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Overlooked and Underserved: Why Mature Makeup Is Beauty's Next Big Frontier

Published August 29, 2023
Published August 29, 2023

Beauty (and society), unfortunately, fetishizes youth. Whether it’s the lack of mature women’s roles in Hollywood or the 20-year-old model advertising anti-wrinkle cream, one might assume that people of a certain age just retreat into hobbit holes past a specific milestone birthday. But rather than becoming dwellers of Middle Earth, the mature beauty consumer holds the most spending power and is famished for brands that allow them to continue living their cosmetic life fully, rather than being forced to tone down from the equivalent of a size 8 to a size 4 on the makeup scale. Some are even calling for the anti anti-aging revolution.

Menopause-orientated wellness offerings have seen a huge surge, expected to reach $16 billion by 2025. With conversations opening up to this previously silenced stage of women’s lives and brands like Womanness or LaMaria offering modern and chic products that are infusing the category with excitement and helping drive conversations around age-inclusivity. But even though there are a variety of external effects this hormonal stage can have such as drier skin or increased pigmentation, there is more to being a woman of a certain age than menopause, such as evolving makeup routines.

A 2019 AARP online survey across 1,992 women found that 40% of Gen X and 53% of Boomers feel ignored by the beauty industry and 64% of Gen X and 74% of boomers feel the representation of their age demographic is lacking. Twelve percent of women over the age of 50 believe there are not enough products tailored towards their needs, while 70% of women over the age of 40 desire more perimenopausal and menopausal personal care products.

While not everyone is wearing a bold red lip à la Iris Apfel, still having the opportunity to do so is nonetheless appreciated. Yes, there are the realities that certain makeup will sit differently on skin with a few more beauty marks left by the passing of time, but does that mean that older women need to be denied the joys of colorful beauty? Certainly not if color cosmetic brand 19/99’s imagery—which features faces of all ages and ethnicities wearing the company’s boldly hued products—is anything to go by.

Aside from embracing the joys of makeup, there is also a huge economic component. The 2023 FIT Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management Capstone Research spotlighted the “Silver Spender” as the fastest growing segment with 50% of the global net worth but most underrepresented consumer group worldwide. By 2030, the silver consumer segment (those above the age of 50) is expected to spend $15 trillion. The number of US adults over the age of 65 will double in the next 40 years. The anti-aging market is expected to hit $106.65 billion by 2030.

Global brand design and innovation agency LPK recently highlighted the power of the Gen X consumer and the shifting social tides meaning this generation is “moving from invisibility to center stage,” 81-year-old Martha Stewart gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated being just one example. It’s not just celebrities embracing the later stages of life: LPK outlined a collective shift of middle age and up consumers embracing these chapters of their life with a new gusto, and increased product and service offerings to match. It’s about living longer, yes, but also living better.

“Longevity allows us to discuss the process of growing older more openly. Can it also help us to develop a language around aging that is more inclusive and celebratory? Introduce the concept of living a longevity lifestyle gradually, subtly, and optimistically and with products that focus on healthcare benefits,” The Future Laboratory’s Lead Beauty Analyst, Olivia Houghton, advised BeautyMatter readers when discussing the strategic agency’s new macrotrend Longevity Lifestyles.

A Different Formula

In recent years, a brigade of more age-inclusive beauty (and corresponding advertising) have been on the rise, driven by brands like Jones Road Beauty, Trinny London, Iris&Romeo, and Studio10. While not all of these companies advertise themselves as exclusively for a mature audience, skincare-infused formulations, a more subdued color palette, and minimalist packaging are trademarks of the 40+ audience product range.

Funnily enough, certain formulation and aesthetic traits (sheer and often cream formulas with skincare benefits, no makeup-makeup) can also be seen across more millennial brands like Glossier and e.l.f. or Gen Z-orientated outings like Rare Beauty. Perhaps the distinction between customer age demographics is becoming as blurred as the effects of the finishing powders they use. Nonetheless, even if teenagers and boomers end up reaching for the same subtle makeup products, brand messaging and advertising are certainly where the lines get more drawn. After all, as the saying goes: When you try to be everything to everyone, you become nothing to no one.

