Living in the image and youth-obsessed society that we do in America doesn’t make the process of getting older particularly easy on any women. But for those who find themselves in the spotlight — under the harsh microscope of Hollywood and the ruthless media — the pressure to remain looking young forever is pervasive and can feel inescapable.
Case in point? Even America’s perennial sweetheart Jennifer Aniston, 54, says she’ll “try almost anything once” in order to stay looking young. The Morning Show star spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the matter earlier this week, revealing that she recently underwent a salmon-sperm facial at the suggestion of an aesthetician. “First of all, I said, ‘Are you serious? How do you get salmon’s sperm?’” she recalled asking during the session. Additionally, Aniston gets weekly peptide injections that claim to curtail the effects of aging. “I do think that’s the future,” she told the WSJ.
In a 2015 interview with Yahoo Life, the actress and producer (then 46) recognized the pressure put on women in Hollywood to remain ageless — however, she had different sentiments at the time. “I think what I have been witness to is seeing women trying to stay ageless with what they are doing to themselves,” she said. “I am grateful to learn from their mistakes because I am not injecting s*** into my face. I see them and my heart breaks. I think, 'Oh God if you only knew how much older you look.' They are trying to stop the clock, and all you can see is an insecure person who won't let themselves just age."
While Aniston has never admitted to having any type of work done, her recent declaration raises questions of whether or not she’d consider it now that she’s in her 50s. Of course, it’s nobody’s business but her own, and yet, the reality is we live in a culture that seems to believe otherwise. This makes the aging process a constant battle for female celebrities, who are openly judged if they don’t do anything to disguise the inevitable of getting older, but then get ridiculed if they do and it’s too noticeable.
Take Aniston’s former Friends co-star Courteney Cox: In 2022, the actress told The Sunday Times that she regretted getting injections and doing things to her face because it made her look “strange.”
“People would talk about me, I think,” Cox said. “But there was a period where I went, ‘I’ve got to stop. That’s just crazy.’” She added that the scrutiny of being an older actress in Hollywood can be intense, but that she can also be her own harshest critic.
Meg Ryan is another prime example of women being unable to win when it comes to aging in the public eye. This past May, the 61-year-old actress was severely bullied for her appearance after being photographed at the premiere of “Still,” a documentary about her friend Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson’s disease. Media outlets called her “unrecognizable,” while trolls on social media were quick to weigh in with their unsolicited opinions about her looks.
Jessica Simpson has also been shamed on numerous occasions, with people calling her “botched” and “too plastic.” And recently, Kristin Davis admitted to shedding tears over the ridicule she received for getting filler. Then on the flip side, you have stars like Sarah Jessica Parker dealing with ageist comments for “not doing enough.”
Needless to say, it certainly feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.
While there are many women in Hollywood who wholly embrace aging, Kim Kardashian has made it clear she’ll do anything in her power to fight it. In a 2022 interview with The New York Times, the SKIMS founder said: “If you told me that I literally had to eat poop every single day and I would look younger, I might. I just might.” It’s an extreme statement to say the least — but considering the world we live in and the 24/7 lens Kardashian is under via paparazzi and social media, it’s easy to see why she might feel this way.
How media plays a role
While it's celebrities whose experiences and opinions make headlines, pressure to freeze time isn't exclusive to the A-list.
Dr. Hafeez, a neuropsychologist based in New York City, believes the current media landscape plays a part in how women approach getting older. "Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat are highly visual and emphasize sharing images and videos that often showcase curated and idealized versions of people's lives,” she says. “This can contribute to the pressure to maintain a youthful and attractive appearance.”
Touching on the media’s impact, she adds: “Media often perpetuates images of women as objects of desire, which can contribute to the idea that aging diminishes one's desirability. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity about aging for women. The targeted advertising demographic is 18-49, which can leave anyone over that age feeling cast aside.”
The availability of filters and photo-editing tools that we have at our fingertips now certainly doesn’t help matters. “These tools on social media have made it easier for users to manipulate their appearance in photos,” says Hafeez. “This can create unrealistic standards of beauty and contribute to the desire to present oneself as ageless and flawless.”
According to Hafeez, other factors that may impact women’s propensity to fight aging include gender roles and expectations, economic status, social comparisons and psychological factors. Comparison on social media is undoubtedly one of the biggest culprits of all. “Seeing images of seemingly ageless celebrities or acquaintances can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a desire to slow down the aging process,” says Hafeez. “This has led to a direct rise in cosmetic surgery.” A recent study found that cosmetic surgery rose 54% from 2020 to 2021.
The pressure for women to remain looking young has always been there, but it’s become worse in recent years due to the rise of social media and the accessibility we have to non-invasive treatments like Botox and filler. This begs the question: Will we ever actually see an end to the era of anti-aging?