Aging Expectations

Research: Perceptions + Anti-Aging Products = ?

anti-aging

As we age, we begin to look older. It is, unfortunately, a fact. When the image we see in the mirror each day begins to display these changes (wrinkles, sagging, age spots, etc.), we begin to feel differently about ourselves.

Although we may feel youthful, that mirror taunts with an opposite message. We know, it is critical not to let what we see – old – dampen what we feel – young.

One way we try to do this is to change that face in the mirror. We apply products, swallow pills, receive injections, have surgery, and more to change our face and body to appear more youthful. We will do most anything to match what we feel inside.

This is why the following study was so interesting to me. It relates specifically to how our perceptions of anti-aging products impact the effectiveness of those products.

What Was the Experiment Name?
Women’s Perceptions and Use of “Anti-Aging” Products

Who Conducted the Study?

What Was the Purpose?

This study had a number of hypotheses. I’m not surprised. This is a hot topic and understanding the audience and their thoughts on anti-aging products open many questions. As a member of the demographic, I have quite a few thoughts of my own. This is not about me, though (what??). Here is what these researchers hypothesized:

1. Women would report increased spending habits for products that had been scientifically tested as opposed to products that contained active or natural ingredients.

2. Women using anti-aging skin care products would be seen as more acceptable than other anti-aging procedures such as Botox®.

3. Older women with a higher annual income would be more likely to purchase anti-aging products.

4. Women with body dissatisfaction would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

5. Women with aging anxiety would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

6. Women who place importance on appearance would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

7. Women who internalized sociocultural pressures to maintain appearance would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

8. Women with higher self-esteem would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

Who Participated?

304 Canadian women ranging in age from 19 to 73, with an average age of 40.5. The participants were predominately Caucasian and in a relationship.

How Did They Get Information?

The research was quantitative and qualitative. First, the participants were surveyed on their beliefs related to purchasing anti-aging products, the acceptability of anti-aging products, their self-esteem, their body satisfaction, the importance of appearance, their anxiety related to aging, and sociocultural pressures. From the qualitative perspective, the participants were then asked four open-ended questions.

What are your reasons for using or not using anti-aging products?

What do you look for in products that you are purchasing?

What are some ideas that come about anti-aging products?

What does it mean to you to age naturally or gracefully and how does this relate to your use of anti-aging products?

What Did They Find?

The results as they are related to their hypotheses are as follows:

1. Women would report increased spending habits for products that had been scientifically tested as opposed to products that contained active or natural ingredients.

There was data here to support this hypothesis – women don’t spend differently on scientifically tested product versus products containing active or natural ingredients.

2. Women using anti-aging skin care products would be seen as more acceptable than other anti-aging procedures such as Botox®.

There was data to support this hypothesis – women do find it less acceptable to use anti-aging procedures such as Botox®.

3. Older women with a higher annual income would be more likely to purchase anti-aging products.

There was data to support part of this hypothesis – older women are more likely to purchase anti-aging products, however, their income level did not predict their spending habits.

4. Women with body dissatisfaction would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

There was not data to support this hypothesis – body dissatisfaction did not predict purchase behavior.

5. Women with aging anxiety would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

There was data here to support this hypothesis – women with aging anxiety do purchase more anti-aging products.

6. Women who place importance on appearance would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

There was data here to support this hypothesis – women who place importance on appearance purchase more anti-aging products.

7. Women who internalized sociocultural pressures to maintain appearance would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

There was not data to support this hypothesis – internalization of sociocultural pressures did not predict purchase behavior.

8. Women with higher self-esteem would predict a greater likelihood of purchasing anti-aging products.

There was not data to support this hypothesis – self-esteem did not predict purchase behavior.

From the qualitative data, three main themes emerged:

1. The most common reason women purchased these products was to maintain a youthful appearance – mainly limiting wrinkles.

One underlying principle that was noted related to the women believing looking better meant feeling better so the benefits were multi-pronged.

However, they didn’t expect these products to reverse aging just maintain where they were.

2. As it related to aging naturally or gracefully, many women believed that using these products fit that description as long as one didn’t obsess over it.

