Photo of Sarah Jane Adams: WWD

Last week was my 65th birthday. Yay – made it! Says Vicci Bentley. As well as the cards (some pensive, many more facetious) were a couple of plugs for funeral insurance plans. Well, cheers for that, I thought. These vultures may think I have one foot in the grave, but if the latest stats are anything to go by, at least I’ll ‘die’ a good colour, as my dear old ma used to say.

The 2016 report by beauty site reveals that customers aged between 50 and 80 surged by more than 210% since last year, when they revealed that 60-plussers accounted for a quarter of all beauty buys. No denying it, we mellowing baby boomers are now the biggest beauty spenders in the UK – and counting. As Kate Finnigan reminded us in her Stella magazine feature on ‘How the fashion world is finally waking up to the power of the older woman’, by 2020 (yikes, that’s only four years away!) the number of people over 65 will rise by 1.1 million.

Clearly, there’s never been a better time to be senior. We’re now used to seeing contemporaries as ‘ambassadors’ in fashion and beauty ads. In beauty circles, the ‘anti-ageing’ tagline has reached its tipping point as a reason to buy some serum or other and even ‘pro-ageing’ is being debated. Is it positive? Is it patronising? Do we need an ‘age appropriate’ handle at all? I quite fancy ‘age active’ myself, but I’m open to suggestions….

But there’s one thing about planet beauty that I just don’t get. If we’re such big spenders, down on the shop floor, where are all the senior consultants to help us? A few weeks ago, I did a mini survey in Oxford Street. Gorgeous young things in cool outfits at beauty counters, including several pretty young men. But as far as I could tell, the spirit of inclusion seemed to peter out around the 35 mark, except for perhaps in John Lewis where I spotted two or three potential 50-plussers.

Call me prejudiced, but I’m way more likely to take advice from an elegant contemporary than a teenager with an entire makeup range on her face. And I’m so not alone. Tricia Cusden, 71, founded her Look Fabulous Forever website and makeup range because she was fed up with being sold products that didn’t suit her by young consultants who misjudged her.

Think about it. How on earth can someone barely past puberty tune into the post-menopausal gestalt? Beauty companies will tell you that consultants are allocated to stores according to the demographic. Were that entirely accurate, 50-plussers on heavingly busy Oxford Street – or anywhere else come to that – would be as endangered as dormice.

So here’s the thing. Since we’ll probably have to work until we’re 70 to afford our beauty buys, let’s lobby cosmetic companies to positively recruit senior consultants to sell us what we actually need. The potential for empty nesters returning to the workplace, or early retirers starting new careers would be tremendous. On the other side of the counter, the trust would be commensurate – enough perhaps, to coax us back into stores and away from online anonymity. A win-win situation? At the end of the day, it takes one to know one. So let us know what you think. Do you want to buy beauty from women like you?


114 thoughts on “Where are all the senior beauty consultants?

  1. I agree
    We need senior consultants, I also find it uncomfortable
    When I know more about the product than they do.

    Great post


  2. I totally agree. I’m really tired of these teenagers telling me what to do when they don’t have a clue and couldn’t care less. And, as a rule, I don’t take advice (on beauty, fashion or life in general) from people younger than me… And as a 50+ woman I also sort of like to see ‘role models’, women older than me rocking it and showing me that getting older is cool.

  3. Bobby Brown, John Lewis in Solihull…a delightful lady named Debbie, who is approachable, knowledgable and utterly charming!

  4. You’re so right Vicci, I was in Selfridges beauty hall yesterday and all the consultants were practically teenagers with flawless skin. I left without buying anything, feeling a bit confused by it all! The irony is that I wouldn’t have been able to afford even the cheapest lipstick in there in my twenties. Now I’ve got a bit more cash I feel totally out of place.

    1. Very true. Sadly 20 year old Middle Eastern and Chinese women can afford the entire Tom Ford or Charlotte Tilbury make-up range, hence Selfridges shifted their entire marketing to suit them. Oh well…

  5. Really enjoyed this article – it tells some real truths and made me laugh out loud. You are so right, when you look at these beautiful young things with high definition eyebrows and lips not to mention the contouring, one wonders if they have any understanding let alone training in enhance the softer (ageing) face! Take blusher for instance – the advice to smile and place it on the ‘apples’ of the cheeks simply leaves me looking like an ‘Aunt Sally’ doll. But one wiser person suggested a touch of bronzer on the top of the cheek bones but NOT coming past the eyes results in ‘don’t you look well’ comments – which let’s face it, is the best compliment.

  6. I’m happy with young beauty consultants when they “get” me. I was converted to Bobbi Brown (which I’d always thought a bit boring) by Agnes in their Covent Garden branch. She’s an absolute gift to those of us who are a bit older, as is Amy on the Oxford Street John Lewis Bare Minerals counter.

    I do wish there were more Agnes and Amys though. And some older faces would be great. I personally don’t think men belong on beauty counters but I’m sure a lot of people disagree with me. And it’s illogical as I have a male hairdresser!

    My pet hate on the beauty halls is MAC where I’ve always been given a stiff ignoring.

