Are you age-appropriate or a midlife rebel? The new rules of getting older

While redefining your look via your wardrobe or hairstyle is commonplace, some feel compelled to surgically alter their face, have a breast lift or visit a trichologist to tackle a receding hair line.

Professor Nichola Rumsey OBE, a psychologist who specialises in the psychosocial aspects of appearance, says: “There is a kind of continuum of the extent to which appearance plays a part in people’s sense of self-esteem and their identity. Some people are more heavily invested in it and they tend to find the ageing process harder psychologically because they feel like their identity is changing”.

This would explain the enormous rise in cosmetic treatments over the past few years. According to research from cosmetic clinic Uvence, 3 million people in Britain are looking to undergo a cosmetic procedure in 2022. 

Aesthetic surgeon Dr Jonquille Chantrey, whose clientele includes a large proportion of over-50s, says there has been a huge shift in attitudes towards injectable fillers.

“Fifteen years ago, having aesthetic treatments was a real taboo in mainstream circles,” says Chantrey. “But lately I’ve seen a big increase in middle-aged people who want Botox and fillers to look fresher in order to still feel competitive. They don’t want to be judged on how they look in the workplace and it helps with their confidence, although we do always assess for potential dysmorphia.”

Increasingly her clientele is male. In 2020 UK plastic surgeons reported a 70 per cent rise in men requesting video consultations, with injectable procedures such as Botox and fillers proving most popular. 

“They tend to be successful businessmen who are starting to feel like they look tired, with dark circles, eyebags and a loss of definition in the jaw line,” says Chantrey.

If you look your age, is it such a bad thing? Reaching “a good age” is surely something to be celebrated. Yet in the world of work there is often a sense of pressure to shave a few years off and hope people haven’t noticed that you are older than you seem.

As Tricia Cusden, founder of Look Fabulous Forever, a make-up brand formulated for older faces, points out: “Fear of being thrown on the scrapheap in the world of work puts people under enormous pressure, not helped by the fact that it’s becoming the norm to have treatments to look younger. If nobody ever tackles the bigger problem – the context in which this is happening – it will be a very sad thing. What about our knowledge and wisdom? Why isn’t that valued more in the workplace?”

Cusden is part of the pro-ageing movement, one of several cosmetics brands sharing a positive message about ageing and rejecting the concept of anti-ageing in beauty messaging.

“We’re brought up with the notion that ageing is a kind of disease that should be avoided at all costs,” she says. “But at Look Fabulous Forever we are celebrating the older face. The pressure to look young is the result of ageism and the debate needs to be reframed in society to show that ageing isn’t a terrible thing.”

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