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Women 50 and Older Feel Overlooked by the Beauty Industry

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

Caucasian woman looking at skin in mirror
Mike Kemp/Blend Images

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 AARP national survey.

In "Mirror/Mirror: AARP 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.

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In the study, which is excerpted in the November issue of Allure magazine, 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.”

To ignore half of the adult population with beauty products is not great business.

— Alison Bryant, AARP's senior vice president of research

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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Other survey findings include:

  • Nearly 90 percent of women say beauty and personal grooming are at least somewhat important to them.
  • Being healthy is a stronger motivator for women age 50 and older than for their younger counterparts.
  • Three out of 4 women say that beauty and personal grooming ads with real people make them feel better about themselves.

See the complete results of the “Mirror/Mirror” survey at aarp.org/womenonbeauty.

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