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How Gen X Became Beauty’s Next Big Consumer

Mature consumers have long been ignored by the beauty industry. Now a small but growing number of emerging brands are responding to the needs of those over the age of 45 in a bid to cash in on their $15 trillion spending power.
A model holding a cream above her head
Gen X represents the biggest market share in the prestige beauty category, according to Circana. (Beautystat)

Key insights

  • A growing number of beauty labels are now focusing on the beauty needs of Gen X.
  • A flexible routine that focuses on simple yet effective products is key for building brand loyalty as these customers prioritise science-based products to address advanced skin concerns.
  • A return to traditional media has made it easier for Gen X to discover emerging brands, while a focus on nostalgia marketing helps drive relevance within this cohort.

A growing number of brands are on a mission to make ageing aspirational.

U Beauty, Jones Road and Beautystat are among the brands launched in recent years that bill themselves as addressing “advanced skin” concerns, such as fine lines and wrinkles. They’re all chasing a long-ignored pool of customers: Gen X. The generation, now aged 45 to 65, would have been the prime target in the past for anti-ageing creams and serums from the likes of L’Oréal or Olay.

But older consumers are proving just as open to marketing that embraces imperfect skin as their younger Gen-Z and Millennial counterparts. There’s also a lot of them. Gen X represents the biggest market share in the prestige beauty category, according to market research firm Circana. And eager to attract older consumers, brands are using old school marketing techniques like direct mail, television ads and Facebook groups to reach older shoppers.

“Women in their 50s can be aspirational to all consumers. Not only does [that woman] have high disposable income, but she can be vibrant and sexy too,” said Ron Robinson, founder and chief executive of Beautystat.

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Less Is More

For many Gen X consumers, their skincare and makeup routines were developed well before elaborate TikTok tutorials or 10-step K-beauty regimes took hold, making a focus on simplified beauty fundamentals essential for capturing their attention.

“[Our] appeal to Gen X is anchored in a fuss-free approach to beauty, which challenges the need to constantly maintain a perfect look,” said Payal Patel Plofker, senior director of brand marketing at Jones Road.

Founded by makeup legend Bobbi Brown, the line’s minimal makeup ethos quickly caught on, crossing more than $120 million in revenue last year and opening five stores since its launch in 2020. Half of the brand’s consumers are Gen X.

U Beauty takes a similar approach, with a slow and measured product release cadence that is meant to address Gen Xers’ anxiety around the flood of beauty launches and information now available.

“We live in such an algorithmically derived culture that being able to say here’s … your entire routine in a bottle provides a sense of comfort for a lot of our customers,” said Kate Klobe Wasserstein, chief brand officer at U Beauty.

Often, these brands are drawing from the same ingredients as competitors with primarily Gen-Z or Millennial audiences, but with a Gen X twist. Take peptides: Hailey Bieber’s Rhode lip treatment claims the ingredient provides suppleness, moisture and softens lines around the mouth. Beautystat, meanwhile, says its Peptide Wrinkle Relaxing Moisturiser relaxes facial muscles to smooth expression lines and wrinkles. Beautystat’s Robinson developed many of Rhode’s formulas.

While a lot of brands have products that meet the advanced skincare needs that Gen X have, representation continues to be limited. Beautystat, however, uses older models in its campaigns to show consumers that their products support the skincare needs of women at all ages, according to Robinson.

U Beauty, too, plays into that as well, referencing commercial stock photography from the 1970s and 1980s in product imagery.

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“We love having a brand identity that engenders that sense of nostalgic brand identity,” Wasserstein said.

Reaching Gen X Where They Are

Plenty of Gen Xers are on TikTok, but it’s not the main way beauty brands are reaching that generation.

In April 2023, U Beauty launched its first full-scale brand awareness campaign in the US, in print publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine.

“Showing up in print titles that carry weight with the Gen X cohort was a way of credentialing U Beauty as a brand that has the authenticity to exist in that group,” said Wasserstein.

Jones Road launched its first television advertisement last December, featuring the brand’s Miracle Balm as the antidote to mainstream anti-aging products. Recognising that women experience dry skin with age, the balm hydrates and adds colour and a vibrant glow to the skin, rather than masking the signs of ageing.

In its first year, the brand also launched “The Roadies”, a Facebook group that now has some 44,000 members sharing their feedback and experiences with its products.

“We give them a lot of power to tell us what they like, and we use them to shape our marketing,” said Plofker. “We care far more than just saying ‘we’re marketing to that community’. We really want to create a community that feels this.”

The brand has also leveraged direct mail.

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“It feels comfortable, nostalgic and less alarming for them because they’re able to read it on their own terms,” said Plofker. This has been particularly successful in driving traffic to their website.

While nostalgia provides a sense of comfort, perhaps the success of brands targeting Gen X is their ability to challenge traditional beauty standards that are often tethered to youth.

“There is comfort for a lot of customers in returning to their beauty fundamentals …You can be introduced to so many brands on social media, but a focus on nostalgia allows us to pull references that we feel will have emotional resonance with the [Gen X] cohort,” said Wasserstein.

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Further Reading

Beauty’s “Ageing” Rebrand That Never Was

Euphemisms like “pro-aging” and “anti anti-aging” exist to obscure the fact that the beauty industry is selling the same creams and tonics meant to enhance one’s appearance. It may be time for a new approach.

Gen-Z Is Already Worried About Looking Old

Despite being known for their body positivity, young people are buying into anti-ageing products and procedures more than ever and earlier than ever. How will they grow old?

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