Beauty of Age
Principal investigator: Professor Danka Tamburic, Reader in Cosmetic Science
Sitting within one of the Centres key themes of ‘Better Lives’ Beauty of Age seeks to explore the effects of ‘non medical’ vs. ‘medical’ approaches to the management of skin ageing in women over sixty.
It is well documented that British society, like all Western societies, is an ageing one. By 2034, 23% of the UK population will be aged 65 and over (Office for National Statistics). This large, but quite invisible demographic tends to be in the public focus mostly in relation to their health issues. To change that perspective, we have started a series of projects based on valuing the wisdom and the Beauty of Age.
The project gathered initial information on several aspects that constitute and affect notions of beauty; aesthetic appearance (via photography), scientific data (via instrumental analysis of skin and expert grading) and cultural/historical context (via personal beauty histories). Two different approaches to the management of skin ageing were assessed ‘non-medical’ (characterised by acceptance of the changes in skin that come with age) and ‘medical intervention’ (characterised by the use of an arsenal of medicinal and technological tools in order to fight the signs of skin ageing). The projects aim was to answer the question “does different approaches to skin ageing produce measurably different effects?” and to explore these in relation to the individual’s own ‘beauty philosophy’ and their personal history.
We used a complex methodology in which quantitative data, gathered via instrumental measurements, self-evaluation and public perception, were combined with the narratives obtained from semi-structured interviews. The findings have shown, in brief, that ‘medical’ intervention does not necessarily produce a younger-looking image and that majority of instrumentally measured parameters did not differ between the two groups, but also that ‘medical’ group held their skin appearance in higher regard, as evidenced from higher self-assessment scores. The narrative produced around these facts helped us to understand the decisions, expectations and attitudes of participating women.
Project findings have been presented the 7th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology entitled Theorizing age: challenging the disciplines in Maastricht in October 2011. Further papers are in preparation, as well as the next stage of the project, entitled The ageing skin and self-esteem: a multi-centre European study.