Is beauty transient or timeless? Here’s how Americans perceive aging beauty.

Source: Ravi Patel on Unsplash

A person’s age might be just a number, but the first strand of grey hair, the first wrinkle, the first year of a new decade — all mark a new milestone in the journey of life. Whether we embrace it with fervor or disdain is up to us.

The pro-aging or anti-anti-aging movement is fast picking up in different parts of the world. Early millennials and baby boomers (people over the age of 45 years) are embracing natural beauty as time’s gift. The focus isn’t on anti-aging but aging well by taking care of one’s physical and mental health.

The cultural shift in how aging beauty is perceived by women today is reflected in the beauty and personal care industry, and brands need to alter their marketing to keep up with the times.

Leveraging AI to study conversations on aging beauty

Curious culture-watchers that we are, our team extracted 1200 social media posts about aging beauty from Twitter users in the USA.

These posts were semiotically clustered with the help of our Culture AI and we identified two broad categories and ten sub-categories based on how beauty is perceived by Americans:

The two major categories, transient beauty and timeless beauty, represent different attitudes towards aging beauty.

Category 1: Physical beauty fades away

People ascribing to the idea of transient beauty view physical beauty, like glowing skin, as a temporary form that fades over time.

They approach the topic of beauty from the perspective of lack — the mindset that beauty depletes with age and they need to take action to remedy this depletion.

They embody a ‘crisis mode’ mentality and seek solutions to ‘fix’ it in these five ways:

1. Disguising age with cosmetics

Hydrated, wrinkle-free, and glowing skin is associated with being young and therefore beautiful. The primary instinct of this sub-category is defense.

Consumers defend and protect their beauty using cosmetics. Natural creams or chemical cosmetics disguise and nourish aging skin, making them feel attractive, sociable, and assertive.

This is the most dominant sub-category and has seen a growth of 12% over the last year.

2. Preparing for disease and dependence

Declining immunity is the most common effect of aging, bringing both disease and dependence. The biggest fears of this sub-category are disease, depression, and isolation.

Their primary instinct is fortification and they respond with gratitude and hope, actively working with their local communities to raise awareness about diseases and provide each other support.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 18% over the last year.

3. Age-hacking through science

There are a plethora of anti-aging solutions available in the market and these innovations are seen as instantaneous, painless methods to get back younger-looking skin by this sub-category.

Their immediate instinct to preserve their beauty and confidence is to recover it by undertaking complex science treatments while portraying them as an easy way to reverse aging.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 8% over the last year.

4. Retaining vigor with exercise

This sub-category believes fitness can slow doing aging and boost their strength and confidence. Their primary instinct is to use delay tactics as they are anxious about becoming immobile and being active ensures they don’t slip into a sedentary lifestyle. The feeling of accomplishment is their primary motivation and exercise provides them this.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 12% over the last year.

5. Nourishing beauty with a healthy diet

This sub-category believes that a balanced diet rich in natural antioxidants, low sugar, and processed foods can reverse aging effects. Their approach to aging is holistic in nature and a healthy diet makes them feel light and proactive — a key driver of wholesome living.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 8% over the last year.

Category 2: Inner beauty is timeless

People ascribing to the concept of timeless beauty believe that attitude and mindset ignite an inner glow that is immortal.

We see five broad approaches under this category:

1. Embracing the grey and the wrinkles

This sub-category views aging as a sign of privilege and earned happiness. They do not wish to lose their true selves under external appearances. Their primal instinct is acceptance and they believe that gratitude and acceptance and gratitude are attributes of beauty.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 2% over the last year.

2. The need to empower oneself

The senile phase experienced by senior adults is a critical stage of aging as it requires the utmost care. Their biggest aspiration is to stay connected to friends and family. Due to a decline in cognitive ability and balance, they tend to think and act slower. The inability of their family to support them leaves them feeling stressed and depressed.

Volunteers and organizations who understand the importance of empowering senior citizens to address these needs with kindness, love, and engaging activities.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 16% over the last year.

3. Moving onwards and upwards

This sub-category believes that growing old is optional. They challenge traditional limits and love to partake in adventurous activities like hiking, ziplining, climbing, and competitive sports.

Their instinct is to keep pushing the boundaries they have set out for themselves. Self-confidence, self-compassion, and the belief that ‘age is just a number’ are the key drivers, making them feel young, positive, and beautiful.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 18% over the last year.

4. Celebrating age with gratitude

Aging is a token of accomplishment and celebration for this sub-category, and their social posts showcase their achievements from their golden years and relaxing after years of hard work.

Fulfillment and satisfaction are the key motivators they associate with beauty and embrace their age with honor and dignity.

This sub-category has seen a decline in interest by -0.17% over the last year.

5. With age comes wisdom

Life experiences provide people with learnings and wisdom, and the older they become, the more they have to share. This sub-category values self-awareness, knowledge gained from experience, and sharing it with younger generations.

This sub-category has seen a growth of 8% over the last year.

Key takeaways for personal care brands

There is a strong skew towards timeless beauty (61%) over transient beauty (39%) in the overall discourse of aging beauty among Twitter users in the USA. A majority of them believe that real beauty lies within and stems from one’s attitude towards life.

Consumers today do not mind being old and think they can be old and beautiful. They are less scared, apprehensive, or repulsed by aging and do not need salves for these wounds.

Many personal care brands are still marketing the allure of youth and how to get it back or not lose it at all while speaking to aging consumers. They are selling solutions — positioning themselves as aids and problem solvers. But if there is no problem of lost youth, then such communication is redundant.

Today’s consumers want brands that are companions and recognize their evolving needs as they grow older. Brands must acknowledge this cultural shift and communicate accordingly.

Moisturizing cream need not be sold to soften wrinkles, but to help protect the skin as it gets older, weaker, and needs more care. Instead of marketing products to reverse aging, they must show consumers how their products can help them age beautifully and become the best version of themselves.

Brands must also keep in mind that the next generation of seniors are digitally savvy, and unlike older generations of senior citizens, they are open-minded, conscious about their health and well-being, and willing to learn new things. Setting digital trends around aging and helping them celebrate their age could capture their attention.

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Write to anurag.banerjee@quilt.ai for the full report.

Quilt.AI creates culturally intelligent AI products to drive impact at scale. More here: https://quilt.ai

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