By Laura Kenney,
Editor in chief and co-founder of YouBeauty.com
Do you look young for your age? The odds are if you’re a woman, you answered with a resounding “yes!” A whopping 84% of women think their skin looks younger than their years, based on a sample of 18,000 women who have taken the Skin Age Quiz at YouBeauty,where I’m the editor. We may base our assumptions on reality—those of us born in the back half of Generation X (and after) have been slathering on wrinkle-preventing sunscreen since our teens, thanks to the genius invention of SPF-spiked facial moisturizers in the early 90s. Or it could be through the lens of generational perspective, since any child will tell you that they definitely look far younger than their parents did at their age.
But, based on the data sets we’re collecting at YouBeauty, it's probably just good old American optimism. Via our 36 scientific assessments on everything from hair habits to sleep patterns to stress levels and lipstick colors, we’ve got 40 million data points on just about every aspect of the female psyche.
I say optimism, because 66% of these same women also reported that they worry about aging skin and say theirs is dull, dry or simply not as radiant as it used to be. Perhaps that’s because 59% reported having a major sweet tooth, and, of the 63,000 women who have taken our Stress Quiz, a whopping 91% have felt stressed in the past month.
In the beauty industry, these stats spell opportunity. We live in an age of holistic beauty, in which consumers are beginning to understand the link between their lifestyles and their looks. Stress, diet and exercise have been proven to affect our beauty, and conversely, our outer beauty factors have been proven to affect our health— Harvard’s Ellen Langer has proven that something as simple as a more youthful hair cut or color can affect your health and longevity by tricking your mind into thinking you’re younger than you are. In her study, her subjects’ blood pressure actually decreased.
Innovative beauty brands are catching on, speaking to consumers about how their inner health affects their outer beauty, and vice versa. To market their moisture creams, Nivea explored the link between touch and wellbeing as a key point in a 2011 PR campaign, assigning Kory Floyd, Ph.D., professor of human communication at Arizona State, to conduct research that ultimately showed that nearly half of Americans are starved for more physical contact.
Kiehl’s recently launched Skin Rescuer, a moisturizing cream rich in rosa gallica extract, mannose and chamomile to reduce the visible signs of stress. The stress hormone cortisol breaks down collagen, a protein in the skin that helps keep it strong and elastic. Less collagen means more wrinkles. Ideally we deal with stress at its source, but skincare that helps mask its symptoms can’t hurt.
Sugar is also a proven beauty buster. It can trigger glycation, a process in which excess sugars in the bloodstream create a byproduct that damages collagen and elastin. The word glycation is beginning to creep back into the skin care arena. I say creep back because a few forward-thinking brands, such as Dr. Brandt, launched glycation-related products in the mid aughts, but they were too early—consumers did not catch on. But today, more and more studies that are heavily covered by the news media are pointing fingers at added dietary sugar being a trigger for inflammation. Brands like Kind Bar are even advertising their glycemic index front and center on their packaging.
We’re at a turning point where consumers are realizing that lifestyle is inextricably linked to health and beauty, but they are probably not yet acting on it. They are ready for—and hungry for—products that can help them be healthier and more beautiful, from the outside in.
About the expert
Kenney is a co-founder of YouBeauty. She has 15 years of beauty under her belt, as an editor at Seventeen, Sephora and AOL and a writer for magazines like Elle, Marie Claire and Parenting. A science geek at heart, Laura has a B.S. in nutrition from Cornell University. Her obsession with the science of beauty led her to YouBeauty, where she helms the site, downs dark chocolate (a proven stress reducer!), is the resident weather predictor, and pages through the journal Cutis with a relish previously reserved for September Vogue.