    1. Yes MAC do that to me too. I have found the Bare Minerals powder makeup the best for my aging skin but had to experiment to get a good result. I prefer internet shopping so I don’t have to deal with rude staff also shops are so often poorly stocked so don’t have what I want. J

  7. Absolutely, where are all the gorgeous women of age. I have often encountered that look from some very young consultants which makes you feel like their mum !
    I am also 65 this weekend …and I look pretty good too.
    This blog always make me smile and great to know there are some feisty mature women in the world of blogging.

  8. I don’t mind the age of the consultants – but the advice can be way off mark… I do not look good in sparkly eye shadow any more! But good point, Vicci, and I hope to see more women of a certain age behind the beauty counters. H

  9. Absolutely! I completely agree. And another area is in the gym – I know what my body can do and is comfortable with at the age of 60. I am very fit for my age, but I don’t think your average 20 something fitness trainer has a clue about how differently an older (even fit) body works.

  10. I agree with all the above posters. There is an older assistant on the beauty counter of our local Boots and I have no
    hesitation in asking her opinion or assistance. The other assistants I avoid like the plague.
    Perhaps Boots have got the message?

  11. We’re talking about badly paid retail jobs, not some attractive positions. The older women have moved from retail as soon as they could.

    1. Totally agree with you on this I was a beauty consultant for many years,have worked for just about all of them
      but the remuneration for all that hard work is inadequate. I found a lot of women needed to talk about their personal
      problems when with their trusted consultant,this can be quite taxing on top of the job itself. The modern day beauty halls
      in large department stores are not relaxing any more,loud music emanates from Mac, Benefit, to name but a few and the stores own background music which one had to listen to, all day long the same, all conflict with each other.At the ripe old age of 67 I don’t think I could tolerate all that craziness that cosmetic departments are these days.I am glad I worked in a time
      when the Beauty business was an elegant,classy affair.

  12. Ive found that the Estee Lauder counter is the best place for older and very expert consultants. Great advice, subtle makeup application.

    1. Re. Estee Lauder – you would think it would be a great place to go for the more mature woman, but they’re now chasing the millenials with their ‘Estee Edit’ range, using the beautiful but practically teenage Kendall Jenner as their poster girl. It’s lovely fun product, but totally bewildering to a 46 year-old! Really disappointing.

  13. Fantastic lady on Chanel in Debenhams, Bath, is about my age and so is something I can aspire to, not view as an impossibly exotic version of a me who is long gone…

  14. A few years back a Clinique consultant persuaded me into her chair . My tried & true makeup was whisked off & replaced by a mask . Lovely girl but she couldn’t cope with an older woman . It was embarrassing walking around afterwards , though it gave hubbie a good laugh . Never again – unless she is nearer my age

  15. Great article and I totally agree. I love make up and skin care but hate going to make up counters. I would love to be advised by an older sales person who hasn’t got the whole makeup collection on her face. Bobbi Brown counters I find to be better especially when you get to know a particular person. I recommend watching make up videos ie Hannah Martin for Bobbi Brown who has a lovely tutorial with make up for an older women, her mother in law! Also Lisa Eldridge has a great one too.

  16. So true ! Why is this completely obvious to all of us but not to the beauty companies ? Keep pushing this, please. Meanwhile there are some good beauty videos by older women on Youtube. Tricia Cusden has done lots. Also lovely Mary Greenwell with her pink hair has done some for women over 50 on ‘Get the gloss’ .

  17. Totally agree with this. I avoid buying cosmetics or skin care products in store for fear of being the only “old lady” (I’m 50) in the entire shop rendered invisible in the just pubescent crowds by my otherwise “noticeable signs of ageing”. In the meantime, I could do with a “spruce up” but just sigh and say “oh well, never mind” and grumble my faded, frumpy self away in comment posts. Clothes shops that are slightly fashionable and/or affordable are no better. Grr.

  18. Oh yes, one of my pet peeves! 99% of the consultants in my area in Sydney Australia are barely out of their teens. They don’t have a clue how to deal with wrinkley eyes and saggy skin. I have had my makeup done about five times in the hope of learning something, and like Wendy in York, ended up looking utterly ridiculous and over made up with my wrinkles looking twice as bad as they are. Never again with a young girl. I find it quite discouraging.

  19. Yes, I agree with you completely on this. I have several times that I go into a store and at the cosmetics counter all you see are younger ladies. They are helpful but they can only help to a certain point. When they are trying makeup on you such as your eyes or eyebrows you end up looking like a clown. Sorry don’t meant to be so blunt but it does drive me crazy because I feel that companies do not think of the classy ladies that are over 50.

  20. Horray! So glad to see this issue brought up, but as we all know it doesn’t just end at the makeup counter! Lack of help for our age group is daunting. I enjoy blogs on skin care and makeup and really wish someone would fill that gap! So much opportunity there!

  21. I like Bobby Brown as well. The makeup consultant I go to is a youngish male. He’s wonderful. He understands I like an “effortless chic” look with the least amount of products.
    It has perplexed me since entering my fifties why all of fashion is geared to the young, but most women my age have much more buying power. In saying this, I usually buy from stores whose focus is on the younger buyer. (Not too young though) Clothing geared for women my age does not fit well and looks frumpy on me.