Building an Age-Inclusive Business

Founder Trinny Woodall began her business in 2017 with multitasking products in travel-friendly formats. Bestselling SKUs include BFF Eye, a serum concealer with Duo Peptide Complex and hyaluronic acid, as well as Miracle Blur, a base product to smooth fine lines and prevent lipstick bleeding. The brand’s lookbook features 130 people aged 18 to 83. Given its anticipated revenue for this year is $70 million, it’s a strategy that has been paying ample dividends.

“We know that over-50s have a higher spending power than the younger consumer. Over-50s are some of the biggest buyers of beauty and skincare products worldwide. Building on Trinny’s founding ethos and developing a raw and honest approach to makeup and skincare that celebrates authenticity and inclusivity, we’ve successfully tapped into the often neglected 35+ market. Customers of all ages return to us because they see themselves reflected in the brand and in our products,” Shira Feuer, Chief Marketing Officer at Trinny London, tells BeautyMatter.

Iris&Romeo founder Michele Gough Baril was inspired to launch the brand in 2019 following a departure from the industry due to the lack of representation. “I knew there was a white space to include women over 40 in a new, more relevant way, and I knew it was a huge opportunity because she has more purchasing power than any other generation and is the most loyal customer in beauty. But what was truly exciting for me was the opportunity to shift the aging conversation away from ‘anti-aging’ and toward skin wellness. Life doesn’t end at 40. In fact, this is when we truly come into ourselves, our power, and younger women need to see this so we can remove the fear about getting older,” she explains.

Iris&Romeo focuses on multitasking, sustainable, clean formulas that offer a hydrated, minimal makeup look. Think a second-skin concealer infused with Vitamin C from kakadu plum, hyaluronic acid, and licorice root extract; a glowy mineral SPF 50 which offers skincare benefits and also acts as a primer, available in a universal shade with no white cast; and a multiuse color balm with ceramides and free-radical fighting skincare ingredients.

Grace Fodor, founder of Studio10, also saw a business boom hiding in plain sight. “In terms of the beauty opportunity for that midlife consumer, it's absolutely massive,” she enthuses. “It's interesting because when you look at the beauty industry in the last five to ten years there's been a real focus on millennials, then we saw the big explosion in direct-to-consumer (DTC) and celebrity, Instagram-focused brands. It's almost as though the beauty industry became obsessed with that and they were beginning to forget that middle-age market even more.”

Studio10 was her bid to create skincare makeup formulated for mature skin, simplifying daily makeup routines, underpinned by slogans such as “For women who believe that age does not limit one's sense of beauty” and “beauty is ageless.” SKUs include a 5-in-1 sunscreen, primer, skin tint, and treatment, as well as liquid blush that simultaneously plumps the skin and absorbs excess oils. “I designed the brand for mature skin. I look at the ingredients, texture, finish, undertones, and lifestyle. It's about tailoring all of it according to your audience,” Fodor adds. “Studio10 is about building a successful brand that has longevity. At the core of it is high-performing products that work and are easy to use. Women want convenience. They don't have time to spend an hour getting ready. You want results, but it needs to be quick.”

One of the brand’s bestselling SKUs is Skin Repair Perfect Canvas SPF30 Foundation, a medium to full coverage serum foundation in compact form with SPF 30 and antioxidant-rich nyamplung oil to fight free radicals. Fodor also ensured the product has a lighter and darker shade so customers can customize the product hue according to the time of year and have their optimal shade on hand at all times. Another popular product is Skin Lift Glow-plexion, a hydrating primer and illuminator formulated with Suberlift for a firming effect and a binding technology to ensure makeup longevity.

