I looked in the mirror this morning, thought ‘oh dear’, took out my make-up bag and once again began the process necessary to face the day. But why do I feel this necessity? There are cultures which celebrate ageing, that place value on the experience that an older face presents, but not this one. Faces age –it’s a fact of life over which we have no control; it happens to us all and no matter how much we try to hold back the ravages, time will eventually win. Nevertheless, in their advertising, skincare manufacturers persistently reinforce the western ideology that the process of skin ageing is socially unacceptable. They insidiously try to manipulate us, by using deceptive language and subliminal persuasion, into believing that the physical signs of getting older are shameful – somehow our own fault, and can be reversed by using their overpriced offerings.
Research has shown that despite being aware that media images of women are invariably air-brushed, we still considered those images as something to which we should aspire. Celebrity endorsement is routinely applied to beauty product advertising and unrealistic images of older celebrities further embed the cultural notion that ageing is a deficiency rather than a natural occurrence. Yesterday I picked up a selection of women’s magazines at the gym. A quick look through them demonstrates all too clearly just what big business this is. Skincare advertisements are designed to appeal to women’s emotions with the underlying message that allowing the signs of ageing to go unchecked equates to a lack of self-worth.
Take Origins Plantscription; the advert goes so far as to state that skin ageing is ‘nasty’, and bestows upon those who recognise this, a specific term, anti-agers, implying that users are part of an elite camaraderie against the ‘enemy’. The name also suggests a powerful combination of science and nature in the misleadingly named product which has health improving connotations sounding similar to ‘prescription’ . The chosen image of a medicine dropper is presumably intended to lend weight to this.
Clinique attaches blame for ageing skin to women themselves by referring to her late nights and assorted indiscretions. Vichy takes a similar line citing the woman’s Busy lifestyle as the cause of her deteriorating appearance but promises that by using their product, ‘Your skin will forgive you.’ Several advertisers describe the benefits of their products as ‘clinically proven’ which is intended to promote confidence. However, none offer enlightenment as to by what process anything has been proven. ‘Scientists’ at No. 7 are mentioned, but only in a comment by an unidentified ‘Stylist’ and the company disassociates itself from the comment by including it in a testimony, rather than making it their own assertion, thus apparently absolving it of responsibility for the claim.
Organic ingredients and nature feature in the form of plants and plant oils – no less than twenty in Clarins Double Serum, though the company fails to mention which plants. Other products cite specific plants: harungana extract and Montpellier rock-rose. Implicit in the mention of uncommon ingredients is the suggestion that their unusualness makes them somehow ‘special’. Few people surely know to what LR2412 (Vichy Liftactive) refers, or the origin of the ‘hydric and lipidic system’ (Clarins). In fact, a Google search provides little enlightenment of either, other than in relation to those products.
One might imagine from my rant that I refuse to buy into this dogma, but I’m up there fighting nature along with most other women. Whether this is because I have been brainwashed into believing that it is my responsibility to look the best I can by allowing myself to be seduced by false promise, I have no idea. The question is this: Is it women’s fear of ageing which demands the products or does advertising spawn the fear in the first place?