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Granny? More Like Mommy: The Prevalence of Ageism in Beauty

Winter Szarabajka ’27 Op/Ed Assistant Editor
Throughout history, beauty has been defined extensively by characteristics such as a youthful appearance, perfect skin, and cleanliness.
Throughout history, beauty has been defined extensively by characteristics such as a youthful appearance, perfect skin, and cleanliness. These high standards amplify pressure on older women to conform to societal expectations of beauty and can prompt insecurity and dissatisfaction with one’s self image. In no small part, this is the work of the beauty industry, which has used the specter of aging, and minimizing its effects, as major selling points for decades.

Although the beauty industry seeks to embrace diversity and promote self-love, this message is too often
riddled with contradictions. While “progressive” beauty companies tell us to be confident in who we are and embrace our age, skin tone, and body shape, in many cases, the world seems to scream at us to do the exact opposite. The rise of surgical cosmetic procedures including carbon dioxide laser resurfacing, nose fillers, and baby Botox speaks to the pressure women face to conform to youth focused beauty standards. As mentioned in a 2022 American Association of Retired People (AARP) article on trends in cosmetic procedures, 36% of operations occur on women over the age of 50, demonstrating the impact on older women of the media’s glorification of the beauty of youth.

The problem lies not only in the plethora of products billed as fighting the natural process of aging, but in the advertisements for these “fixes.” The absence of older people in advertising for skincare products and
and cosmetics is striking. Consistently seeing young models with unrealistic bodies promoting cosmetics sends a message to older women: You don’t count. This also applies to the actual products being promoted,
which, in spite of their focus on delaying or reversing the process of aging, are rarely aimed at older women
and the all-too-real demands of their changing skin. According to a 2018 American Association of Retired
People (AARP) study, 53% of American women over the age of 55 disagreed with the statement “The beauty
industry creates products with people my age in mind,” which exemplifies the need for better representation in
mainstream media. Additionally, 70% of participants said that they would be more likely to buy products from
brands which showcased people of their age.

We also are exposed to age-related beauty standards through movies, series, and social media. Tik-Tok, Instagram, and Snapchat offer filters and effects that smooth, tighten, and airbrush skin, eliminating wrinkles and blemishes, raise cheekbones, reduce the size of chins, and on and on. Although such filters are offered as a form of entertainment, they only reinforce the beauty industry’s de facto message that aging is unattractive — in effect, a “problem” that requires reversal.

As for the movie industry, ageism is apparent in a number of ways. As they have been since the genesis of the Hollywood system more than a hundred years ago, older women are underrepresented in movie. According to a February 2024 story in “Variety,” only three films released in 2023 featured a woman aged 45 or older in a lead or co-lead role. Often, older women that do in films appear to have magically defied the laws of aging. More power to these women, but this presents a standard that isn’t accessible or reasonable for many people.

The pressure to be young also stems from societal ideologies that we project in the form of ideals surrounding beauty. We over-romanticize youth, promoting the perception  that when one reaches a certain age, one’s life is over And the date of expiration is startlingly low. For example, HuffPost found that, out of 102 people polled, most women believed that the peak age of beauty for women was 29, while men on average put it even lower, at 25. We should not be surprised, then, that even before society deems them “old,” young and middle aged women feel that their beauty has “expired, as if their golden years are already over,” according to Salem Tovar, a popular TikToker and YouTuber.

Another way that we see consequences of ageism is in the all-too-common practices among women of hiding or lying about their age. The question itself is considered rude or disrespectful, which is fair given that
men are often the ones asking. Nevertheless, women’s reflexive need to obfuscate or lie about their age, or to fail to specify age in social media accounts, only underscores the age-related shame that women are made to feel. The message that older women are devalued, societally, directly results in a loss of self esteem and even depression. According to the National Library of Medicine, such responses can contribute to dangerous isolation and shame-related psychological instability.

Although women themselves are not the source of these biases, many of us unwittingly reinforce them in ways that affect ourselves and those around us. We must reject the notion that our societal value is dictated by our appearance and age, and accept the truth that we are beautiful and worthy in all stages of our lives, regardless of what we are told by society.

By advocating for increased representation of all women, regardless of their age and appearance, by embracing and promoting self-love and self-care, we can work towards a future without unrealistic and oppressive beauty standards.
Editor in Chief 
Asher Joseph

Managing Editor 
Margaret Russell

Claire Billings
Jo Reymond
Rose Porosoff
Eric Roberts
Abby Rakotomavo
Elona Spiewak
Veena Scholand
Miriam Levin
Liliana Dumas
Saisha Ghai
Olivia Yu
Anya Mahajan
Rain Zeng
Winter Szarabajka
Aerin O'Brien

Karun Srihari
Samantha Bernstein
Hana Beauregard
Micah Betts
Elaina Paktuka
Edel Lee
Anjali van Bladel
Nate Gerber
Rebecca Li

Hailey Willey
Web Editors
Amelia Hudonogov-Foster
Anvi Pathak
Chloe Wang

Faculty Advisers
Stephen May
Elizabeth Gleason
Shanti Madison
The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
The Razor,
 an open forum publication, is published monthly during the school year by students of: 
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