  22. Don’t get me started on this topic. I’ve been active in the fight against ageism in the beauty/fashion industry and it falls upon deaf ears. I’ve even written about we older ladies many times:

    And it doesn’t stop. It continues. I’ve written to most cosmetic companies asking them why they refuse to use older women. I don’t even get a response. I’m ready to start boycotting because I have a TON of cosmetics that I’ve spent money on. I have SO many cosmetics that I can go into my stash and do a no-buy for a year or so. I’m frustrated and pissed off. Thanks for bringing this to fruition. We need a revolution!

  23. Totally agree. Chester SpaceNK has a marvellous senior lady consultant who gave me confidence when showing me a product just because of her age and experience. I wish more stores would follow this lead.

  24. It’s not the age of the consultant, it’s the training they receive. I’ve had young sales people help me with both cosmetics and clothing, and if they’ve been trained to work with every age of customer, it’s a great experience–I love a fresh way of looking at things. I have no time for assistants who ignore me, and they don’t get my money–a win win!

  25. It’s way past time for us to drop that dated, condescending, and creepy term—‘seniors.’
    Women, or older women, sounds just fine to me.

  26. Thank you Vicci for including Look Fabulous Forever in your article about the dearth of older beauty consultants in stores. I started LFF 3 years ago at the age of 65 for this very reason (I am actually 68 now not 71 !). I just thought where am I in this conversation about women and beauty? We get LOADS of emails from customers saying that they are intimidated to go into large beauty halls and love buying online because there is no pressure to buy something unsuitable for an older skin. Hopefully articles like yours will lead to a different approach by stores – it’s very much needed!

  27. I completely agree with the points made and, yes, it is about time we had more mature consultants who know our issues. I am one of many thousands who has had to come to terms with life post-mastectomy and radical surgery has left me with a bit of a narcissistic attitude to how I look; I just can’t help it. When I am wearing nice clothes and my hair and make up are done I feel as if I am the proper me once more. I make a big effort with my appearance and great advice is invaluable.

  28. I tend to agree that we need to have more older consultants but also there is a big issue with training that could be addressed too with younger ones. I live in Chichester where it is an older demographic but things are no better here. When I was 35 , I was told by a Clarins consultant who was probably in her late 40s that it was all downhill now and Gravity was about to take its toll. Ouch! Not very professional to say the least. It certainly had the opposite effect and I didn’t buy anything! Recently, I had a problem finding the right foundation, having wasted time and money in store and online. I sought out an older consultant specifically rather than choose the brand first as I have brand loyal in the past. She was brilliant and on No7 which foundation I have never used. She found me the foundation that suited me best by spending time with me and she also made me feel good about myself. I returned to the same counter this week to try a new moisturiser., hoping she’d be there. The consultant in her 30s asked me my age (59) and then could hardly bring herself to help. I had just seen her advising a younger customer and her attitude was completely different. What can we do to get the message across to the industry?

  29. I so agree with Nancy’s comment, “It’s not the age of the consultant, it’s the training they receive. I’ve had young sales people help me with both cosmetics and clothing, and if they’ve been trained to work with every age of customer, it’s a great experience–I love a fresh way of looking at things.”.
    I had a youngish Bobbi Brown consultant at Harrods update my makeup a few years ago, and she was so good that since them I find I can make adjustments and update just fine! It really is the training. And re the demographic issue, I used to agree with this however have changed my mind. Recently looking for a new foundation I have been through the mill from Brighton to London. Between the skin breakouts and also being mixed race and ending up looking like I’ve been tangoed, well I realised I had to do my own trials with testers online. And don’t even start with the unhelpful shop lighting!!
    So yes . . . training training, training is what really makes the difference in the experience. Or else lucking out and finding one of those with just a real good “eye” and sense for fashion and beauty . . . and these gems are worth their weight in gold, and in my experience can be either male or female or young or old!

  30. Thank you for this. Before I retired last year, I worked regularly with young women and I found them eager to learn and help but there has to be someone to teach them. There are some books (at least in the US) that provide helpful advice and then I just go to Sephora and play around on my own.

  31. When my daughter got married a couple of years ago, we had a young professional make up artist do our faces for the wedding. She put spray foundation on all of us, young and old alike. I was told this would show up beautifully in photographs. Unfortunately, in person I looked like a veritable dinosaur! I washed the whole thing off and did my own my make-up. Clearly what works for young skin does not work for mature women. I agree this is a matter of training and of sensitivity. Certain stores in Chicago (where I live) seem to get it right – probably because they pay people for experience. Thanks for this wonderful and thoughtful discussion.

  32. I’m 65 and wear much less “make-up” than I did in my younger years. I decided at a certain point a few years ago that foundation was beginning to look like a dry-wall compound that had been poorly applied! Crack filler broken apart….so no more foundation concealers, etc.! The occasional tinted moisturizer adds a certain glow for special times. I agree with Heather C. about not using glittery eye shadow and Nancy about the training and attitude of assistants. I don’t like to be ignored because I have grey hair! Sue W makes a good point about wanting to “look like a proper me”….with nice, not necessarily expensive, just properly fitting clothes, hair style and make-up. I feel that if the person at the cosmetics counter looks as though they’re ready to perform in Cirque du Soleil, I don’t want them near my face!! My face reflects my life. I don’t need to hide behind a mask. Same for the clothing associates…..I don’t take advice from the ones who look like they got ready in the dark and didn’t look in the mirror! Thanks for the great article and for the chance to air my thoughts! Let’s hope our comments help bring a change.

