On Monday Allure announced that they would stop using the term “anti-aging” in the magazine. “...changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we talk about aging. With that in mind, and starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term ‘anti-aging,’” editor-in-chief Michelle Lee wrote. “Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle—think anti-anxiety meds, antivirus software, or antifungal spray.”
At first, the decision reads like something to celebrate. Who wouldn’t want to change the stigma surrounding aging? The wrinkles and lines that come with growing older shouldn’t be something to fight.
But Allure nixing this phrase from its style guide might be simply a well-calculated business decision. Because the truth is millennials, which make up a large portion of Allure’s readership, don’t care about anti-aging products anyway.
“For the last 10 years, it’s been lines, wrinkles, lines, wrinkles,” global beauty industry analyst at The NPD Group Karen Grant told WWD last year about how millennials aren’t buying age-specialist products. “[Millennials] are just less anxious about the lines, the wrinkles, the gray hair, the natural hair.”
But even though millennial women are more inclined to buy products that return “instant-results” like Instagram-worthy make-up or skincare like sheet masks, anti-aging products aren’t going away entirely. They’re just being renamed and re-fashioned into products that appeal to a generation that is disinterested in combating aging.
Earlier this year Kiehl’s launched a new “Pure Vitality Skin Renewing Cream,” which is really just a traditional anti-aging cream that promises a “healthy, radiant look.” “We don’t talk about lines and wrinkles,” the manager of Kiehl’s worldwide told press. Glossier’s sunscreen, which may have once been promoted for it’s wrinkle-combatting properties in the longterm, is advertised for keeping “pollutant junk” from getting into your skin. It means nothing, but makes sense when you remember young women love natural beauty products (or at least those that sound like they’re all-natural.)
The old practice of making an anti-aging drug sound like a magic potion doesn’t work any more. Rather than buy creams, millennials will opt for laser or micro-needling, but even then its advertised with words like “smoothing” and “tightening.” Millennials want their products to brighten and to tone. Instead of saying a product will do away with wrinkles, a product will instead “refine and retexturize” your skin.
So, despite good intentions, Allure is just following the money and catching up with an already well-established industry trend. There’s a reason their announcement places a heavy emphasis on the fact that the language needs to change. “We know it’s not easy to change packaging and marketing overnight,” Lee writes. Notice that they don’t outright say: we’re doing away with products that want to get rid of wrinkles, lines, all the signs of aging. And that’s because there is a financial incentive to stop using the word! If millennials don’t even buy products that promise anti-aging, why would they also buy magazines that preach the same thing?