Why Older Women are the Forgotten Demographic (Caroline Neville Interview)

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Caroline Neville has worked in the beauty industry since 1963 as head of her global PR agency and now as President of Cosmetics Executive Women UK.

Her passion for beauty is unrivalled. However, there's one demographic she strongly believes has been neglected: women over 50.

I talked to Caroline to find out why she believes the beauty industry is missing a massive opportunity to engage with this fast-growing demographic.

Women over 45 account for 41% of the total spend on makeup, skincare and toiletries in 2011. Does this figure surprise you?

Certainly not. Why should it? Today women over 45 are more educated about the benefits of taking care of their skin. They are more informed about colour cosmetics and how to apply them because the beauty press has educated them over the years.

Many more are working longer, either out of choice, because they have a good job or because they needed to return to work for financial reasons.

Looking as good as you can as you get older gives you confidence: it should not be about competing with your younger counterpart. It should be about feeling confident about how you look to face the day ahead and whatever it throws at you.

Older women have the money to spend on themselves. It’s a great opportunity for the beauty industry.

Do you think that attitudes within the beauty industry have changed towards older women over the years you’ve worked in it?

I think a few enlightened brands might have changed their attitude but it’s not that evident to me.Do you think that beauty brands are doing enough to reach out to older women?

Not really.Why do we still see so many younger models in beauty ads? Why no good looking older women who I can relate to? Real women not models.  It doesn’t make sense.

Why do I still see the beauty counters manned by really glossy younger women who cannot begin to understand how the older woman thinks, particularly in relation to colour cosmetics?

Skincare is probably easier to deal with because of the specific planned skincare regimes offered to older woman but I would rather speak to someone I can relate to who might share some of the insecurities/problems I have.

And what about retailers?

I’m not sure it’s the job of the retailer to put the focus on or single out older women in the cosmetic hall.

I want to shop in the same environment as younger women but what I would expect is that a brand that is speaking and reaching out to me through its ads and communication overall, should reflect that message at the counter via the beauty assistant.

So it’s first and foremost the brand that needs to flag up who it wants to speak to and set about doing it.

Should older women be treated differently by beauty brands?

Only in the way I have said above.I don’t want to be labelled “older or more mature”.

People know by looking at you that you fall into that category.

What I want is to look as good as I can for my age. I don’t want to be patronised.

I don’t think stars and personalities help much with the older woman – we cannot possibly relate to those women who spend so much time and effort to look forever young which is part of their job.

I don’t want to look forever young, particularly with grown up children at home. I don’t want to embarrass them.

I want to look well for my age and contemporary. A good haircut and colour does wonders, as does changing your lipstick colour twice a year.

Is it realistic to pedal the term anti-ageing to women over the age of 50?

I think anti-ageing is just a trade classification now.  We should focus much more on taking care of your skin as a means to looking as good as you can for your age and for as long as possible.

Older women are largely absent in mainstream beauty media. Do you see that changing?

Not right now.

I haven’t seen much that leads me to believe that the older beauty customer is really being catered for – the 50- 75’s.One or two titles do it well, but in the main I don’t think they cater for us. There are a lot of shock horror stories about face lifts and fillers which older women have in order to remain looking young - some unfounded, some true.

But if you want to write about beauty for the older woman, you need someone of the age group with contemporary views to write it. Someone who is living the life.