  33. I shopped at Sephora recently (in the USA) and had the same problem. I encountered my son’so 17 year old schoolmate and knew more about the product than she. It leaves one feeling a bit tired. I only go in when I’ve done my own research beforehand.

  34. If I go into one more Sephora (here in the States) and am told by one more twenty-something consultant that I really need to wear a “brown” lipstick because of my age I will have to whip out my credit card and buy up every fuchsia lipstick in the store (which will do her more good than me, but at least I will feel like I’ve made a point). Side note: Last spring I threw out all my “brown” lipsticks as a private rebellion against such suggestions and while I have not gone all rogue fuchsia I have purchased some lovely subtle pinks that truly seem to freshen up my complexion.

  35. Hear, hear! I am now “so old” that I can walk through the cosmetic areas of department stores without being accosted or buttonholed. That’s a shame because I am far more interested in cosmetics (with more time and money for them) than I used to be. One piece of advice I’m not taking is “as you age wear less makeup”. Wrong. The truth is, as you age you tend to “disappear”— less eyebrows and eyelashes, less bloom on the rose. I really need the art of makeup and would stop in my tracks if I saw a consultant old enough to dispense it.

  36. Agree wholeheartedly. Too many young saleswomen more interested in pushing the latest product rather than what the (older) customer needs. And while we are at it, now that dress designers are actually giving us dresses with sleeves, could we have shoes that are wearable, comfortable and also fashionable. My current footwear remains trainers, walking type sandals with boots in winter. Fashion designers insist on pushing pointed toes and towering heels. Only need to browse through any celebrity magazine and see the state of the “celebs” feet in such footwear – ouch.

  37. So much of advice is really experience, so it’s hard to fully respect the younger generation in these matters!
    Especially with makeup, because the younger women haven’t experienced how the skin and facial features have changed, yet!
    I do like keeping a finger in the pulse of the younger styles just to see if they could work for us older women. But I love that term ambassador—we need to keep pushing for the older women everywhere!

  38. Where do I sign this petition? It is terrible that we feel out of place, insecure and ignored in many stores. This needs to change!

    YOU are SO RIGHT……………
    The YOUTH and the PRETTY BOYS don’t DO IT for me either.
    The GIRLS have WAY TOO MUCH APPLIED to the face behind those counters.

  40. Agree! I am 48, I let my natural hair color grow in 3 years ago, so yes, I am grey. I love my hair, I love makeup and playing with color.

  41. Yes please, its so hard to explain creeping lipstick or eyeshadow that migrates on my wrinkly eyelids to a salesgirl that has no personal experience with such things. Last trip to the makeup counter resulted in a smokey eye look that made me look like I had just been mugged on the street.

  42. Any advice please for lipsticks that don’t weep into the lines around my mouth. ive found a good lip gloss by Guerlain thats good, and not sticky either.

  43. Cosmetic counters and retail sales in general are physically tough places to work for older women–standing all day in heels, leaning forward to apply makeup, etc. I have a 61 year-old friend who works the couture area at a Nordstrom’s here in the States and she has to spend her days off in bed recovering from foot and back issues. But attitude to aging is definitely an issue in European countries. Perhaps that’s why the best, most considerate and expert makeup session I’ve ever had was last year by a beautiful transgender young woman at a Chanel department in Bangkok.

  44. There’s a gorgeous assistant on the Chanel counter at Meadowhall,Sheffield, she’s in her 70’s & believes she is the oldest Chanel cosmetics employee in the UK…..she’s helpful to old & young,full of great advice. & a great advertisement for her products….

  45. I do agree with the article and many comments. I’m bored with young girls trying to sell me products which they say they use. Er if you’re using it, it’s probably not for me. Plus they often know very little about the ingredients and I get blank looks when asking about them. The industry wants our cash but it’s outdated in its selling methods and needs to invest A LOT more on training and recruiting (I agree) more grown -up consultants. Sadly as someone who loves real shops, I get the best information from websites and customer reviews.

  46. In dress departments personal shoppers can help you find what you want from all the shop’s ranges. Why don’t they do this with cosmetics?

  47. I’ve ended up picking up tips from vloggers (Lisa E mainly) when they do ‘mature’ women. (There’s another word I hate.) I’ve found the application tips particularly helpful. I’m another who’s pared back her make-up – I think it’s mainly because I’m more confident these days and don’t feel the need to hide behind layers of gunge or because I don’t care to be judged by how I look. When I was young I wanted to be thought ‘pretty’ or ‘sexy.’ Now I don’t give a damn, except that for my own self-satisfaction I want to look the best I can — which is actually pretty damn good. 😉

  48. I had to stop myself laughing recently when a young 20+ beautician told me I had the start of a few fine lines around my eyes and I should use such and such a cream.
    At 61 I’ll stick with my regular inexpensive moisturiser if all I’ve got is a “few fine lines”

  49. Looks like this column hit a collective nerve – I hope beauty industry decision makers are reading and take the hint. Talk about ignoring a large, affluent (and increasingly vocal) demographic! Stupid business decision!

