Women 50 and Older Feel Overlooked by the Beauty Industry

New survey finds a desire among women for more relevant products and ads as they age

Women over age 50 make a big investment of time and money on beauty and personal grooming products, spending a whopping $22 billion annually, yet they still think that the beauty industry ignores them as they age, according to a new national survey.

In “Mirror/Mirror: Survey of Women’s Reflections on Beauty, Age and Media,” nearly 2,000 American women ages 18 and older revealed their thoughts on a range of issues, including what makes someone beautiful (kindness was the hands-down choice), the depiction of women in advertisements and how all of this affects purchasing behaviors. Most of the women surveyed (85 percent) wish that ads included more realistic images of people.

In the study, more than 7 in 10 Gen X and boomer women noted that they are more likely to purchase products from brands that depict people of a variety of ages in their ads. That’s good news for the companies that are already getting it right, says Alison Bryant, AARP’s senior vice president of research. “Cover Girl is a great example of a brand that’s been at the forefront of this, having Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Latifah and women of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages in their portfolio of cover girls,” Bryant observes. “People want to see themselves represented in the media, and they make purchase decisions that way.”

The survey flagged a large unmet need: Seventy percent of women age 40 and older want to see beauty and grooming products created for, and marketed toward, perimenopausal and menopausal women.

“Half the population goes through menopause,” Bryant says. “And so, I think what you’re seeing is, women acknowledging that and saying, ‘Let’s take this out of this weird, dark shadow and bring it into the conversation.’ “ She adds that current products aimed at women in the menopausal age range are very clinical: “Women’s beauty needs change — and for some women significantly change — with menopause. But that is not something that’s necessarily been addressed in the beauty industry writ large. … To ignore half of the adult population with beauty products is not great business.”

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