Older Women Want to Look Good Despite Media Pressure to Look Young

By Carolyn Mair, Glenis Wade and Danka Tamburic.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 5, 2015 $US5.00

The media’s obsession with a youthful appearance can have detrimental effects on older adults’ well-being. Scholars have argued that the anti-ageing movement, rather than ageing itself, should be contested. From an evolutionary psychology perspective attractiveness is related to mating preference. This poses an issue for older women who are bombarded with idealised images of youthfulness equating to beauty in media and society. For many, the result is distorted body image, low self-esteem and poor health. It is clear that appearance matters and therefore many women manage the appearance of their ageing skin by using cosmetics or medical interventions. The main objective of this paper was to investigate the influence of the media’s obsession with youthful appearance on women aged over 60 and the impact of this on their attitudes towards managing the skin ageing process. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 participants whose mean age was 65.38 years. Ten of the participants had used some type of medical intervention (chemical peels, Botox, skin fillers, cosmetic surgery, laser and HRT). These formed the Medical group; the other eleven used skin care products and regimes but had not undergone medical interventions. These were the Non-medical group. The transcripts were thematically analysed and showed that although the participants objected to the negative portrayal of older women in the media and to pressures to conform to a youthful appearance, they were not unduly influenced by this. Instead they were overwhelmingly in favour of looking good rather than looking young or even looking younger and the majority was not interested in cosmetic surgery. Taking a social constructivist approach, the findings challenge those which suggest women are weakened by the pressures of media representations of youthfulness as the only goal. The women in our study were aware of the pressures to look young, but were generally more concerned with looking good.

Keywords: Ageing Skin, Appearance, Cosmetic Surgery, Media Representations of Women

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, March 2015, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 5, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 522.718KB)).

Dr. Carolyn Mair

Reader in Psychology, Graduate School, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London, UK

Dr Carolyn Mair is Reader in Psychology at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London where she is Subject Director for Fashion and Psychology. Carolyn’s research interests lie in the application of psychological theory to solve real world problems and improve quality of life. Currently, she is Principal Investigator on an EPSRC-funded project investigating the use of unbiasing strategies to improve decision-making in professionals. Carolyn is also investigating cognitive factors in consumer psychology, and the impact of improved self-esteem through using cosmetics on cognition in older women. Carolyn has led several multi-disciplinary research projects and published over 40 peer-reviewed papers in the areas of cognitive psychology, machine learning and empirical software engineering.

Dr. Glenis Wade

Associate Lecturer/Visiting Practitioner, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London, UK

Dr Glenis Wade runs an independent learning and development consultancy. Her research interests lie in identifying self-esteem and compassion components in beauty and spa rituals and their wider social applications.

Prof. Danka Tamburic

Professor in Cosmetic Science, Graduate School, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London, UK

Dr Slobodanka (Danka) Tamburic is Professor in Cosmetic Science at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London and Programme Director for the cluster of science courses. She has extensive experience in the area of skin research, including pharmaceutical and cosmetic aspects. Dr Tamburic has more than 120 research outputs in public domain, of which 80 papers on peer-reviewed scientific journals. She has also contributed to six book chapters and one patent application and has taken part in more than 20 research projects, encompassing, for example, the use of nanotechnology and biotechnology in skin formulation and various aspects of cosmetic product efficacy. She is also engaged in multi-disciplinary research, with strong interest in research on ageing skin. Dr Tamburic is currently setting up an international research network which will explore the relationship between ageing skin, self-esteem and well-being of the elderly.