    Chiming in with all the others who avoid beauty counters, I get all my makeup advice from youtube videos made by makeup artists like Lisa Eldridge (also loved the Bobbi Brown/Hannah Martin one suggested by an above commenter). I prefer a natural but lightly polished look, so while I don’t wear or buy a lot of makeup, what I do buy, I buy online. I avoid beauty counters like the plague – I literally skirt around them in department stores. I’m not about to listen to some over-made up twenty-something tell me what will work on my skin (I’m 59) when in truth she hasn’t got a clue (and likely doesn’t care either, thinking anyone over 40 has one foot in the grave anyway).

  50. Yes!! And from the number of comments you received on this post, I’m not alone in this feeling. I’m ready to apply for a weekend job to a local Ulta shop for this very reason. I’ve complained about this in my head every time I go looking to refresh my make-up or hair products. I may as well be the one out there selling it 🙂 (age 53!)

  51. I know where these women are coming from. I do have to praise the team at Clinique at Harvey Nicols in Manchester UK for their recent help with my make up for my son’s wedding. Mixed age team and I was given the most senior member, I think she was 35-45. She showed me how to apply the base properly and advised against any form of glitter and pushed a bright pink lipstick when I was hesitant. Quite rightly so , husband and daughter thought it was unusual for me but looked good. There are good people out there but you have to shop around and articles like this must help by showing there is a market out there and that Women over 50 do have an interest , do count and have buying power if they can take the trouble to engage us.

  52. Very few sales people behind the makeup counters (no matter what the brand) really understand what they are selling. They are selling an ‘image’ developed by the marketing folks at the company for which they work. They don’t understand the chemistry (yes, folks, it is chemistry) that make the products happen. I know. I was one of the chemists. To hear a sales person’s pitch for a product which I had developed (and knew what it was all about and, what it could really ‘do’) made my head spin.
    The internet offers information. If you want to find it, it’s there. Educate yourself before going to the counter. Go to some of the websites which offer ‘reviews’ of products.
    For example, if you want a lipstick that does not feather don’t buy products that have the consistency of petroleum jelly. (vaseline). If it’s glossy, it will migrate. Use common sense.
    Ask for samples before you buy. Especially expensive creams/lotions. Give it all a ‘test drive’. Don’t think price makes a product better. It is a copy-cat industry. You pay for the advertising AND packaging and placement in stores. Most often, high end lines
    have drug store equivalents made by the same company. Product packaging has been changed. More expensive fragrances have been added. Essentially, the same formula.
    Even if there was a ‘consultant’ who was almost 70 behind the counter, she would still have to ‘advise’ according to what she is being told to sell at the moment.

  53. I only go to the Clinique counter for a couple things every few months. My “beauty consultant” is a very pretty sweet girl that was in my class when I taught 6th grade! 🙂

  54. When I was younger (I’m 57 now), I was constantly approached by beauty consultants at counters in department stores. They sat me down in the chair and tried to get me to buy many products! Now it’s a different story! I’m barely acknowledged! And the ironic part is I have more disposable income than I did back then and I’m looking for answers. I now represent a skincare/cosmetics company, Arbonne, and here is my tip of the day. Makeup primer! It stops foundation and concealer from settling into the fine lines. Also. Avoid powder. Better to have a dewy glow than mask face. Spend money on good skincare products. It makes a huge difference! Oh and last but not least, buy a lighted magnifying mirror.

  55. Being over 70 I’ve picked up hints in funny places. For example the use of clay and grease by some Native American women. Lynn Andrew’s series of self-realization experiences, learning from native women in both American continents led me to try Age Perfect by L’OREAL which is like fine clay and covers in a supple, moisture balanced way. Then stories by Robyn Davidson who traveled and camped with women in India. Ornamented with lots of silver earrings and strong eyeliner, they suggested Robyn needed to also bring out her pale eyes. I would say makeup is part technique and part intuition. It should be fun but feel right. We deserve time spent on our skin as much as anyone.

  56. Congratulations on your milestone birthday – I call all the ones that end with a 5 or a 0 milestones, although every one is pretty special, isn’t it, & definitely better than the alternative! I’ve just turned 60 & this year have left my comfortable, familiar career of 30+ years to begin a business as a personal image consultant. I’ve called my business Self-Image Styling as I want my clients to understand the connection between how you feel on the inside and how you look on the outside, and vice-versa. Early days yet but I am finding, just as you say, that 50+ women are the ones with the money and time to spend on their own well-being. These are the clients I love working with the most and hopefully they feel comfortable taking advice from an ‘elegant contemporary’ too. Having said that, some younger clients have related really well with me & obviously appreciated my ‘life’ experience and opinions, and I have personally been served by knowledgeable younger consultants too. Here’s to all women who care about their own and each other’s well-being, but I really support your call for more senior consultants in all areas of health, style and beauty.

  57. To be honest, I’m not bothered about the age of the consultant. I’m more concerned about their depth of knowledge about skincare and makeup, their integrity and knowledge of their products.

