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International Women’s Day A thought piece from Willowberry’s Founder on breaking the age bias in beauty

International Women’s Day: A thought piece from Willowberry’s Founder on breaking the age bias in beauty

8th March 2022 is International Women’s Day and its theme this year is #BreaktheBias. To mark this day Willowberry’s Founder, Jenni Retourné, gives her own thoughts on breaking the age bias in beauty and why Willowberry’s Age Without Apology values are so important.

“When I heard that the theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is Break the Bias, it completely resonated with me and the work we do with Willowberry to encourage women to Age Without Apology; we want to break the age bias in beauty.

“International Women’s Day is working to break the bias for gender equality for women, and ageism is largely a woman’s issue; men get celebrated for ‘ageing like a fine wine’ or being a ‘silver fox’, while women get told to ‘anti-age’ or get excluded from the conversation altogether past a certain age. The lack of older women in beauty imagery literally sends out a message of invisibility and irrelevance.

“The notion of beauty = youth is deeply ingrained in society. It’s going to take a lot to unpick. The good news is, things are starting to change; Older models appear more in beauty advertising, but it’s the exception rather than the rule; The media is giving more column inches to shine a light on older role models or show us that we can age well – Fashion Director Anna Murphy’s columns at The Times are a great example of this; Menopause and perimenopause, a disruptive period of time that all women go through in midlife, is now being widely discussed in the media – a subject that until recently was taboo; Older social media personalities are living proof that we can age well, which is important because as the saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see.

“But still the historical age narrative dominates, particularly in the beauty industry. Women don’t become invisible once they hit 40. They don’t stop using beauty products once they hit 40. Conversely, it’s this stage of life that we experience many skin changes and look to our beauty products to help us navigate these changes through our later decades of life.

“So why would we leave out entire generations from beauty imagery? Isn’t it alarming that there is a genuine concern that using older models in beauty imagery would be damaging to a beauty brand? Why is the lead communication towards older women the notions of ‘anti-ageing’ and ‘age reversal’? Why are 20-year-old models used to sell an anti-ageing product? Why is it so ingrained in women that they have to reverse the very normal signs of age that appear on their faces? Who told us that wrinkles = ugly? Why are women’s wrinkles something to be reversed yet men’s wrinkles aren’t?

Aim for your best skin, not impossible skin
“There is no denying the fact that there is a commercial value attached to ‘anti-ageing’; it’s what women are looking for, asking for. Women are willing to pay good money for a pot of cream that they hope will get rid of their wrinkles.

“But here’s the rub; a pot of cream won’t get rid of wrinkles. If it did, we’d all look about 20 years old. Skincare helps you to get your best skin, it doesn’t reverse time. So anti-ageing skincare is essentially selling hope-in-a-jar. A pot of disappointment. As a beauty brand I feel we have a responsibility to not trade on this insecurity for the sake of selling product. Beauty brands can still make money while making women feel good. There is another way.

“I want Willowberry to show women that the signs of ageing are normal, that they can Age Without Apology. You don’t have to love your wrinkles but, unless you get Botox, those wrinkles are here to stay, so let’s encourage a sense of peace with our reflections. Let’s aim for our best skin, not impossible skin.

“You want to know the real secret beauty ingredient? Confidence. Women can achieve confidence. Beauty brands and the media can inspire confidence. So instead of encouraging women to spend 50-odd years fighting their own reflections and feeling disappointment with their own faces simply because their faces got older, let’s help women to feel good about themselves.”

Jenni Retourné, Founder, Willowberry


Willowberry's work towards better age representation in beauty has been recognised by the British Beauty Council, which has appointed Willowberry’s Founder, Jenni Retourné, a member of the British Beauty Council Diversity & Inclusion Committee, to represent age diversity in beauty. This is an important step because real change can only happen if the beauty industry joins forces to make real change, together.

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