For Fodor, the mission of Studio10 goes beyond the product. “My passion and purpose is this pro age movement, to challenge the outdated stereotypes of middle age, what it looks like, the negative rhetoric it's so outdated. The main point for me is stamping out ageism,” she explains. “Ageism is old news, but it’s the last ‘ism’ we really need to challenge. If you want to change the way we feel about aging, we have to change the rhetoric and the conversation. We have to reflect aging at 40, 50, 60, 70,  80, 90, and link it to beauty because the definition of beauty is not age.”

“Tackling the aging stigma head-on and normalizing getting older is important. We need to see more real women’s beauty stories at later stages of the journey. It’s not about perfection, it’s about feeling good in your own skin."
By Michele Gough Baril, founder, Iris&Romeo

Removing the Aging Stigma

Fodor hopes to see more realistic representation of women in advertising, and for terms like “anti-aging” and “anti-wrinkle” to become obsolete as they “perpetuate this belief that aging is wrong. How many ad campaigns have you seen that make claims like ‘10 years younger,’ or  ‘20 years younger’? Then we sit up one day and wonder why most women feel invisible, don't feel as confident or beautiful,” she adds.

Of course, bodily autonomy is an important underlying point of this discussion. It’s not just the Photoshopped faces on the recent British Vogue cover featuring Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista (who was tragically disfigured in her cosmetoligical pursuit of beauty) that are contributing to it. Even non-supermodels who spot suspiciously smooth foreheads can be claimed to be perpetuating beauty standards, but when the pressure is so high, doesn’t it feel incredibly hard to not bend to its will? In a society that associates aging in women as “being over the hill” but praises men for being “silver foxes,” how much sheer will and steadfast confidence does it take to not slather on that prescription-strength tretinoin, get injectables, or invest in a facelift? Furthermore, in a world that both age shames and procedure shames simultaneously, how can one truly win? It ultimately becomes a question of performative beauty versus beauty rituals for one’s own sake, which is a psychologically complex matter onto itself. No matter which side of the line one lands on, a bit of compassion and open-mindedness can go a long way.

However, one fact that is certain is that other cultures embrace the beauty of aging in a more holistic way than Western society. Age is seen as a privilege, not a burden, as evidenced in personal coach Csaba Lucas’ research and approach to active anti-aging, which was informed by his time spent with the San Bushmen tribe of southern Africa. In Japan, the country with the highest proportion of elderly people, the government proposed an age-free society and encouraged a more aging-friendly universal infrastructure.

“Tackling the aging stigma head-on and normalizing getting older is important. We need to see more real women’s beauty stories at later stages of the journey. It’s not about perfection, it’s about feeling good in your own skin. Beauty products can do that for you. Whatever gets you back to yourself, and please, no judgment or shame about what that is. That kind of honesty is what we all relate to,” Baril comments.

Different Rules for a Different Audience

Marketing to the middle-age consumer requires a level of sophistication and truly knowing your audience. Whereas Gen Z might be influenced to pick up a product on a whim according to the viral algorithm, Feuers notes that “the grown-up woman can’t be fooled—she’s been buying products for much longer than a Gen Z consumer driven by the latest TikTok trend, and wants to invest her money into something she knows actually works. The first and most important step is getting to know this target market inside and out. Ask yourself, what are their concerns, what motivates them, and how can your products help?”

She sees honest communication as a key driver to engaging with this customer. “We’re honest about the fact that no matter how great a skincare product is, it can’t turn back the clock to give you the skin you had when you were 18—and setting unrealistic goals aren’t helpful or beneficial to aspire to. We want our customers to feel like their best selves, now—not based on who they were in the past,” she adds. “Transparency is the only way you will build a strong and lasting relationship with women who are no longer interested in a fleeting beauty trend—women who want to invest their money in products that do what they say on the tin and genuinely make a difference.”

To make that relationship go the extra mile and build further trust, Trinny London focuses on “impactful entertainment” on social channels with makeover videos and brand value-focused content.  The company’s online community, Trinny Tribe, hosted across Facebook groups, has over 100,000 members from across the globe. Woodall has 1.2 million followers on Instagram in addition to the brand’s 477,000 strong following. Trinny’s physical retail presence spans the UK, US, and Australia.