    I like Bobbi Brown and MAC consultants for this reason

  58. I agree whole heartedly. I was a beauty consultant in my 20’s…loved it. Now so many of the companies I knew, admired and worked for are all owned by conglomerate companies…same products really…new name & label. I went to market in NYC one year with a buyer and actually learned this. Consultants in the 40-60 age bracket would be a blessing, but the conglomerate companies wouldn’t hire…and they wouldn’t pay for our knowledge and experience. Just my thoughts.

  59. It’s a good point, but a tricky situation. I’ve found the consultants on the Sisley counter in John Lewis to be the more ‘mature’ lady, but I’ve also found them to be less bold and advise on the basis of what they would wear, not what the customer needs. I adore Tricia Cusden and her site, but when you look at her makeovers, apart from lipstick colour, all the ladies are made up in exactly the same way. It just wouldn’t work on me…it’s too stereotypical. Make-up disappears into my eyes…a little mascara, a smidgen of eye shadow in the crease is almost invisible. Secondly, the ‘consultants’ on the make-up counters are not trained to make-up. They get three days’ training, concentrating mostly on how to sell the products. If you want advice on how to make-up, then the best thing to do is to go to a properly trained independent make-up artist, who will use a wide range of products, not just a selection from whatever make-up house she or he is trying to sell.

  60. As one of the young ladies in sales (29 in a week), my experience has been that many companies now are pushing harder and harder for sales and offering less and less training and pay. Many of the 50+ women that I work with have always been in the beauty industry so they have stayed because it’s what they know. If they could choose though, a good segment of them would prefer to have a different job with less stress, better hours, and higher pay. Cosmetics has turned into something like car sales–you have to be available all the time.

    That said, I work primarily in skin care and almost exclusively with mature clients (50+). I tend toward a more effortless, clean and polished look and I’m always surprised how many of them want heavier makeup! 🙂 It must vary from market to market.

    I loved reading through the comment section because it helps me better understand the ladies I service. If any if you are in Michigan, there is a lovely lady named Sandra at the Sisley Paris counter in the Somerset Collection. She’s incredibly sweet, classy, very beautiful, and not plasticized. And she’s coming up on 70. I’ll be thrilled if I am looking like her at that point in my life!!!

  61. I’m a Dr Hauschka esthetician and makeup artist. I’m also a granny and over 50! I prefer working with mature women, they are often more interesting to talk to and keen to learn. They are also very loyal clients in general. I don’t work in a department store, however. I would suggest that any woman who wants age-appropriate skin care and makeup advice consider contacting a Dr Hauschka esthetician. There are only 40 of us in the UK, but we have a wealth of knowledge and experience and most of us are mature!

  62. Really enjoyed this article, and happy the the company I work for, Neal’s Yard Remedies does not feel this way about their customers, product line or messaging,

  63. All I have heard is complaints that almost no older women are advising or serving us…well, how many 50-65+ want to work for minimum wage, along with weekends and stand on their feet for 8 plus hours a day? Well, that’s why they are mostly younger women on some sort of career path.

  64. Dear old John Lewis – I miss it.

    It doesn’t bother me that I can’t find a decent beauty consultant my age, as I’m now so bloody opinionated I probably wouldn’t take advice. I even cut my own hair again as hairdressers seemed set on giving me a pixie once I chopped my dignified low ponytail. I buzz-cut the back (still dark) and the white top is an Eton flop, a mad success.

    I talk to women whose look I admire, they are the best source!

  65. I am thinking of being a sales assoc for Mary Kay Cosmetics and target the women in my retirement community. lipsticks and moisturizer for the dry desert heat. I use a lttle dab of a coverage on my problem areas on my face. I do not cover my face in a foundation that looks like a mask..little goes a long way.

  66. I’m my early 20’s I worked on clinique we specialise in skin care and make up to help women feel better and to them look better. most of my days were spent with customer a lot older than me and I loved to help them, great wise chats too. at clinique I learned a lot about the skin so could understand my customers concern and that’s were makeup fits in I learnt to help more of the aging skin. I did have customers say il wait for your colleague (who was older) and that’s fine we understand what customers may feel more comfortable talking to someone their age/concern.
    I do agree with this article as I myself would like to see more senior consultants X

  67. There is obviously a huge market for older beauty consultants. From reading the comments in this article, the “supply” is certainly not keeping up with the growing “demand”. This article is very timely for me. I am a store manager in my 60’s and will be attending beauty training with my new beauty consultant starting August 15th. My beauty consultant is young and beautiful (she looks like Taylor Swift). She would be excellent at helping customers of age if she knew how. We just need to provide the skillset. My customer base in a retirement community comprised of mostly upper middle class, financially secure, retired couples. I will forward this article to our new beauty trainer and see if we can’t do our part to get the ball rolling to start to bridge the gap between what women want and what we provide for women. I appreciate all of your comments. I read each one.

  68. There was…hopefully still is…a lovely “older” make up consultant at the Seattle Nordstrom’s. Short silver hair, red glasses, very stylish. I don’t buy much of any make up these days, but always appreciated seeing her there.

  69. This is a really big deal. I,m at a point in life where I have the means to buy the entire range if I like it, but I can’t face the MAC or Bobbi Brown or whatever counter because it’s staffed by children who don’t understand why I’m even bothered at my age, and who frankly don’t try to hide their pity. I shop clothes online for the same reason. I kinda think maybe I should stop doing that and actually confront the retailers more. Great piece.

