There’s a new rebel in town. She doesn’t fit the mould or live in line with other people’s expectations. She has a mind of her own, a spring in her step, and her motto is “the more you make me try to conform, the more I will rebel!”
I discovered her when I was carrying out research for a talk I was asked to give to the beauty industry about what older women want from their make-up. With each woman I spoke to I felt an increasing sense of hope.
Gone is the old stereotype of a ‘middle-aged frump’ and in her place stands a sassy woman with confidence who knows what she wants from life.
I have to say I felt inspired. I discovered that 50 is the new 30. This isn’t about denial – 50 just isn’t ‘old’ anymore.
So what’s driving this new mindset?
Well, it’s predicted that by 2019 there will be more than 10 million women in the UK over the age of 55. Because pension ages are rising, women are staying in the workplace for longer. In fact, an increasing number of women over 50 are setting up their own business.
Women are more likely to leave relationships that aren’t working, and there is less stigma around divorce, so there are more older women on the dating/social scene. Women are also having children later in life, so our ‘life stages’ have shifted compared to where they were a few decades ago.
So the old stereotype of ‘middle aged’ no longer fits.
This means women are engaging with make-up products for longer – but is the beauty industry up to speed with who this new woman is and what she wants? Personally, I’m not sure it is.
When I spoke to women during my research, even though they still want to play with make-up and have a higher disposable income to spend on themselves, many didn’t feel supported by some of the key beauty brands. This is what they told me.
- We feel largely ‘ignored’ by the industry – except when it comes to anti-ageing products – and then they hike up the price! This makes us feel resentful – we feel we’re being exploited.
- Although we want to engage with make-up products, quite often we struggle to read shades and instructions on packaging and information on shelf-edge tickets, because our eyesight has become weaker. This can be frustrating and makes us feel a bit inadequate.
- There is far too much choice out there with too little support on how to choose, and it can be so overwhelming that we end up buying nothing.
- What we learned about how to apply make-up no longer works for us – but we don’t feel that beauty consultants are age appropriate or approachable. I mean, do I really want to talk to a perfectly preened consultant in her mid-20s about my hot flushes and loosening skin?
The biggest bug-bear I came across was the ‘anti-ageing’ message. One woman summed this up perfectly when she said “when you say anti-ageing, what I hear is anti-me!”
Older women may feel inspired to take care of themselves by their daughters when they see them ready for a night out. But they don’t want to compete with them!
This new woman that I discovered is comfortable in her own skin, wants to look good, and is more interested in looking vibrant, awake and alive than she is about looking young. Think “me, but on a good day”.
The overall message I got was:
- I feel confident in who I am, and although I do want to look good, I have enough life experience to value that I am more than what you see on the outside.
- I would love beauty brands to engage with me, but they need to meet me where I’m at and help me express who I am – confident, sexy, comfortable within myself – and not who they think I should be – constantly paranoid about wrinkles, grey hair and signs of ageing.
If this rebel could talk directly to the beauty industry, what would she say? Something like: “Make the effort to get to know me and treat me well and I’ll be happy to spend my money with you. Dismiss me or treat me badly, and I’ll walk away.”