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“Untouched at 30” and the Beauty of Aging

by Libby Pierzak-Pee

In a world of filters, fillers, and AI generated images, we are constantly surrounded by images of perfection. 


Beauty standards for women have always been completely unrealistic and impossible to achieve. 



Thanks to TikTok creators, this pressure has filtered its way down to young girls. Girls as young as eight are being exposed to adult beauty and skincare content, creating societal pressure for them to adopt complicated anti-ageing regimes before they’ve even reached puberty.

 

The anti-aging rhetoric currently being pushed online is incredibly toxic. Nowadays nearly anything can be edited. As a result, women and girls are slowly losing the ability to identify natural faces, natural bodies and natural skin, from digitally altered faces, or from those that have had cosmetic work. 


Many people have called for there to be more transparency online. But is this enough?

 

One way women are trying to encourage girls to embrace aging is through the “Untouched at 30” trend on TikTok. The trend sees Millennial and Gen X women celebrating their natural beauty, posting their unfiltered, untouched faces; wrinkles, scars, blemishes, spots, dark circles and all.

 

The trend was started by 28 year old Courtney Ball, who posted a video on TikTok that included the text “here is a reminder what the raw face of a 28 year old girl who hasn’t had any ‘work’ done looks like.” 


At the time of writing, her video has more than 8.6 million views. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Courtney said she was inspired to post her natural face because she wants to see more faces that haven’t been digitally or surgically altered on her social media feeds.

 

However, the comment section of her video was flooded with negativity. Many users shamed Courtney’s face for having “sun damage.”


“I’d be embarrassed to look like that if I was nearly 30,” wrote one. 


“Stay out of the sun, jeez,” wrote another. 


Sadly, these comments and many others directed at Courtney were written by teenage girls.

 

Social media has warped our sense of reality so much, that young girls are terrified to age. Not only do they think 30 is “old”, perpetuating the myth that once women reach 30 they have somehow reached their sell-by date and expired like milk, they also believe natural faces to look bad, or even ugly. 


And they believe they need to prevent accusations of “looking old” from happening to them at all costs.

 

Whilst Millennial and Gen X women are choosing to embrace their natural beauty, 10 year old girls are shopping at Sephora. Yes, 10 year olds are shopping en masse at Sephora! If you thought that was shocking, girls as young as eight are now begging their parents to buy Drunk Elephant and Ulta beauty products.

 

When I was 10, the height of trendiness was getting your ears pierced at Claire’s Accessories. Every girl’s beauty and skincare routines consisted of badly backcombed hair, caking your face in Maybelline’s Dream Matte Mousse, collecting Lip Smackers, deciding to apply either Barry M 100 or concealer to your lips and spraying your Hollister Body Spray (bonus points if it was Crescent Bay).

 

With their multi-step skincare routines, tanning drops, retinol cream and niacinamide serums, young Gen Z and Gen Alpha are already participating in societal conditioning to value their youth over natural aging whilst retaining a perfect and unageing image. However, many of the products these young girls are using are not safe for their premature skin, and can actually end up causing more damage.

 

Has everyone forgotten that we are supposed to age? It is incredibly depressing that women and girls have been conditioned to believe that their worth solely comes from maintaining their youth, and overall ‘beauty.’


Social media feeds are dominated by anti-ageing trends, – glass skin, glazed donut skin – with thousands of influencers normalising costly, labour-intensive and anti-aging skincare regimes. Most people sharing this type of content are not dermatologists and are not properly educated on healthy skincare.

 

Whilst adopting a skincare routine can be beneficial in helping one to tackle teenage acne/ hormonal spots, most dermatologists recommend a simple and effective routine incorporating SPF. 10 year old girls should not be subjecting their skin to collagen peptides and hyaluronic acid.