  70. I agree with everyone! I am 58 and I am the invisible woman when I stand at a cosmetic counter. Whenever I have asked for ‘advice’ the weirdest, most inappropriate products and colours have been suggested just to get me moving off to the surgical appliances department!! I have now given up and trust my instincts and my daughter’s advice/ harsh, but well -meaning comments, to keep me on track. You are never too old to experiment and if I don’t know my own face by now, I never will!

  71. I am 55 and work casually in the beauty industry alongside my other career as a makeup artist. The company that I work for has realised that there is a need for older women as part of their team to assist older women who come in to their stores wanting advice from a woman who is ageing herself and can offer the right advice. A lot of women I speak to feel quite intimidated by young girls who do not always understand the concerns faced when ageing. I enjoy passing on my knowledge of both skincare and makeup to women who appreciate being shown how to use products in a way that enhances their face and gives them the confidence to do it themselves.
    As a side note I love Sarah Jane in your picture above but I do wish they wouldn’t photoshop her to look far younger than her 60+ years. She is beautiful as is and it defeats the purpose of using an older model as an example.
    ps.. Check out for over beauty advice. 🙂

  72. Two recent experiences at beauty counters (I’m 69 years old): 1. At Debenhams a very young consultant on the Benefit counter showed me how to use their brow products, made my brows up in a very natural way and wrote down the names of other products I might like. She made me feel special and understood how I wanted to improve my sparse eyebrows.
    2. At another local store the Estee Lauder consultant who I would guess was in her 50s was very pushy in trying to sell me eyeliner in a colour I didn’t want. I felt intimidated and although I bought the colour I wanted, I felt she was patronising. I watched her behave in the same way to another customer.
    So it’s not all about age, but about attitude, empathy and training – maybe re-training in the case of my Estee Lauder consultant!

  73. Some really good points raised here. I’m 63 and worked for many years in this industry, in a promotional capacity, and loved it. I have to say, I couldn’t do that job now, the long hours and target demands would give me wrinkles! However, that’s not to say there isn’t some way cosmetic company’s could work around this, and by not doing so, are missing a great opportunity to employ experienced, knowledgable (believable looking) people. There are of some very helpful younger salespeople, but some have to understand that selling to a seasoned customers requires more listening and product knowledge. I don’t want to be told I should buy a cream because it will last me a long time, it’s not time I want, it’s results

  74. I think we can all see by the huge volume of comments that this is definitely an area that needs to be resolved. The cosmetic companies are missing out on a fortune by being greedy (lack of adequate training, long hours, unachievable targets etc.) and not seeing the glaringly obvious issue right in front of their powdered noses.

  75. Thank you for asking this question! I have been asking this question (in my head) for a long time. I had thought to ask one of these young, tattooed/pierced cosmetic counter consultants how best to conceal my hooded eyelids and bags…but, couldn’t get past the lime green eye shadow to pose my question. I read style and makeup blogs, but they mostly address 20-30 year old tastes and bodies. I try my best to look stylish…It’s not easy. Based on the numbers you have mentioned in this article perhaps there is hope.

  76. Although I wear make-up everyday and take care of my skin, I have no desire to spend time with a consultant regardless of their age. Over the years (I am 62 now) I have had quite a few makeups done on the counter and have always been shocked at how they have managed to age me about 10 years.
    I tend to read about products, then go in and buy them as quickly as possible hoping not to get trapped by the sales person. Selfridges in London is the worst place. All that thumping music!
    Would it not be possible for department stores to employ very skilled people that you could go to, that would advise the best products for an individual, but across all the ranges. As others have said, the consultants for a particular brand are just pushing their own products.

  77. “… a teenager with an entire makeup range on her face” – so true!
    Being a believer in Less Is More, I gave up accepting the offer of a beauty counter makeovers long ago. You’ve so many comments here; clearly, this piece has really touched a nerve.

  78. I really enjoyed this post! I’m 30 and even I don’t feel comfortable getting a consult by someone that I don’t feel represents my demographic. I am a less is more girl so I tend to avoid the “teenager with an entire makeup range on her face.” I love Lancome products and I’m lucky enough to have a lovely 50-somthing woman working at my local shop. I enjoy having a chat with her and love getting her advice (on makeup, skincare, sometimes life lol). I 100% agree that there needs to be a change!

  79. Yes I totally agree, I would much rather get advice from a consultant closer to my age. I’m turning 55 this year and my skin is
    changing and I feel my makeup needs to change as well but 20 year olds, although they mean well, can’t give me the right advice
    because they just don’t know. I don’t think they’ve been trained in this area. I did find a consultant at a makeup counter a while ago
    closer to 40, she spotted me from a distance so made me feel visible (nice change) and did a quick 5 minute makeup job on me on what colour blush we should be using as we get older. We had an honest and open discussion about aging and changing skin. She was great but being an older woman she only worked on the floor for one day of the week and the rest of the time she worked in the central office of the department store (as she had worked her way up.) I probably wont see her again which adds to the point one woman made that working in a shop/department store is a young woman’s game, it doesn’t pay well and most woman will have moved on at a certain age.

