The War On Pre-WrinklesS

"'Not a lot of brands talk to a 28-year-old,' said Daniel Giles, the senior vice president for marketing at Perricone. 'that's where Super is positioned, to 25- to 30-year-olds.'" Welcome to the next phase of aging-phobic marketing.

Used to be, you had a few years in which you didn't need to worry about the barrage of anti-aging propaganda. A little conscientious SPF, we thought, and we were good to go. Theoretically, women in the 25-to-30 range had the youth that other people were trying to recapture, right? Hah. How naive we all were — and how many years were wasted that could have been devoted to prevention!

Perricone's new line, Super, is explicitly geared towards this younger demographic, and as such is cheerfully and boldly packaged (the NY Times likens them to iPods) , as if to suggest that embarking on a lifetime of expensive anti-aging purchasing is an exciting adventure. Even if those who are drawn to the product will use it for reasons that are anything but carefree. Observe the following dispiriting Times quotes.

Andrea Lavinthal, an author of the book "Your So-Called Life," for women on the edge of 30, does believe she must act now if she wants her face and décolletage to look good in a decade. "Thirty is not baby-faced," said Ms. Lavinthal, a beauty editor at realbeauty.com. "I feel like I'm on a landslide to 40. If I want to look like Julia Roberts in ‘Eat Pray Love,' either I need to get a lighting crew or skin-care products."...Both women's concerns jibe with what Jody Crane, a marketing consultant, has found in her research into the skin concerns of women age 25 to 30. They say to themselves, "I want to be beautiful, desirable, sexy and looking around me, ‘Oh, my gosh, if I have any little wrinkles, or lines, or anything, I'm out of the ballgame,' so even if I don't see lines on my face now, I'm petrified I'm going to get them tomorrow," said Ms. Crane, the president of New Solutions Marketing.

Of course — stuff about definitions of beauty, fear of aging and a general societal brainwash aside — it's hard to know how much the stuff works. As a doctor quoted in the piece puts it, "The billion-dollar question that the entire cosmetic industry is built on is the fact no one knows how much of these ingredients are necessary to make a difference on your skin." That, and the fact that, when the goal is preventing results, how can you even know what's the product and what's genetics, or simply a good night's sleep?

Of course, the goal is to not know, but to keep running scared. In Perricone's world, this means eating salmon incessantly and, of course, buying his different lines as one ages. "Vanity is a great motivator," Perricone tells the Times, but it's not vanity so much as fear. A fear borne of hundreds of ads, thousands of subliminal and overt messages, and a quest for perfection that only strikes us as odd when Heidi Montag, at 23, transforms herself to a point we can't ignore. The pre-facelifts and pressure to preserve, we don't, as a rule, question. And in that sense, this line is no horseman of the apocalypse: it's just some clever, overt marketing for a fear-based culture that's already in full swing and shows no signs of abating. But I have to give the marketers props on one thing: while I may debate the necessity of the pop-art aesthetic, it's interesting that the Super packaging doesn't say "anti-aging" anywhere — presumably, this demographic would rather not display that in their bathrooms. The question is, is that heartening...or just more fear of age?

Preserving The Dewiness Of Youth [New York Times]