Maye Musk, the face of CoverGirl.

How long have we felt the pressure to look more youthful and internalized shame about aging? It’s difficult to pinpoint when that began, but in her 2009 study, The Factors Impacting Women’s Purchases of Anti-aging Skincare Products, R. Leslie Bailey surmised that it was 16th-century Spanish adventurers who were the among the first to search for the fountain of youth. Now, we’re seeing a shift in centuries-old beauty standards that glorify youth. 

Danika Johansen, marketing manager at Dove Canada, said that “while Dove has, for 60 years inspired women to want to look like the best version of themselves at every age,” the brand’s long-held philosophy became part of the Dove Real Beauty Pledge when it was introduced in 2007. “Among its core principles is a promise to use real women and not models in its advertising,” she adds. And to prove it, all Dove campaigns feature un-retouched photos of women of different body sizes, ethnicities, hair colour, style and age.

 “We have, from the beginning challenged traditional media stereotypes about what real beauty is,” she says. “Our message to women — young and old — is ‘pro-age.’ Aging is good. It comes with wisdom and lessons to share and all women should feel beautiful.”

Canadian model Maye Musk kicked down the barriers for older women in beauty advertising. Photo: Shutterstock.

It doesn’t end there

Diversity, or “inclusivity,” as Cecilia Diaz, strategy director at Droga5 — CoverGirl’s New York-based ad agency described it recently, “isn’t a trend for CoverGirl. It’s a core part of our DNA.”

When it came to the decision to hire Maye Musk, who is now 70, as the brand’s latest — and oldest — “face,” Diaz has a clear view on why. “We believe that makeup is one way women can express themselves and their many sides. We look for ambassadors who embody that — and Maye Musk fits the bill perfectly.”

Musk, who was born in Regina, SK, is a dietitian, a business person, a model, a mother to three children (including Tesla CEO, Elon) and a grandmother. “On a daily basis, she turns herself into whoever she wants to be and rejects all arbitrary social constructs that aim to limit her ambitions, her confidence and self-expression. She refuses to live by widely accepted norms of how women ‘of a certain age’ should behave,” notes Diaz.

The beauty industry gets on board

Helen Mirren was 69 when she signed with L’Oreal Paris. Nars chose Charlotte Rampling to be their “face” when she was 69 and, at 65, Jessica Lange signed with Mark Jacobs Beauty. Lancôme, who fired Isabella Rossellini when she was in her forties (reportedly for being too old) has just re-hired the 65-year-old. 

Isabella Rossellini was fired in her forties for being too old to appear in beauty ads. Photo: Shutterstock.

Even some fashion magazines are joining the ranks of the ageless beauty movement. A 2017 Financial Times story revealed that Allure and Elle have declared war on the words ‘anti-aging.’

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We are driving the change

Jenny Darroch, professor of marketing at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont University near Los Angeles, explained it this way in an Adweek article: 

“There’s been a cultural shift in how we view aging. There’s more of an acceptance in the wellness world about being comfortable in your own skin. Women are more comfortable saying, ‘I don’t need to try to be young and I don’t want that stereotype reinforced.’”

In a 2015 article in Raconteur, Rachel Clare, an author and associate at innovation agency Brand Genetics, said: “Age is becoming increasingly irrelevant. A 50 year old today may feel a decade younger, but it doesn’t automatically follow that they want to look 10 years younger.”

In regard to those age 60 and older, Clare pointed out: “They accept the changes that come with aging. They don’t want to battle against it. Skincare that promises to reverse signs of aging is a turn off. Instead, they want products that enable them to look the best they can and deal with their primary skin concerns, whatever their age.”

Similar sentiments were revealed in the 2016 Dove Beauty and Confidence Report, which was based on 10,500 interviews with women in 13 countries. The findings noted that nine in 10 Canadian women believe that a woman can be beautiful at any age.

While we’re not entirely free of the trappings that comes with anti-aging messages, progress is being made. And this is happy news indeed. So bravo to the beauty industry for listening to women. And bravo to those who have spoken out against antiquated views of how we should look. Embracing a positive attitude, speaking out about ageism and challenging the status quo are radical and beautiful acts. Let’s keep spreading the word.