  80. I have a fab ‘older’ Chanel consultant in my local Debenhams (Telford) who knows me, my colour preferences and keeps me up to date with new collections. She will even tell me not to bother with the next one because the colours won’t suit me! She is well made up but not over the top and so I trust her judgement; truthful advice is always appreciated! Her younger colleague also does a mean smoky eye tutorial and is getting to know me too; they are well trained, know their stuff and their clients so I never feel that they will sell me something that won’t suit or work for me.

  81. So interesting that there is such a gap in the market that the cosmetic companies are prepared to overlook. I agree with everything said and having been in the beauty industry for a number of years I really think its lack of training, girls in beauty salons go to college, learn the basics but never have tuition in older skin etc. and I guess the training in cosmetic houses are the same. I would love to visit a cosmetics counter with an older lady who had knowledge of older skin and therefore would understand my needs! At 65 I know what suits me, I love make up, spend a considerable amount on it but mainly online as I have no confidence in cosmetic counter staff. I have bought from Look Fabulous Forever and their videos are great and much enjoyed. I love fashion, make-up etc and feel that there should be so much more aimed at my age. Even magazines are depressing where they have features where they have a similar ‘look’ for all ages – fashion of make-up – but they always seem to have 20s, 30s, 40s – then over 50 full stop! Makes me feel very insignificant.

  82. A young man in black at a Lancôme counter told me (end 60s) that if I would use this and that of their products I would be wrinkle free. I was wondering and asked him how come that there are still quite a few people around WITH wrinkles. Because they use other brands? No answer came.

  83. Love the philosophy and agree wholeheartedly with the comments above. We don’t just S T O P when our biological clock clicks over to that magical age of 65! We need to be catered for forever…. Happy Birthday to all celebrating! Join me in a huge party lol

  84. Oh Vicci,
    this is so true but it applies to all levels of the beauty industry. Senior executives can no longer be 50+ unless you are a silver fox!

    The number of beauty companies that have asked me if my face is ‘real’. Flattering, but I know they are just really trying to work out my age. Perhaps I need to start a new on- counter brand. I have one in development so perhaps my colleagues and I should look at some test stores?

      1. Hi Junie,

        no details yet. The brand will launch next year. Might need to be TV shopping first as it is a quicker route to market.

        TV shopping channels love new ideas and will take risks.

  85. Hadn’t seen this thread in a while, came back, and boom, so many comments! Thank you Marion on your suggestion, and Catherine, we do need a revolution! Perhaps in part that explains my past year quest, addiction and love affair with red lipstick. Going out on a limb here, haha, but I’m not one who wears a ton of makeup, and at some points I think maybe a woman turning 59 should not wear red lipstick. Alyson, any thoughts or guidance on that would be appreciated.

    1. I used to think that too, until recently. I’ve seen a few over 55’s wearing bright lipstick and looking fantastic. I think the secret is finding your perfect shade. For me it’s a bright, warm, pinkish red, others might suit a cooler more maroon red. It’s hard to find your perfect red but so rewarding when you do.

  86. Dear Wanda,
    At 53, I think I can say that I am a senior Beauty consultant, as I am a Dr Hauschka esthetician as well as a Makeup artist. (I trained at Dr Hauschka in Germany,and I’m the only Dr H makeup artist in the UK, at the moment.) I prefer to work with women over 40, as I find them more interesting, and open to ideas, but I would not subscribe to the notion that anything is out of place at any age, unless it makes you feel uncomfortable.
    One of the things I particularly liked at the Dr Hauschka Make up artist training was to find that the Germans have a description for women over forty: Best Ager. Initially, I found that patronising, but then I got to like it, and feel we should adopt it here. With red lipstick, as Ros said, it is a question of finding the right red for your skin tone, which may have changed a bit. But finding the right red is an issue for all lipstick wearers, not just “best agers”, as the wrong one can make a woman of any age look drained.
    There is no reason to turn into a Ladybird Book Mummy, just because we are over 40/50/60. Look at Helen Mirren!
    I have written a post about ageing:

  87. you have totally hit a nerve there! I never like to wear much make up and find getting advice at make up counters a bit hit and miss, especially when an assistant in their 20s is trying to kid you that all you need is their expensive product to get the skin of a peach! I have always used astral moisturiser and swear by it. I developed extreme rosecea (with boils on my face) about 4 years ago and 2 years ago started to get it under control again and my skin is near normal but this process itself was hit and miss, and figured out the best approach for me (2 months of moogoo powder and then only using it now and then) and went back to using astral! I have a few go-tos, I will use primer and an estee lauder foundation for the ‘big’ events, I used use chanel powder foundation but found a concealer powder recently in pennys/primark which is really good. I am 49 and as I only like light make-up (and find liquid foundation a bit of a chore blending etc) I find this powder just fine and I just brush it on.

  88. Turned 65 this year; have been through chemo which did a number on my weight and skin. So far the best advice came from a middle-aged man doing make-up demos in an Ulta store. He pointed me to a line that was made for cancer survivors/chemo patients. Other than that I feel I have to be very demanding when I go into a n Ulta store. So far the best advice I’ve seen is video from Bare Escentuals which does have 50+ women in it. I found that line works for me and I’ve stuck with it. And I’ve seen 60+ women getting makeup done in their stores and they don’t end up looking like clowns or like they are trying to be 30.

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