The sun worshipers of the 1970s and '80s who smeared themselves with baby oil to get those mahogany tans are gobbling up anti-aging serums and creams today to try to heal and reverse the effects of all that damage to their skin.
The younger generation, on the other hand, is apparently skipping the first stage and going right to the second.
In their 20s and even late teens, these shoppers are already turning to anti-aging products to prevent the wrinkles and age spots they see on their older counterparts, say industry experts.
"In the past two or three years, I've been seeing more women in their mid-20s," says Dr. Neil Sadick, a New York City dermatologist. "They want preventive things to slow down the aging process."
Natural skin care companies are noticing the same trend.
"Younger women are absolutely looking for preventive rather than curative products," says Jeff Buchbinder, chief marketing officer for Los Angeles-based Noah's Naturals, who says the company's best sellers are its anti-aging skin care products.
New York-based market research firm Packaged Facts valued the U.S. cosmeceuticals market, including skin care, hair care and makeup, at more than $13 billion in 2006, reporting 18 percent growth for anti-aging products in 2005 alone. The firm projected the cosmeceuticals market will hit $17.2 billion in 2010, a 29 percent increase over five years. Skin care products were expected to reach $9.2 billion in 2010.
"There are indications that fear of aging is afflicting Americans at younger and younger ages. There is anecdotal evidence in society and the marketplace which signal that even kids are beauty-conscious in very adult ways," according to a Packaged Facts report. "Many anti-aging serums or lotions, or moisturizers or cosmetics with anti-aging properties, are no longer designed to appeal only to middle-aged women exclusively. An elegant, hip, anti-aging product simply begs to be tried, even by 20-something women, or by men." Marketers are "soft-positioning" to younger consumers by using youngish models in advertising, according to the firm.
The trend is fueled by advertising, but also by education about damage from exposure to the sun, environmental pollution, cigarettes, even stress, says Linda Miles, a doctor of Oriental medicine and vice president at derma e Natural Bodycare, based in Simi Valley, Calif., which offers an extensive line of anti-aging products.
Although no evidence is available, Miles and others say 18 is probably a good age to begin using products that contain antioxidants, for example, to help ward off damage.
Some natural skin care companies are beginning to develop anti-aging lines aimed specifically at a younger market. But are they different except for the hip label?
Anti-aging products for people in their 40s are likely to contain ingredients such as peptides to help repair the skin. Younger users usually don't need such heavy-duty ingredients or might need lighter formulas, Miles says.
JASON Natural Products, a division of the Boulder, Colo.-based Hain-Celestial Group, recently developed its Red Elements Antioxidant Skin Care line specifically for younger women, says brand manager Angella Green. The line is for "women 20-plus who want to be proactive," she says. "Younger people are looking more for something long-term."
Stacey Stilts, national training/education manager for the Hain-Celestial Group personal care division and a spokeswoman for the company's Zia Natural Skincare line, says, "[Customers] want natural ingredients and therapeutic blends that actually heal skin … rather than a bunch of chemicals from the department store."
That's an important point for naturals retailers, say skin care experts. Younger consumers, "having inherited their boomer parents' predilection for self-knowledge and self-treatment," as Packaged Facts puts it, are looking for facts.
"Naturals retailers should really just tell the truth," says derma e's Miles. "They should have full ingredient disclosure. Younger consumers should realize that a lot of the damage we see at 40-plus is what we did to our skin at 20. They should start now instead of waiting to try to fix it."
Jane Hoback is a Denver-based freelance writer.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 6/p. 62