It’s time to look a the trends and developments that will rock the spa & wellness industry in 2024. Here’s one in our series and stay tuned for our upcoming guide: 7 SPA & WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2024: A HOSPITALITY HANDBOOK
The anti-ageism movement is a growing one as people have had enough of “anti-aging” and outright ageism, “one of the last socially acceptable prejudices.”
Four years ago, we published an article suggesting that it was time to rethink the term “anti-aging” and, while the idea didn’t take off like a rocket at the time, a slow build followed. This was something we actually predicted. “Movements don’t usually start with a bang,” we wrote, “but with a whisper.”
These days, people everywhere – particularly women – are talking about how sick and tired they are of being told they should want to look, and be, younger, and the pushback is real. Women face ageism in the workplace, on the job search, in media, and from the beauty and wellness industries. It’s everywhere.
As skincare is being marketed to increasingly younger audiences, often through fear-based messaging designed to prey on girls with already low self esteem, people are saying “enough.”
Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable prejudices
“Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable prejudices,” reads a recent headline from the American Psychological Association, “Psychologists are working to change that.” The article reads: “From ‘antiaging’ face creams to wisecracking birthday cards about getting older to ‘OK, boomer’ memes, the message is clear: Being old is something to avoid.” The author adds: “It is clear that ageism has a host of negative effects, for people’s physical and mental well-being and society as a whole.”
And the only alternative to aging is … well … dying. So, why would we be against it?
It seems important that the wellness industry not perpetuate this type of discrimination and that people are wary of the messages they are sending. Suggesting to women that what they need is something to make them look younger may no longer land the way you think it will. As a business, knowing your audience is crucial. Women over 40 have big purchasing power and you don’t want to insult or alienate them.
For example, Elizabeth ( Editor in Chief at Spa Executive), was recently buying perfume and asked if there were any free samples. The younger woman behind the counter said “sure!” and cheerfully stuffed something in the bag. Later, when Elizabeth looked in the bag, expecting to find perfume samples, she found a sample of neck firming cream. Elizabeth, who is perfectly happy with her neck and has no interest in firming creams, found the young woman’s presumption surprising and irritating. A more easily offended person might have been put off from ever returning to that business.
Pro-aging & anti-ageism movements are growing on social media
As it was with fat shaming and the relentlessly insensitive weight loss messaging that spawned the body positivity and body neutrality movements a few years ago, pro-aging and anti-ageism movements are growing on social media.
Hashtags like #ilookmyage and accounts with names like Ageism Is Never in Style and aging_is_amazing have hundreds of thousands of followers – and not just as tokenism or new wrapping for tired, old ideas. They’re not marketing anti-aging creams and serums under the guise of “pro aging” or “aging gracefully,” but rather, these are accounts for women with gray hair, natural skin, wrinkles, and big smiles.
Celebrities are also talking. Among them, supermodel Paulina Poriskova has been outspoken against ageism and persistent in sharing her true face. So, the now 58-year-old was unimpressed when last year, she says, a plastic surgeon shared a photo of her and pointed out everything “wrong” with it. In response, Porizkova reshared the image with her own comments:
She wrote: “telling a woman what she ‘needs’ to do herself in order to be seen as attractive, whether it’s hair color, makeup, skin creams or clothing – or the more invasive options – is shaming her. Every time you catch yourself thinking or saying ‘you know, you should…’ to a friend, stop for a moment. If she doesn’t ask for help, are you really helping?”
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Other women who have broached the topic include Andie MacDowell, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Jamie Lee Curtis, who said at the Reframing Aging Summit hosted by Maria Shriver in March, “This word ‘anti-aging’ has to be struck. I am pro-aging. I want to age with intelligence, and grace, and dignity, and verve, and energy. I don’t want to hide it. I’m not denying what I look like, of course I’ve seen what I look like. I am trying to live in acceptance.”
Others are realizing that self acceptance is key. A Washington Post article states:
“Age bias doesn’t show up only as blatant discrimination (‘We want someone younger for that job.’) or snarky birthday cards. One of the most potent sources of ageism comes from older people themselves, and like other forms of ageism, the self-inflicted kind is associated with lower levels of emotional and physical health and can slash years off people’s lives.”
This self acceptance means tuning out the voices of discrimination telling you that you’re not good enough and should be trying to look 25 again.
Brands & media are getting the message and changing their messaging
Brands and media are getting the message. For example:
- The Body Shop recently changed the name of its best-selling “Drops of Youth” serum to “Edelweiss,” reportedly motivated by research identifying the negative impact the beauty industry’s messaging is having on its consumers.
- Zara has named 67-year-old Spanish actress Angela Molina as the face of its new campaign, and
- 71-year-old actress and model Isabella Rossellini appeared on the October 2023 cover of Vogue Italia. Unlike 81-year-old Martha Stewart’s heavily altered Sports Illustrated cover, which missed the mark with some people, Rossellini appeared with no digital altering of her face.
Will we see a lot of pandering and tokenism? Absolutely, just like when brands started self consciously using models with a wider range of body types in their marketing while loudly calling attention to the fact and demanding accolades for it. But now, about a decade later, thanks to more brands jumping on-board and to social media, that representation is somewhat normalized.
So it will likely be with aging. Like weight loss products, there will always be a market for anti-aging products but it will shrink, and change, as older women become accustomed to seeing themselves represented in faces similar to their own smiling back at them.
Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.