Why Pro-Aging Is the New Anti-Aging

Skin experts are turning to a more positive approach to preventative skincare.

You've heard and seen "anti-aging" ads everywhere, but many are now reconsidering the connotation of that term. Sure, there's nothing wrong with taking care of our bodies and wanting to look younger, but the concept of anti-aging can be pretty stressful—not to mention impossible (you can't age backward!).

What Is Pro-Aging?

According to dermatologists, the best skincare is one of preventative action, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and listening to the changing needs of your skin. Truth be told, anti-aging products have become wildly successful through targeted marketing that makes aging seem like you're doing something wrong. That doesn't mean we should abolish retinol and other anti-aging ingredients, which are addressing a need. Instead, estheticians, dermatologists, and many skincare brands are now changing their message to a "pro-aging" approach, focusing on supporting the skin's natural progression.

"Pro-aging is a term and a concept that has at its roots a much more positive approach to the aging process," explains George Baxter-Holder, an aesthetic nurse practitioner at SkinSpirit. "We cannot stop aging! It is a normal and healthy part of life. Viewing the aging process in a realistic and positive way and working with the body's natural defenses is a much more modern concept." As the approach gains momentum, experts are looking to less invasive skincare options that support the organic aging of the skin, working with the body instead of against it.

Pro-Aging vs. Anti-Aging

So, what's the difference between pro-aging and anti-aging, exactly? Neither term has been universally defined, but they signal different approaches to skincare formulation.

Generally speaking, anti-aging is a skin-stimulating, intrusive approach to try to stop and/or reverse the natural progression of aging skin. Anti-aging products usually penetrate the skin on a deeper level towards the dermal/epidermal junction. Some younger women are turned off by this concept and are therefore missing out on the benefits of its active ingredients.

The term "pro-aging" is used to describe a more balanced approach. "It means working with your body, using moisture, antioxidants, and cell turnover to keep skin looking its best," says Baxter-Holder. Think of it as a skincare booster shot or support system.

"Pro-aging is about making small adjustments, restructuring habits as we age, and slow and steady increments that add up over the long term," says Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Your basic and essential pro-aging regimen is very easy: clean, protect, and hydrate."

This also extends to lifestyle, explains Jami Morse Heidegger, the 60-year-old founder of luxury skincare brand Retrouvé. Our skin reflects our overall health, which means adequate sleep, hydration, and healthy eating are equally important.

Skincare as Self-Care

"The aging process is a biological one, not a cosmetic term," says Morse Heidegger. While her brand Retrouvé embraces the concept of aging through a skincare line, it also adopts an empowerment platform. The idea is to encourage customers of all ages to feel self-confident and to pamper themselves regardless of the inevitable aging process.

The founder of beauty brand PRAI Beauty, Cathy Kangas, shares this mindset. "Pro-aging has been my mission for PRAI Beauty for the last 10 years," she says. "I only showcase models or real women who are age-appropriate, 40-plus, and truly resonate with our customers. Our top-performing model is Nancy, and she's 75!"

Ultimately, pro-aging touches upon a wider topic. While you might think of anti-aging as eliminating signs of aging—and pro-aging as embracing these signs—pro-aging also offers women the prerogative to choose between the two. "Pro-aging is about the freedom to make that choice and to opt for whatever skincare maintenance methods feel right, and not be a prisoner to societal standards," says Morse Heidegger. It's a conscious choice to do whatever one feels necessary for their routine, and most importantly, what the skin desires and requires.

The reality is that the skincare industry can feel quite ageist and shameful, and pro-aging finds a way to both embrace and care for your skin. "We must tear down any societal and self-imposed 'shame barriers' about growing older," says Morse Heidegger. Some women might decide to accept their laugh lines and loosening skin, while others want to look as young as possible for as long as they can. Morse Heidegger supports both approaches. "I do not think that choosing to look younger should be considered embarrassing or shameful," she says. "Self-care and skincare on all levels is a positive action."

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