The show formally known as 10 Years Younger is back for another season, because apparently, casual ageism never grows old.
In its current form, Channel 5′s 10 Years Younger in 10 Days swaps full-on face lifts for hair and make-up tutorials, wardrobe swaps and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Acupuncture, Botox and lip fillers are still very much on the menu.
In episode one, both participants are women, naturally. And we’re told the team will “come to the rescue” of mum-of-six, Lisa, before helping prison guard and mum-of-one, Adeline, “rediscover herself and her femininity”.
The show still opens with the same format, too, as presenter Cherry Healey parades women along a local high street, while members of the public gawp, guess their age and pass judgements on their appearance. “Her look is a bit tired,” one onlooker says. “Her skin – particularly under the eyes – is quite patchy” another remarks.
The only thing that really feels tired, though, is a show that tells women the secret to happiness is looking forever youthful.
At 13-years-old, I watched the original series of 10 Years Younger when it debuted in 2004. I can still remember my mum and I squirming on the sofa, as women were poked and prodded by then-presenter Nicky Hambleton-Jones.
We watched as these women were physically sliced apart and put back together again by surgeons, and it all seemed great fun at time.
Now, as I coat my forehead in over-priced anti-wrinkle cream every morning, I wonder if it was really so harmless after all. As women, we’re surrounded by messaging that tells us our value is tied to our appearance, and that that value starts to diminish when the first signs of ageing appear.
As writer and campaigner Jane Evans said on HuffPost’s Am I Making You Uncomfortable podcast: “Makeup and advertising has always been sold on fear. Fear of not being pretty enough, thin enough or young enough.”
In 2022, it’s mind-boggling that a show that perpetuates this messaging is still being produced and broadcast. It’s problematic that the programme also relies heavily on “before and after” imagery – the “before” shot taken in the least flattering clothes producers can find, the “after” in soft, studio lighting.
As psychologists and psychotherapists previously told HuffPost, before and after pics are damaging, both to viewers and the people that feature in them. The format promotes body comparisons, said Chelsea Kronengold, associate director of communications at the National Eating Disorders Association, “which can cause harm to anyone – especially people struggling with body image.”
Ashley Seruya, a New York City-based therapist and writer, also pointed out that people in the photos can feel pressured to maintain their “after” look. “It’s a very real phenomenon that people who post these before and after photos often feel boxed in by their visual ‘success stories’ when their bodies inevitably change over time,” Seruya said.
In fairness to 10 Years Younger in 10 Days, the women who take part do appear to be thrilled with their transformations. They share how they’ve grown in confidence, or feel like “themselves” again after years of prioritising their kids.
A little self-care – in the form of makeup and clothes – isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it’s affordable to you and makes you feel good.
The show could so easily be rebranded, if only the references to age were removed and a sprinkle of kindness were added. Love Yourself in 10 Days would be a more appropriate title, or even simply The Makeover Show.
A reality show that truly empowers women – wouldn’t that be revolutionary?
10 Years Younger in 10 Days is on Channel 5 from Wednesday 2 March at 8pm.