Can we rejuvenate the sallow image of our beauty industry’s relationship with ageing?


As Dame Helen Mirren is revealed as the newest L’Oréal UK Ambassador, debate surrounding the beauty industry’s despotic relationship with age is reignited. But will her noticeably retouched images only perpetuate criticisms of an industry dangerously addicted to youth?

It all started with a tweet. Yes, like so many of today’s news-breaking controversies, the revelation of L’Oréal’s latest brand ambassador set the twittersphere alight yesterday. Acting royalty, Helen Mirren, emerged onto the world stage only to be announced as L’Oréal Paris’s most “innovative” marketing ploy since the infamous maxim “because you’re worth it”. Indeed the accompanying hash tag “#WorthIT” raised some valid questions. At 69 years old, can this silver fox rejuvenate the already sallow image of our beauty industry’s relationship with ageing?

As she comments upon her new role, a down-to-earth Mirren confesses, “I am not gorgeous, I never was, but I was always OK-looking and I’m keen to stay that way.” But it seems this doyenne of ageless beauty herself is taking a more idealistic approach to the issue, “I hope I can inspire other women towards greater confidence by making the most of their natural good looks.” Finally trilling, “We are all worth it!” In L’Oréal’s accompanying press release, the cosmetic empire shared results of a 9,000 women survey in which participants consistently rated Mirren as “appealing”; singling her out as “genuine, intelligent and glamorous, with looks that seem only to improve with the passing of time”.

However, the Oscar winning star is not the first to tread this divisive path. It appears L’Oréal is following in the footsteps of cult beauty brand NARS, which recently shot senior siren Charlotte Rampling (age 68) for its 20th anniversary campaign and will introduce the Gaelic beauty, Tilda Swinton (54), as next season’s face.

After watching the many fresh-faced ingénues, such as Blake Lively, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Freida Pinto, lauding the merits of a dewy complexion, is this latest campaign a genuine attempt to redefine societal standards or simply a marketing technique set to re-energise a flailing demographic? The Jury’s out.

Published in Oxford University’s Cherwell Newspaper 2014