Fodor adds that “sophisticated language is important and authenticity as well as a mutual respect are absolutely key.” She sees Facebook and Instagram as the main stomping grounds for the midlife consumer but adds that brands shouldn’t underestimate the presence and power of TikTok influencers and audiences.

Baril is hopeful of the great strides the online landscape has made in representing and catering to more mature audiences. “We need to normalize getting older, so let’s stop ‘fighting’ aging and recognize it’s a privilege, and let's show skin texture without retouching, and tell beauty stories at every stage of the journey. There are so many inspiring creators out there today who are over 50. Many of us look at them and say ‘I want to be like her when I get older,’” she adds.

When the founder first launched Iris&Romeo, the company had a hard time finding creator representation on Instagram, which thankfully has shifted. “I saw so many amazing women in my real life that were very inspiring, but they weren’t part of the creator economy, which was geared toward much younger people (and still is). As a digital-first brand we are built on creator content, and so being age inclusive was challenging initially. That has changed in recent years and especially since the pandemic. There are so many inspiring women in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s who are creating content today,” she explains.

Her marketing strategy was getting the brand’s debut product Best Skin Days (a makeup-skincare-SPF hybrid) into the hands of the right influencers and press outlets. “Initially some were skeptical that a brand that wasn’t marketing exclusively to Gen Z could be successful in the age of TikTok. They recognized the white space opportunity, they understood the industry was changing, but given age inclusivity was the last stigma to be tackled, they wanted to see how we would do it and if we would be successful before committing. I think we’ve more than proven that,” she proclaims.

Celebrity endorsement by the likes of Olivia Wilde and Eva Chen followed, but the product also had ideal timing. Baril adds: “The pandemic hit six months after we launched and everyone was pairing down their routines. It got you Zoom-ready in less than a minute, so it was the right product at the right time.”

Meeting Your Audience

As all three brands show, the power of being your own first customer trumps any market research. But where and how you reach them can make all the difference.

Trinny London has a standalone store in London and is stocked in various retailers across the US, UK, and Australia such as Fenwick, Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Westfield. “We’ve seen phenomenal global growth since we launched in 2017. But it’s not just about the figures; what’s valuable for us is seeing the impact we’ve had on women’s confidence around the world. When we launched our Saks Fifth Avenue pop-up in November 2021, hundreds of Tribe members traveled to New York City from across the country to meet Trinny but also the other Tribers they’d been building long-distance friendships with over the years. As a digital-first brand, it’s truly incredible to see our members connecting in real life embodying our ethos to feel your best at every age,” Feuer says.

After being exclusively DTC, Iris&Romeo launched to acclaim at Credo in Feburary 2023, with a repeat purchase rate in the high 40s. Baril notes that with the positive attention and success of said retail partnerships, there are plans to expand distribution in 2024. “Thankfully, we had some early believers that have been very positive and supportive. Our customer spans every generation with a sweet spot of 35 to 55. Appealing cross generationally is what turns an indie brand into a legacy brand, and that’s very attractive to investors,” Baril notes. With a $5 million seed funding round to match, Iris&Romeo’s proof is in the numbers.

In the world of Studio10, Fodor is focused on building up the brand’s e-commerce strategy. “I have this ‘leaky bucket’ analogy when it comes to customer retention. There's no point in filling up your bucket with new customers if it's leaking, so I worked really hard to get that retention piece sorted, coupled with CRO [Conversion Rate Optimization]. I’m focusing on how I create a department store environment online,” she says. Current stockists include Sephora UK and Amazon, with Fodor now looking to expand stateside. “We’ve got all key proof points and a track record to scale and grow. With a strong following now in the US, it may be that we look to do a small raise to fuel US expansion,” she adds.

One thing is for certain: The mature makeup consumer has always been here, but now that the realm of ingredient-conscious, sophisticated, and well-performing products with an enticing aesthetic presence to match has been presented, a new era of cosmetic excellence has begun.


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