Vogue, November 1, 2016. Click to enlarge

Do you look ageless?  I do not. In fact, I look every one of my sixty-seven years. That is not for lack of trying, as I am very susceptible to the siren song of skin care companies.  But upon seeing one too many “ageless” appeals, I have begun to wonder why beauty companies think this should be out goal.  We all age, and most of us show that change on our skin and bodies.

As a historian, I’m fascinated by the back story of words.  I decided to take a look at the use of “ageless” with some of the tools at my fingertips through my university.

Vogue, November 1, 1922. click to enlarge

It was no surprise to discover that “ageless” began to pop up in ads for beauty products in the 1920s.  Before then, there were ageless songs, ageless appliances, and ageless silver patterns, etc—and these usages continued.  But in the decade when youth became the ultimate fashion accessory, beauty companies began promote “ageless” skin.  In Vogue, Elizabeth Arden promised ageless beauty with her special “Egyptian” ingredients.  Helena Rubenstein’s ads opened with the lines, “In the maelstrom of modern society, beauty is ageless.” Many now forgotten beauty companies, like Lucille Buhl and Dorothy Gray, used the seductive term.

Vogue, June 1, 1944. Click to enlarge

The promise of ageless beauty—in face, hands, and even teeth, continued at a slow but steady pace throughout the twentieth century.  However, it was in the new millennium, when the Baby Boomers entered their fifties and sixties, that “ageless” really came of age. Companies started to use the term directly in product names: Covergirl’s Simply Ageless Foundation; Aveeno’s Ageless Night Cream; Allergan’s home botox treatment, Ageless Woman; and the Instantly Ageless company promising a “face lift in a box.” Olay even launched a TV commercial announcing this as “the age of ageless.”

I don’t know about you, but the more I see the word “ageless,” the more I feel old. Many women today resist the demand to age gracefully; perhaps we should also resist the implied standard that we should be aging wrinkle free.


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8 Responses to “Ageless”

  1. Angela says:

    Yep, the reality is that one can only do so much to stop the signs of aging. My 50+ skin will never look 30, and no miracle product will change that.

  2. eimear says:

    at least the term anti-aging is on the way out – or at least is supposed to be in advertising. I am reminded of the story of a 90year old french politican (i think and the name escapes me) who went to his doctor with a flu (or perhaps the doctor went to him) and the doctor said ‘what do you want me to do, I cannot make you younger’ – and the man said, ‘I dont want to be younger, I want to continue getting older’….

  3. I have finally accepted my wrinkles, and even my silvery hair and a few extra pounds. I still have those moments when I look in the mirror and see my Aunt Ruth, but I’m getting used to it. I do find it interesting that people talk about a “cure” for wrinkles, as though they are a disease. At 62 I am not ageless, I’ve lived and earned every wrinkle on my face.

  4. Carol in Denver says:

    The ads for face creams don’t show “ageless” models; they show 20-something women. Women can spend a fortune for creams promising non-aging effects or even reverse-aging effects. A dermatologist can recommend reasonably-priced creams, such as CeraVe and Mederma, that have beneficial, if not miraculous, effects. A person who represented her/himself as a dermatologist, said on-line that if one uses borage on her skin she will never have wrinkles. I started using Shikai’s borage therapy and it works well, but so do the beneficial genes inherited from my mother.

    • Reader says:

      My relatively youthful looks are attributable to my genes, my eschewing sunbathing, smoking, recreational drugs, excessive drinking, and having stayed a normal weight. I’m not saying that expensive products and therapies wouldn’t have helped a bit (no doubt they would have felt good), but apart from genes, preserving one’s appearance often comes down to basic environmental factors.

  5. I remember when Isabella Rossellini “aged out” of her job modeling Lancome cosmetics. Bad decision for them. If you want credible advertising for wrinkle creams, show me a woman old enough to have wrinkles! No photo of a woman in her twenties is going to persuade me to buy one of those products. At least Rossellini made a delightful, creative, new career (as an “insect sex” educator — See her interview with Scientific American at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/green-porno/) that allowed her to show off her sense of humor. (Smiling and laughing cause wrinkles — so how can a woman over forty be attractive without them? You’d think that as a man ages, he’d appreciate a woman who can laugh at life’s little disasters.)

    • Reader says:

      I believe that Lancome or some other cosmetics company gave Rossellini a new contract. I don’t know what to think about cosmetics companies’ approach to models. What people profess to want is not always what they actually want. With cosmetics and clothing, many women want the fantasy, which means a younger woman. Or sometimes they will use a beautifully preserved older model. How does that inspire older women? Most of us didn’t look anything like her when young and we don’t much resemble her now.

  6. Reader says:

    I’m a young-looking 60, but I don’t kid myself, I’ve aged. The abiding issue is whether to commit myself to looking good (I’ve always hated regimented exercise) and losing some weight (I’m not overweight in any medical sense, but since menopause, the pounds have crept up and it’s harder to lose weight because of age, injuries, and environment).

    Or should I give up? It’s impossible to satisfy this crazy culture. But I need to work, so I can’t just let myself go. Truth is, I don’t want to throw the towel in, but I’m not interested in being obsessive either. Fortunately or unfortunately, I cannot afford plastic surgery. I have a friend who had it in her 40s.

    There’s a blog I read that prides itself on facing aging honestly while not excluding older women from fashion. But recently the author wrote an article for a publication and it did sound as if “ageless” was being slung around like just another marketing tool.

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