HEALTHY ageing |

10 mins

HEALTHY ageing

Although the beauty industry has been making progress in diversity and inclusion, some older people still feel neglected. Ellen Cummings looks at whether it’s time to ditch the term “anti-ageing” and how beauty therapists can help clients aged over 60

Recent years have seen the beauty industry striving for change in inclusion, but one group seemingly being left behind is those over 60. While brands cater for and offer representation to most skin types and conditions in younger people, more mature clients are sometimes classed into a homogenous group. These same people also tend to be left out of advertising and marketing campaigns, leading to a further distancing between older clients and the beauty industry.

We all know that the structure of our skin changes as we age, with collagen production decreasing about 1% per year from our 20s. This loss of collagen makes the skin more vulnerable and easier to damage – so it’s important that beauty therapists take this into consideration when treating mature clients.

“The skin changes over a lifetime,” explains London-based consultant dermatologist Dr Ben Esdaile. “In general, as our skin ages, the epidermis thins. The strength and elasticity of the skin decreases as the scaffolding of the skin starts to weaken. The blood vessels in the dermis also become more fragile, leading to easier bruising of the skin. The sebaceous glands tend to produce less oil, and this is more pronounced in women after the menopause, often leading to dryness and itchiness.”

However, this rate of change isn’t the same for everyone. “All these changes tend to occur at different rates due to different internal and external factors,” continues Dr Esdaile. “The term ‘skin exposome’ describes the totality of both internal and external factors on the skin. The key external factors include sun exposure and air pollution, whereas important internal factors include genetics, hormones, nutrition and psychological wellbeing. All these factors will impact the skin composition of a 60-plus year old.”

This means it’s important not to treat everyone in a certain age group the same way. Celebrity facialist and wellness therapist Marie Reynolds comments, “You can have someone who has a really clean lifestyle and minimal stress, and then someone else the same age who smokes, has high stress levels and lives in a polluted area. It’s not about pigeon-holing people into their age groups, it’s about treating each as a human being and taking into account their stage of life and environmental factors.”

This issue of classifying people into basic age categories reflects a wider problem within both society and the beauty industry’s attitudes towards ageing. In recent years there has been a backlash against the use of the term “anti-ageing”. In 2018 the Royal Society for Public Health released a report called The Age Old Question in which it directly stated that pressure from the beauty industry to use ‘anti-ageing’ products contributed to negative attitudes about age and harmed the public’s health.

“It’s not about PIGEON-HOLING PEOPLE into their age groups, it’s about TREATING EACH as a HUMAN BEING and taking into account their STAGE OF LIFE and environmental factors„

More recently, The Age of Beauty research project by The Diversity Standards Collective and creative agency Cult found that only 13% of respondents considered the term ‘anti-ageing’ to be a positive product descriptor, while only 22% responded with any positive sentiment when asked about how the beauty industry’s representation of their age group made them feel.

Beata Aleksandrowicz, massage expert and trainer, says, “It’s almost like from the appearance of the first wrinkle, people think everything goes downhill and the clock starts ticking towards death. I think people’s issue with ageing comes from the fear of death. We don’t know how to treat that, and that’s why we buy into this eternal youth concept.

“Generally, there is an idea that there’s something wrong with mature skin and it needs fixing. This is why people use the term ‘anti-ageing’ – of course this word is wrong. I think ‘healthy skin’ is the right terminology.”

Reynolds agrees: “The word ‘anti-ageing’ is negative.

Ageing is inevitable – how can you be anti that? The word ‘anti-ageing’ is something I’ve never used with my clients at all, and I’ve always encouraged them to look at it as ‘healthy ageing’.

“I think that through the ages, youth has always been what people have deemed as ‘beautiful’. So, there is an innate fear of people losing that as they age.”

Change in the industry

Skin acceptance has grown as an offshoot of the larger self-love and body positivity movements of recent years, and a plethora of skin conditions have become more visible and accepted in society, including acne, scarring and psoriasis. While it’s not a skin condition as such, embracing the outward signs of ageing is a crucial aspect of body positivity.

Reynolds believes that beauty brands are starting to come around to this way of thinking. “There has been a shame associated with ageing but I think it’s getting a lot better. There’s been a huge shift in getting rid of the term ‘anti-ageing’, especially with advocates like Helen Mirren who is an amazing ‘skinspiration’ for older women,” she says.

This change in how brands talk about ageing has slowly begun to trickle down to clients in spas and salons as increasing numbers of people are looking to embrace their age.

“Interestingly, clients’ focus has become more about enhancing their ageing, rather than trying to turn back the clock,” explains Gina Baker, training manager at Germaine de Capuccini. “Women and men are embracing their maturity but still wanting to look the best they can for their age. They are choosing treatments that provide skin renewal, such as peels and needling, which give them radiance and a glow, as opposed to asking for anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle treatment.”

Candice Gardner, education manager at Dermalogica, adds, “Addressing ageing concerns through a skin health lens means we can prioritise optimal skin functioning and look to counter environmental factors that can accelerate premature skin ageing.”

The beauty therapist’s role

Beauty professionals have an important role to play in their clients’ attitudes towards ageing. Aleksandrowicz comments, “First of all, [therapists] need to look at themselves. What is their relationship with their own ageing? If they fear ageing, then it will be very difficult for them to be a good guide for clients.”

