‘That Age Old Question'report cover (image supplied by UK’s Royal Society for Public Health)

The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health has called for the term ‘anti-ageing’ to be banned in the beauty industry.

According to the society’s new report, ‘That Age Old Question’, ageism is the most commonly experienced form of prejudice and discrimination in the UK and across Europe.

“Other forms of discrimination, such as racism and sexism, are rightly regarded as unacceptable, yet ageist assumptions and attitudes often go unchallenged,” the report said.

“Although few people would think of themselves as ‘ageist’, socially ingrained ageist attitudes and behaviours are often openly expressed and displayed within mainstream culture without challenge.

 “… Many everyday conversations, informed by the media, are rife with examples of language that either trivialise, vilify, or catastrophise the ageing process. Chief among these is the persistent use of the term ‘anti-ageing’ within the cosmetics and beauty industry.

“As early as 1991 in her book The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf called out the insult-ridden advertisements for anti-ageing creams, and how they shaped the way women in particular visualised the experience of getting older. The gendered nature of the fears surrounding growing ‘old’ was reflected in our research…

“However, the narrative pushed by ‘anti-ageing’ terminology and products is one that pervades society and has relevance to us all. All human beings, at all stages of life, are ageing in their own way, as a natural consequence of being alive.

“Hence, the explicit presumption that ageing is something undesirable and to be battled at every turn is as nonsensical as it is dangerous. To be ‘anti-ageing’ makes no more sense than being ‘anti-life’.”

The society called on cosmetic retailers and beauty titles to follow the lead of Allure magazine and ban the use of the term ‘anti-ageing’ and “re-focus their ageing narrative on opportunities to be embraced rather than processes to be resisted”.

The society also made eight other recommendations to tackle ageism including promoting age diversity in workplaces; an independent review of the representation of older people in the media; and including ‘age’ as a protected ;characteristic in Facebook’s community standards on hate speech.


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