Surgery, however, was not seen as natural. In essence, they thought a woman should look and feel her best and using anti-aging products was just one strategy to achieve this.

3. Although these women may purchase anti-aging products, only 3% of them believe they work, most believe they are “gimmicky” and not effective.

My Opinions:

I love this study. Do I say that about every one? Maybe I just love research!

Anyway, my own personal opinions of anti-aging products align pretty closely with the results of the study. Especially with regard to thinking they probably don’t work but use them anyway.

Some of the results seem predictable. I would have wagered quite a bit that older women are more likely to purchase anti-aging products.

However, I LOVE younger women were included in the study.

The research included a few quotes from the qualitative portion of the study. Some of those quotes were from women in their 20s, who I was surprised to find out, are already using anti-aging products! Wow!

One quote though was from a 22-year-old who said,

“Women should accept the natural aging process and stop worrying about doing anything and everything in order to appear young…know that wrinkles, grey hair, etc. are natural and beautiful in their own way.”

Oh, I just love that!

Don’t get me wrong, that is an awesome sentiment. One which we should all strive to adhere to…in fact, I may have said something just as ridiculous when I was in my 20s with smooth, perfect skin, not a grey hair in sight, and with no idea how mean gravity actually is.

I’d like to chat with this women in about 30 years (or less) to find out if she is living by her words.

Just to note too, the researchers indicated that more research is necessary, particularly with broadening the participant pool to include more ethnic diversity and men. Also, they’d like to see additional research as it relates to why people would buy these products even when they didn’t believe they were effective – but that, to me, seems an impossible question. Why do we buy half the things we do?

Your Opinions:

I’d LOVE to know what you think! Do you buy anti-aging products? Do you think they are effective?

Do you buy anti-aging products? 

Do you think they are effective?

Do you buy a product if it is natural versus scientifically tested?

Do you think you’ll buy more products as you age?

Do you think men fall prey to purchasing these anti-aging products in the same way as women?

Do you feel pressure to look younger?

SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!!

 

 

 

2013 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC By AgingExpectations.

 

Reference:

Muise, A. & Desmarais, S. (2010). Women’s perceptions and use of “anti-aging” products. Sex Roles, 63, 126–137. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9791-5

7 comments

  1. Thanks for another great post about such a hot-button issue when it comes to aging! To me this study echoes its predecessors with the common thread being that our thoughts become our reality. If you perceive anti-aging products to not be effective that is probably the result you will get. Like most things in this world (and the next)in order to “see” we must first believe. Although aging heightens our awareness of our appearance, looking good on the outside helps most of us to feel good on the inside, regardless of age (I’m not saying it’s the ONLY or most IMPORTANT thing though). I’m the first to admit that a new outfit or haircut boosts my confidence and self-esteem resulting in more positive thoughts, feelings and inevitably interactions with others. While appearance should never be our first priority, it’s not only okay but important to truthfully acknowledge the connection between looking good and feeling good. So bring on the anti-aging products and start believing the results that are possible that I’ve personally seen because I first believed.

  2. I don’t understand why women are ok with putting a bunch of chemicals on their face that their body digests through the skin, but they are afraid of Botox? Botox is proven to remove wrinkles and is managed under a doctor’s care. If you are going to spend money, you should spend it on a proven product.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Very interesting point! I think many women don’t consider that they are under a doctor’s care with Botox so there is a professional to assist with the care. Although maybe they worry that the doctor isn’t an expert since there are so many stories about shoddy work. It does seem there is some psychology around why women choose to use products they believe are “gimmicky” instead of going to a doctor to see definite results. Hhhmmm…

      1. With all of these my worry would be that once I start using it I can’t stop. A financial factor is one issue, but there is also fear of it regressing to worse than before you started. I remember these stories with hair loss products and so never started.

        1. I’m not a Botox expert but from my limited understanding, the wrinkles don’t get worse they just go back to what you had or would have had. Although they might appear worse since you haven’t seen those wrinkles for so long (because you were seeing the positive Botox results). Also, maybe the same would happen with the skin creams if you stopped using those.

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