Reynolds adds, “We need to get away from the negativity and focus on the positives. As therapists you have to educate yourself in all of these things in order to educate your clients.”

Beauty therapists who are educated in the process of ageing – and how it affects people differently – are well equipped to suggest the right products and treatments to promote healthy ageing.

Skincare for healthy ageing

Vitamin A is widely regarded as the gold standard of skincare ingredients for mature skin. It can stimulate cellular turnover and hydration, as well as collagen and elastin production. “If you want to ensure that your skin is ageing well then retinoids are by far the most effective ingredient,” explains Dr Esdaile.

“Retinoids are a large family of vitamin A-derived compounds, which are an absolute powerhouse of ingredients that can help you target all the common aspects of skin ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation and skin texture.”

However, not all retinoids are created equal.
There are different strengths of vitamin A derivatives and each undergoes a conversion process to become retinoic acid, which works directly on the skin. The fewer conversions a retinoid goes through to become retinoic acid, the more effective it is. “Older clients should look at products that have encapsulated forms of vitamin A, like retinaldehydes rather than retinyl palmitates,” says Reynolds.

“CLIENTS’ FOCUS has become more about enhancing THEIR AGEING, rather than trying to turn BACK THE CLOCK„

Skincare staples such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C aren’t to be forgotten either, and vitamin B can actually help with the use of retinoid products. “Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 and a brilliant partner to retinoids as it nurtures the skin barrier and helps repair the skin when it’s inflamed by producing ceramides, which moisturise the skin. This is especially useful in minimising some of the possible side effects of other active ingredients. It can even help increase collagen production,” comments Dr Esdaile.

The wonder ingredients don’t stop there, though.
Dr Esdaile also recommends azelaic acid, a naturally occurring compound found in wheat, barley and rye which is gaining traction in the beauty world: “The next hero ingredient for anyone looking to age well is azelaic acid. It is an antioxidant, fighting inflammation and reducing redness. It is also great at fighting pigmentation and improving skin texture.”

As with any age group, the use of SPF is crucial to protecting 60-plus skin from UV damage and ensuring healthy ageing. In fact, SPF can actually help reverse some signs of photo-ageing caused by sun exposure.

Product texture is also important, with mature skin favouring oils and richer moisturisers. The need for hydrating and moisturising creams is particularly important for post-menopausal women, according to Dr Esdaile: “When you go through the menopause, the loss of oestrogen can result in increased dryness, itching, impaired wound healing and an accelerated loss of collagen, which results in skin thinning, fine lines and wrinkles.

“So, during and after the menopause it’s a good idea to switch skincare – look for richer moisturisers containing ingredients such as glycerin and shea butter but ensure these are not pore blocking. Facial oils can also be incorporated into a skincare routine but be careful with these if you are prone to breakouts, as some can block pores.”

The right treatments

Regular treatments can also be effective in treating aspects of skin ageing. However, because skin in older clients is thinner, it’s important to take a gentler approach.

Gentle microneedling can promote cell regeneration and exfoliation on a deeper level, replacing outer skin layers with new cells, encouraging skin rejuvenation and reducing wrinkles. Radiofrequency is another great treatment option for older clients because it boosts collagen and elastin production, tightening the skin. It’s also especially good for targeting areas like the neck and chin.

However, beauty therapists who aren’t qualified in these areas can still make a difference to mature skin. “If you have a Level 2 therapist, massage is amazing [for mature clients]. You can do fantastic lifting treatments by just manipulating all the different muscles in the skin,” says Reynolds.

Facial massage is something Aleksandrowicz is also particularly passionate about: “I personally believe that facial massage is the best way to keep a youthful appearance because when you massage your skin, you work on many levels.

Physiologically you improve blood circulation and boost lymph flow, which is important for puffiness, dark circles, and heaviness on the face.

A holistic approach

Wellness is a key aspect of healthy ageing, and mental wellbeing can have a big impact on both the ageing process and people’s perception of age. “Sometimes young women can look old, and it has nothing to do with wrinkles – it’s the light from within. If you start to love yourself, then the face glows,” comments Aleksandrowicz.

Reynolds adds, “I think you just have to have a mindset that we are all amazing human beings and it’s a blessing to reach any age. Your thoughts are important to your overall health and wellbeing, so being kind to yourself is the best thing you can do.”

The rest of the body also has to be involved in a healthy approach to ageing, with nutrition, exercise and sleep all key factors in the internal ageing process of the skin.

“I THINK YOU JUST have to have A MINDSET that we are all AMAZING HUMAN BEINGS and it’s a blessing to REACH ANY AGE„

Reynolds says, “You can definitely improve your skin by using skincare but for a long-term effect you have to look at what you put into what I call a toxic bin. If you’ve got a lifestyle with high stress levels, the wrong diet and you’re not sleeping very well – all of these factors contribute towards what’s going on in the skin.”

This holistic approach to wellness has long been recognised in the beauty and spa industries, but now it’s starting to become more prevalent among older clients.

“At Germaine de Capuccini we are seeing a big shift in mindset towards ageing,” explains Baker. “Our customers are now making much more informed choices. They understand the need for a holistic approach to ageing well. The results of skincare programmes have become extremely advanced, but clients realise that including diet and exercise, and for some the use of aesthetics, gives a more natural overall look.”

This article appears in July 2022

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July 2022
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