We Need Honest Depictions of Women of a Certain Age in Our Beauty Adverts

03/02/2016 21:36 GMT | Updated 03/02/2017 10:12 GMT


One of the things that impelled me to launch a makeup business in 2013 with products specifically formulated for older faces was the way in which the beauty industry utterly ignored me as a 65-year-old woman.  Look Fabulous Forever has been stunningly successful because we dare to do things differently from most other beauty brands.

Since the early Sixties when wonderful designers like Mary Quant, Barbara Hulanicki, and Ossie Clarke burst onto the fashion scene, both the fashion and beauty industries have been obsessed with youthful faces and bodies. Before that time, clothes and makeup were for grown ups and even Vogue magazine which is (nowadays) notoriously ageist, was happy to feature Mrs Exeter, a woman in her later years who was in their description of her in 1949, "Approaching 60, Mrs Exeter does not look a day younger, a fact she accepts with perfect good humour and reasonableness."  What a contrast with the last 'Ageless' Vogue cover from 2015 featuring an air brushed 48 year old Stella Tennant looking like a moody teenager!

I am sure that some will point to the use of 80-year-old writer Joan Didion to sell sunglasses for Celine, or those funny little old ladies in the Dolce & Gabbana ads clutching their sparkly handbags or the images of Joni Mitchell in the Yves St Laurent as indications that there is a real shift towards increasing diversity. Really? Are these ads designed to be inclusive in order to attract my generation to buy their clothes or (call me cynical if you wish) to offer an amusing and even shocking contrast between the (beautiful and trendy) clothes and the old people wearing them?

And what about Charlotte Rampling in the Nars advertisements and Dame Helen Mirren in those L'Oreal ads for skin care? Surely they show that  large cosmetic companies are waking up to the power of the grey pound and the fact that women over 60 still want to wear gorgeous makeup and can well afford to? Actually no, I don't think these ads show that at all.  Charlotte Rampling is a very beautiful 69-year-old with trademark hooded eyes. The images of her in the Nars advertisements have been so digitally altered that she is barely recognisable. If I didn't know they were of Rampling, I would assume they were of a strikingly attractive woman aged around 45.

L'Oreal's portrayal of Mirren also bothers me as someone of a similar age. She's lit to look blonde despite the fact that her hair is actually white and they have dressed her in one ad in a black leather jacket and filmed her on a bridge walking past a handsome young guy. Mirren looks into the camera and raises an eyebrow as if to say 'I know I'm still hot - so I'm sure he fancies me.' Is that really why most 70-year-olds do their hair and makeup? To appeal to much younger men and to be thought of as sexy? Again, I don't think so.

The fashion and beauty industries inhabit a world where images are necessarily glamorous and above all youthful and where they are not, those images are either digitally altered or used to shock and provoke.  But, I would suggest, there is another way. At Look Fabulous Forever we have no desire to appeal to woman under 50. We are not obsessed with looking youthful and alluring to the opposite sex. So our images are honest and truthful depictions of women of a certain age looking like the bright, vital and fabulous people that they are.

Tricia Cusden is the founder of Look Fabulous Forever

This February, HuffPost UK Style is running a month-long focus on our Fashion For All campaign, which aims to highlight moments of colour, size, gender and age diversity and disability inclusivity in the fashion and beauty world.

We will be sharing moments of diversity at London Fashion Week with the hashtag #LFW4All and we'd like to invite you to do the same. If you'd like to blog about diversity or get involved, email us here.