Should the beauty industry ban the phrase ‘anti-ageing’?

Head into Boots or Superdrug and there are shelves upon shelves – entire aisles even – devoted to anti-ageing products. Chances are you’ve got a few in your bathroom cabinet, too. But a new report has called for the term ‘anti-ageing’ to be banned across the cosmetics industry.


The report, called The Age Old Problem, was commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a charitable organisation which works to make improvements in wellbeing. They believe that the frequent use of the phrase on packaging and in marketing campaigns, creates the impression that the natural ageing process is something negative.

‘Too often ageist behaviour and language is trivialised, overlooked, or even served up as the punchline to a joke – something we would rightly not tolerate with other forms of prejudice,’ says Shirley Cramer, RSPH Chief Executive. According to RSPH statistics nearly half of women and a quarter of men feel pressure to look youthful.

The report highlights the impact that this can have: ‘There is great pressure on older women to use anti-ageing products and technologies, which could exploit and reinforce ageist attitudes, encouraging older women to fight to maintain their youth and hide their age. This can lead to poor body image in many older women.’

The global anti-ageing market is predicted to be worth more than $330 billion (approx. £245bn) by 2021. Critics argue that not only is anti-ageing a negative term, but that it is impossible to slow down or ‘cure’ how we age.

Others simply feel that phrases such as ‘radiance-boosting’ and ‘smoothing’ could be used instead of ‘anti-ageing’. In fact, a shift in the language beauty brands use around age is already happening – take Dove’s ‘Pro Age’ range and L’Oreal’s ‘Age Perfect’ collection, which both take a more positive approach. In light of this latest report we may well see more brands following suit.