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Building A Beauty Company That’s More Accessible And Age-Friendly

Older women do wear makeup, have disposable income to spend, and are often clear on what they want — yet the beauty industry leans towards younger consumers. This is not a new trend but one that needs change, says founder Sasha Plavsic of Ilia Beauty.

The beauty brand’s last two campaigns “Shades of Us” and “It’s Between Us” have centered around being more inclusive — that includes age, as well as skin color.

This hasn’t been easy to do, Plavsic says, in an industry that thrives on youth and anti-aging creams to sell its latest concoctions. However, Ilia Beauty has found that working with beauty influencers— and real women in different age brackets — has worked and there’s a growing number of them with large, engaged audiences on social media. Accounts such as @iconaccidental and @greceghanem have nearly one million followers and celebrate the beauty of aging, which Plavsic finds inspiring. “It’s getting more varied and that’s a good thing. These women create beautiful content and are speaking to so many women.”

What’s more is that these are women who have purchasing power. Baby Boomers, in fact, are reportedly 12 times wealthier than millennials, the much sought after target group by Instagram-friendly brands. In addition, Baby Boomers who are defined as being born between 1946 and 1964 are responsible for 56% of US spending.

Plavsic knew she wanted to cater to women of all ages from the beginning. “I was 30 something and lived next door to my mom when I started the company,” she recalls. “I would bring home samples of formulations and share them with her to get her feedback.”

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Though they both shared a minimalist and natural approach to beauty, their skin needs and types were drastically different, she notes. “That’s why there are different products for different needs in most beauty collections, including ours. And that’s why it was also important for me to get her feedback, which was coming from a different set of needs than mine.”

But rarely were these products seen celebrated on middle-aged or older women. Legacy brands have signed on more mature actresses as brand ambassadors such as Susan Sarandon or Meryl Streep, but the vast majority were young and under 35, especially on social media.

For Plavsic, it’s also been a personal journey. “When I started Ilia, I was in my early 30s. Now I’m in my 40s now. So my needs have adapted too to my age, as I’ve grown older. But there was this whole middle-aged group also that was not being targeted either, I realized in the process.”

But creating a range that would be as inclusive as possible has taken time. “Many beauty brands start with lip color, as we did too, because it requires less capital.”

Yet, about three years ago, Ilia Beauty took on investors, who, she says, have been open to her less-than-traditional ways of approaching a beauty company. This injection of capital has enabled them to expand their range of shades and run a campaign called “Shades of Us.”

Making beauty and skincare as inclusive as possible is one of Plavsic’s goals. “The Ilia customer is often a young woman, either Gen Z or Millennial, and her mom. And that’s how we prefer to have it.”

In fact, the beauty brand has embraced this by featuring moms and their daughters in the marketing and social media outreach. For instance, sisters @alliahsophia and @lsabahl and their mom, @florenceblakemourad, showcase one of Ilia’s popular, minimalist face products, the Super Serum Skin Tint, as part of the #shadesofUS campaign on Instagram. Another influencer, @whitehairwisdom created a simple video of applying makeup in her kitchen, which Plavsic says, went viral (getting over 50,000 views), getting so many views because of her beauty and the ease with which she used the products. She recreated the video with her daughter as well, both applying Ilia products, and that one had 100,000 views.

“The feedback we got was that ‘She is stunning. She is what I aspire to be when I’m older.’ Previously I think people looked to youth, but now I think that is shifting where women are looking to these older women who are confident in their skin as their inspiration, instead.”

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These images are not restricted to digital. This past winter, Ilia invested in billboards featuring women who shared a common bond — even if they looked drastically different — for their “InBetweenUs” campaign.

Launching a new lip product this summer, which harkens back to the company’s starting days in which they became synonymous for their lip range, Ilia Beauty chose to work with two influencers on social media: @armelleperves and @sweet.simple.something who have embraced their silver strands, forgoing hair color, and aging naturally.

These kind of stories, Plavsic says, help women see themselves in other women. This could be a welcomed change, even if baby steps, in an industry that’s historically celebrated glamour and hard-t0-reach ideals. “Women can be beautiful at any age. There’s something about aging gracefully that we want to celebrate.”


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