photo of a strong, mature woman. Defy the definitions of anti aging marketing

Anti-Aging vs Pro-Aging: Is the Marketing Getting Old?

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It is complex and protects you from the external environment (UV radiation). Other essential functions are regulating your immune system, controlling body temperature (sweating), activating your senses, and performing chemical synthesis (vitamin D).

The outer layer, the epidermis, contains three main types of cells:

  • 90% Keratinocytes: produce keratin (protein that makes up your skin, nails, and hair)
  • Melanocytes: produce pigment
  • Langerhans cells: help activate your immune system

The outermost layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum. It is continuously shedding old cells called squamous cells.

The dermis is the second layer. It contains blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands, hair follicles, oil glands, and proteins. Many substances fill the area around the cells, including collagen, elastin, water, and hyaluronic acid.

Finally, the 3rd layer – subcutaneous – contains primarily fat and connective tissue that acts as scaffolding. 

diagram showing the difference in aged vs young skin

As we age, the cells in our skin begin to deplete in both number and effectiveness. As a result, our natural repair systems work less efficiently. How our skin ages has a lot to do with the external environment: sun exposure, smoking, and pollution are examples. There is also influence from our genetics and hormones.

Skin aging is divided into the categories 'chronologic' and 'photo-related. The reason is that the effects of excessive UV radiation exposure are different than just getting older. 

  • Biologic/Chronologic aging results in thinning, reduction in cell numbers, and a saggy appearance
  • Photo-aging results in thickening, excessive or abnormal production of elastin/collagen and a leathery appearance  

Anti-aging skincare products all target some component of the typical structures and processes of the skin discussed above.

The desired results are increased collagen production, improved type/quality of collagen produced, removing thickened layers of stratum corneum, altering pigment production from melanocytes, increased hyaluronic acid and water levels, etc. These functions are all cellular/physiologic, and cosmetics cannot claim the results – only drugs can. We discussed cosmetics claims and marketing in this blog post. It means that a cosmetic product can make claims only about how your skin should look after using it.

Pro-Age Philosophy

Vilification of age-related skin changes, predominantly targeted against women, has resulted in a massive industry with unrealistic and inappropriate expectations. As a result, there has been an explosion in youth-seeking treatments and procedures that are neither necessary nor effective. 

Preventing skin damage and focusing on good health will go a long way. The primary focus should be using adequate SPF, not being a smoker, and getting enough water and sleep. In combination with an easy skinimalism routine, those things will help you glow at every age. 

If you're unhappy with your skin's condition, health, or appearance, you can target specific concerns with effective products. For example, reducing the effects of excessive sun exposure, improving acne, improving tone, strengthening the skin barrier, plumping up water content, and removing built-up dead cells are all ways to improve the health and glow of your skin. 

Realistic Expectations for Aging

Aging is normal. Skin accumulates UV-related damage. Elasticity decreases. Thickness changes. Collagen and hyaluronic acid also reduce in amount and also quality.

If you want to REVERSE the signs of aging, you will need more invasive therapies. Photodamage can be reversed with lasers. Wrinkles can be eliminated with surgery or injectables.

If you want to REDUCE the signs of aging, you can start with various topical treatments.

If you want to SLOW the signs of aging, you must start early. First, you need to quit smoking and wear proper sunscreen every day, even indoors, even in the winter. Beyond that, everything is a bonus.

It would help if you also rejected judgemental and unrealistic expectations often perpetuated by the beauty industry.

What Is Pro Aging Skincare

Call it what you want - pro-aging, aging gracefully, age supporting (that one's our favourite) - it's all marketing terminology. We write a lot about how important marketing is because it matches consumers with products. The marketing terminology chosen is meant to communicate the purpose of a product to consumers. The added words tell you about the type, luxury level, and the ethics of the brand and the product. Marketing is necessary, but dishonest tactics are a problem in the beauty industry. 

Marketing relies on assumptions. Calling something "anti-aging" tells the consumer that the product should target wrinkles or pigmentation. Calling something "pro-aging," tells the consumer that the product should target wrinkles or pigmentation, but the brand wants you to know that aging isn't a bad thing that needs to be conquered.

Do either of those products work? Who knows! The words help match the consumer with the product. Efficacy and claims substantiation are a whole different story.

Watch for Dupes: Dishonest Marketing Tactics

We'll just leave this here for you to see what we mean...

bareLUXE Skincare advocates for marketing honesty. This is a photo of anti aging skincare before and after results that is dishonest.

Anti Aging Skin Care Routine

So, if you're in the market to reduce the visible signs of aging on your skin, what key product types should you be looking for?

Cleansing

There isn't truly an anti-aging cleanser. Remember, cleansing ingredients go straight down the drain. One exception might be an oil-to milk anti-aging face wash. Something that sits on the skin for some time before rinsing away. The most important thing about cleansing mature skin is to stay with gentle options that don't strip your natural oils. Older skin is more delicate.

Exfoliation

Increasing your skin cells turnover and removing dead skin cells faster can help reduce the depth and visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. This is achieved using physical or chemical exfoliants. Your at-home treatments would include topical acids or retinoids. If you want to be more aggressive, you might consider microdermabrasion or other anti-aging facial treatments like chemical peels in the clinic.

Be careful; nothing makes your skin look aged faster than dry skin! Flaky skin or caked makeup will leave things dull and accentuate the wrinkle depth. Finding the balance between over-exfoliating (causing dry skin) and under-exfoliating (leaving dead cell buildup) can be tricky, especially if it changes every season or with your hormones.

Hydration and Moisturization

Keeping your skin hydrated and plump can be done with humectants (hyaluronic acid, beta-glucan, glycerine) and moisturizers (emollients). This is where facial oil, particularly anti-aging face oils, can help. The best anti-aging face oils include rosehip oil, squalane, prickly pear, and plum kernel - but there are many. Oils, in general, are great for mature skin. However, if oils feel heavy, anti-aging face masks, sheet masks, or overnight masks are good options for many.

Reducing Puffiness

One natural beauty secret here would be anti-aging facial massage, often using a gua sha if you're doing it yourself at home. There's also evidence that side-sleepers have less puffiness than stomach sleepers. Ice packs and cooling treatments also help. We've seen some 'anti-aging pillows' for sale but aren't yet convinced if they’re gimmicky or not.

Improve Collagen Quality

Topical treatments like retinoids, vitamin C serums, and others have effectiveness evidence. Many people cannot use retinol, so if you're looking for a natural retinol alternative, then a bakuchiol containing face oil would be good to consider. You might also consider more invasive interventions - microneedling (also called collagen induction therapy) is one option.

Improve Your Skin Tone

Topical treatments like those above also fit this category (i.e. retinoids and vitamin C). However, many other natural ingredients can affect your skin pigmentation - bearberry extract, licorice root extract, and Pterocarpus marsupium bark extract as examples. If you want to get more invasive, lasers have a significant role here.


When it comes to any type of skincare regimen, figuring out what you want to target and what ingredients or types of treatments you're interested in is what matters most. Working to bypass the labelling and marketing terms is important once you've zoned in on the type of product you're interested in. 

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