Older women: the Forgotten Demographic

Imogen Matthews, Market Researcher

The term anti-ageing is widely used and accepted within the beauty industry, but is this what women over 50 really want from their skincare products? In a new report: Older Women: The Forgotten Demographic*, I interviewed women aged 54-90 to establish their views on cosmetics and toiletries: what they use, where they buy and what they think of packaging, advertising and product claims.

The results were eye-opening and at odds with the way that the beauty industry perceive older women. For example, Sheila, aged 60, said that glamorous models didn’t do it for her. “I’m very cynical and don’t believe if I use this {product} I’ll have perfect-looking skin. It has the opposite effect.” Another respondent, Annie, aged 50, said: “I shout at the TV when I see ads with women with no wrinkles or who are too young to have them.”

Women over 50 are not being heard by the beauty industry, despite their growing numbers. Consider these statistics: before the end of the decade women aged 45-59 will increase by 8.9%, the 60-74s by 12.6% and the over 75s by 17.9%.

Tracey McAlpine, founder of the website Fighting Fifty Ltd, which launches in June 2012, told me: “Where the beauty industry is failing is in stereotyping the over 50 age group. Many brands interpret 50 to be over 70; they have an outdated view that after this age women either have little interest in self-improvement, are too old to learn new techniques or that they are unlikely to switch brands. In fact women of this age are living more active lives, they are often mentally and physically younger than they were ten years ago and they want their appearance to keep up with their attitude.”

Beauty brands {and retailers} are missing out on this important demographic. Although there are plenty of skincare brands which target skin as it gets older, many older women are turned off by the jargon and advertising. Ceridwen, aged 60, said: “I’m not interested in anti-ageing but in using products so my skin feels comfortable.”

Caroline Neville is President of Cosmetic Executive Women UK and has worked in the industry since 1963. Over that time, she has not seen much evidence of brands changing their attitude towards older women. “Why do we still see so many younger models in the beauty ads,” she asks. “Why do I not see good looking older women who I can relate to. Real women, not models. It does not make sense.” She emphasizes: “What I want is to look as good as I can for my age. I don’t want to be patronized. A good haircut and colour does wonders, as does changing your lipstick twice a year.”

The report shows how only a handful of brands dominate the purchasing preferences of the over 50s. Out there is a massive opportunity for beauty brands to take a share of the billions of pounds this demographic spends each year on cosmetics and toiletries.

* Available from www.thepremiummarketreport.com from July 12, 2012

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