month that they are officially dropping the term “anti-aging.” Does a beauty publication truly mean to embrace aging, wrinkles and all, or is there something more calculated underlying the move? It’s an important topic. I do think anti-aging is a valid concept (more so the older I get), just as the subject of age discrimination merits serious attention. Anti-aging should not mean discarding the things we do to preserve health and appearance as we get older. And while we’re at it, let’s do away with the idea that “aging gracefully” can’t include certain maintenance procedures in the plastic surgeon’s office.
The cynical take on Allure’s resolution was expressed on the news site Jezebel: “Allure nixing this phrase from its style guide might be simply a well-calculated business decision. Because the truth is millennials, which make up a large portion of Allure’s readership, don’t care about anti-aging products anyway.” I would add that most of the anti-aging products pitched in beauty magazines fall short of the promise, especially for younger people. Expensive creams delivering subtle and temporary improvement in the appearance of wrinkles hardly count as anti-aging.
The science and clinical practice of anti-aging isn’t what it used to be either. It was originally focused on the biological processes underlying aging, leading to better understanding of how we might prolong healthy lifespan. Genes regulating the aging process continue to be identified, and methods of turning them on or off seem possible. Anti-aging gained legitimacy as the science advanced. But because health equates to a youthful and more attractive appearance, the boundaries between cosmetic medicine and anti-aging science eventually began to blur. Every wrinkle filler and antioxidant skin cream became an anti-aging strategy, even if it had little influence on the aging process.
Aging is inevitable, and if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a long life you will spend most of it as an older person. With age comes the wisdom to accept what we must about aging, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept everything if there are options to fight back with. For example, a recent study on facelift patients found that “Overall patient satisfaction is more than 95%, with improvement seen in positive changes in their life, increased self-confidence and self-esteem, decreased self-consciousness about their appearance, and overall improvement in quality of life.”*
So I’m not giving up on anti-aging just yet, however you define it. I see Allure’s pivot to appeal to younger readers as a poorly disguised ploy to take credit for an enlightened view on aging. The reality is that we aren’t going to see much difference in the images even if the words about aging are more carefully chosen.
“Youth is wasted on the young.” – Attributed to George Bernard Shaw
*Sarcu D, Adamson P. Psychology of the Facelift Patient. Facial Plast Surg. 2017 Jun;33(3):252-259.