Just as I finished reading Harvard scientist David Sinclair’s brilliant new book Lifespan: Why we age and why we don’t have to, I turned to see the November 2019 issue of Allure magazine again proclaiming “the end of anti-aging.” A remarkably youthful-appearing Sharon Stone graces the cover, over a title about “The glory of going gray,” though there’s nary a gray hair or even the hint of a wrinkle on the age-defying 61-year old. Allure first announced their campaign against the term “anti-aging” two years ago, but they got it wrong then and they don’t seem to have figured it out yet. Anti- aging is just getting going, and its future is bright.
Anti-aging is not a dirty word
The science of anti-aging is increasingly compelling. Once the province of quacks and snake oil peddlers, it has gone legit. Someone forgot to tell the editorial staff of Allure though; a year after they first announced a ban on the term in 2017, editor in chief Michelle Lee lauded it in an editorial letter. She touted the surge of support for their bold stance, from AARP to Britain’s Royal Society for Public Health. So since you brought it up again Allure, how is it working out? The April, 2019 edition features a list of “The 22 Best Neck Creams on the Market Right Now,” independently selected by Allure’s editors. Noting that the neck “is one of the first places on your body to show signs of aging,” the list includes “SkinCeuticals A.G.E. interruptor” and “BareMinerals Ageless Genius Firming & Wrinkle Smoothing Neck Cream.” They go on to point out that “the sun is the No. 1 culprit behind aging skin” and a “recent study found that sunscreen can actually help reverse (not just prevent) the signs of aging. Cool, huh?” Yes, very cool, unless you just said that anti-aging isn’t a thing. This month their recommendations included “Freeze 24-7 Anti-Aging Eye Serum.”
Here’s what is not cool: Patting yourself on the back for being woke about ageism then filling your publication with ads showing models barely out of their teens. No wonder Allure has been accused of this whole thing being a cynical business decision, a tilt to younger readers who don’t care about anti-aging anyway. They might as well come out and say that while they give lip service to how valuable older people are, they expect them to step aside so they can sell lipstick to millennials. They’re confusing anti-aged with anti-aging.
Health and beauty both contribute to well-being
It is human nature to want to appear youthful and attractive. From a scientific perspective, anti-aging is about extending healthy lifespan; being healthy projects a more youthful and attractive appearance and vice-versa. You don’t have to be an ageless genius to understand that well-being derives from both. Allure still has a chance to get it right, but only if they take a long-term view. If Sinclair is correct (and I think he is – you should read his book), most of us will be living longer and healthier if the science pans out and we practice the right anti-aging strategies. The market for anti-aging products and beauty treatments aimed at an older demographic will expand commensurately. As it does, our desire to maintain a youthful, healthy appearance will remain, shall we say, alluring. Anti-aging isn’t ending any time soon.
Disclaimer: David A. Sinclair, Ph.D., co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging at Harvard Medical School has endorsed my book Wine and Health: Making sense of the new science and what it means for wine lovers, the central theme of which is anti-aging. He called it “the best book ever written on the science of wine.”