For our entire lives it seems that women have been taught that ageing is a dirty word - a sin even. Thou shalt not age, and if you do, you should have the good grace to live under a stone for the rest of your days.
Data however, shows that women are changing their attitudes towards getting older, and one way that’s manifesting is a notable decline in the use of invasive aesthetics by women in their fifties as they become more comfortable with the visible signs of ageing.
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A brief history of ageing
From Shakespeare's 'weird sisters' in Macbeth (on reflection, probably just a few unmarried herbalists with a penchant for batch cooking - "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble."); to Hollywood's litany of ageless beauties (the typical Bond girl is in her early to mid-twenties, roughly 10 years younger than Bond), and does anyone know if any members of the 2022 cast of Love is Blind possessed their own teeth?. The depiction of women has been acceptable only as the role of ingénue or old crone - the former a depiction of all that is good and the latter tantamount to evil.
In media and marketing, where so many of us consciously or unconsciously derive our sense of what we 'should' look like/be doing, there's been a not-so-subtle but deep undermining of womens’ view of themselves for decades. Technology has facilitated the problem with filters and photoshopping.
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The '90s was the first time where real women and the marketing/media collided publicly in their ideals, with the lid lifted on a catalogue of unrealistic representations across magazines, adverts and more. As heroin chic soared in popularity, we would hear of 14-year-old girls being used to advertise skincare and clothing to adult women - where even the most logical-minded of us would be subversively convinced that we were doing something wrong by not representing the archetypal Lolita.
We're not even talking about 'old' women here - anyone over the age of 15 seems to have been a target. In 2015 Kate Winslet revealed her contract won't allow for additional editing of her photos. It followed an incident with GQ, where they airbrushed her beyond recognition in 2003 and she made her opinions known. She is quoted as saying: “I do not look like that and, more importantly, I don't desire to look like that. I am proud, you know.”
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How ageing is changing the way we self-care
In more recent years, it's not that the anti-ageing conversation has disappeared but it's running in parallel with an age-positive conversation. Language about getting older is shifting from degrading to empowered, even celebratory. More importantly perhaps, that narrative has now been around long enough that it's matriculating into action. For example, spa and beauty treatments are moving towards wellness, feel-good-factor and holistic support rather than being limited to fixing things that actually don't need to be fixed.
The Global Wellness Institute  said: "We are seeing a decline in the use of invasive aesthetics by women in their 50’s as they become more comfortable with the visible signs of ageing. Spurred on by the pandemic social impacts, this growing acceptance of natural ageing will influence perspectives on how to manage hormonal changes. In addition, “Healing Touch” therapies tailored to concerns of menopausal women are to be adopted as standard spa offers."
It's not that there's anything wrong with aesthetics treatments we hasten to point out - we know some fantastic practitioners whose work we admire. However there's a world of difference between feeling we have to deny our age, vs feeling great at our age, and this is where things are showing signs of changing.
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Why change the way we age?
The greatest reason to change the way we talk about ageing and to be delighted that women feel they can embrace their age instead of feeling ashamed by it, is because of our individual and collective wellbeing. For our mental as well as physical health, we have to stop trying to be 20 when we're 50 - we will enjoy life more if we don't go down that road.
Women are stereotypically people pleasers, seeking to support everyone else to their own detriment, and enormous guilt can come with that, which impacts us physically, emotionally and psychologically. For example, when asked about handling a change in libido during menopause, Dr. Angela Wright said:
"The message around libido for most of the women I see is that it's far more complicated than simply adding testosterone or using lube or a sex toy. That message really frustrates me because it puts pressure on women at this stage in their lives that if they just do these simple things they can keep going."
The madness of it all, is that once we embrace where we are now, all of life's joys start to open up to us. Or, as that most famous of wordsmiths, Oscar Wilde might say: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."