 

Society had always treated the process of aging in women as a negative. Youthfulness is continuously sought after and due to pressure from social media, this fixation of the perfect skin and body is making women and young girls turn towards cosmetic procedures. A report by Dove found that 1 in 3 young girls (aged 10-17) are expected to have cosmetic work or plastic surgery to alter their appearance as they age. 


Research carried out by beauty company Fabriah revealed that 44% of UK women would consider plastic surgery if cost was not an issue. Given that many cosmetic procedures are geared towards making people look younger, surprisingly those who were most keen to get work done were women in the 18-30 age group and those who were least interested in getting work done were women aged 55 and over.

 

Studies like this reveal that younger generations consider getting plastic surgery as a way of making positive changes to their appearance. Getting a cosmetic procedure is considered a badge of honour. A questionable “status” symbol to show that work has been done and that you are “proudly” attempting to stay young. Young girls have been brainwashed into thinking that this is somehow empowering.

 

I completely agree that women should have the freedom and ability to make their own choices when it comes to getting cosmetic procedures. However, many of the decisions these young girls are making are being made out of vanity, rather than sincerity. Choices to undergo cosmetic procedures are often deep rooted in insecurity and a desperation for validation from others.

 

A study by the Patient Claim Line in 2022, found that the main factors influencing people to undergo cosmetic procedures were: social media, influencers, pressure from peers, bullying and fixing an injury. The top two factors for young women aged 18-24 undergoing facial cosmetic surgery were influencers and pressure from their peers. 


For Brits aged 65 and above, wanting to fix an injury was the top factor for undergoing facial cosmetic surgery. The study also found that 58% of British women aged 18-24 said that they felt a societal pressure to improve their appearance. For women aged 55-64 this was 22% and for women aged 65+ 28%.

 

Why does it make us feel happier when people think we look younger, thinner, more perfect. Why is our self-esteem and our overall happiness tied up with unrealistic standards and whether or not we choose to go under the knife?

 

The answer is a fear of judgement. From childhood women are taught to hate themselves, and to hate other women. Competition between women and girls ensures that women will always remain divided. Older women fear younger women, younger women fear older women, fear is exasperated, the cycle continues. And this fear and pressure is not just felt by women turning 30. It is felt by all women reaching a milestone age: 40, 50, 60, 70.

 

Society considers aging in women “unattractive”, since women grow more powerful with time and are more likely to rebel against the rigid beauty structures established by the patriarchy and the industries it controls. The beauty industry continues to fill us with unrealistic ideals that affect women of all ages. 


The concept of “true beauty” is constantly displayed to us by models, influencers and celebrities, most of whom are under 30. 


The beauty and skincare industries are never going to encourage you to age. Why would they? Their end goal has always been and will always remain to profit off of women and girl’s insecurities. If women rebel, they can’t be controlled. So society encourages women to remain trapped inside it.

 

Now that women are stronger materially, society chooses to weaken women and young girls psychologically by pointing out their “insecurities” that were never “insecurities” to begin with. 


Through an aspirational ideology, advertising and marketing widely reinforces the belief that beauty is correlated with success and happiness. Therefore, if women and young girls pay for the magical skincare products and procedures on offer they can make their insecurities disappear.

 

We desperately need a reality check. Social media is making girls as young as 8 believe that they are not good enough. It's about time Gen Z and Gen Alpha were re-introduced to skin texture.

 

That is why the Untouched at 30 trend is so incredibly refreshing. If young women continue to aspire to getting cosmetic surgery without addressing their crippling self-esteem, they may never feel content in their own bodies.

 

Women and girls need to develop more self-compassion towards themselves and the aging process. Women should be able to enjoy their youth without developing an intrinsic fear of growing old. Be proud to age. It should not be ground-breaking to accept and embrace the changes to our constantly evolving faces and bodies. Aging is completely natural, and you should never feel the need to punish yourself or others because of it.

 

Always remember that aging is a privilege. It is a gift not everybody gets to experience.


Edited by Emily Duff


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