I was watching a video made by a dermatologist about anti-ageing skincare, under which I saw multiple comments from pre-teens asking if it was too early to start preventative anti-ageing treatments, and how they should go about asking their parents to buy them.

I thought perhaps this was an isolated issue, but after doing a bit of digging it seems dermatologists are becoming increasingly concerned with children and teens coming to them seeking anti-ageing treatments.

We've created a culture where ageing is the enemy. It should worry us that this is being pushed to people so forcefully and at such an early age that they feel the need to prevent and mitigate the natural “damage” caused by living their lives and moving their faces.

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Dermatologists and aestheticians are seeing increasingly younger patients who believe that preventative treatments will help maintain youthful appearance in the long term, and that the earlier they can start this process, the longer they will be able to continue looking young.

The responsibility has of course been pushed back on young people, with people saying they're growing up too soon, that they are becoming preoccupied with their looks due to vanity, but it's hard not to when the social media they are exposed to is full of messaging and marketing which has the potential to alter and shift the way they see themselves.

There are very few spaces in the online world within which children and young people can access solely age-appropriate content, and it can be hard for young and impressionable viewers to distinguish which messages they're supposed to ignore and which are appropriate for their age group.

To have unlimited access to media which demonises the ageing process and seeing influencers doing everything they can to slow down or reverse the maturation of skin, while promoting products, often for a sizeable financial incentive, can leave teenagers feeling as though they too have to do everything they can to join in, not just to keep up with their peers but also with unsustainable and unrealistic standards of beauty.

It's also important to note that a mindset preoccupied with anti-ageing techniques is not new: whether it's ancient Egyptian donkey milk baths, Elizabethan application of raw meat to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, or even Ponce De León searching for the fountain of youth, for millennia humans have wanted to prevent, mitigate and reverse the signs of ageing.

The Herald: You can't hold back the yearsYou can't hold back the years (Image: free)

Something skin care companies or influencers doing paid-for-reviews will rarely mention is that a lot of the way in which your skin ages, and the speed at which this process happens is down to genetics. Other factors include sun exposure, diet, the consumption of alcohol and other substances, and smoking.

Young skin doesn't need to use products with harsh active ingredients as at best they are entirely unnecessary, and at worst can cause irreparable damage to skin. Many of the most popular anti-ageing products can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, something which ironically is one of the fastest ways to speed up the ageing process and the formation of wrinkles.

When it comes to cosmetic procedures, excessive and long-term use of botox can lead to the atrophy of facial muscles, which is great if the desired goal is to avoid wrinkles through being physically unable to emote. This, combined with a potential dropping effect of permanently relaxing lifting muscles such as those on the forehead can counterintuitively age the face prematurely.

It's easy to look at young people's anxiety over ageing as vanity or selfishness, but we have to consider the cultural context in which they're growing up.

From the shaming of acne, wrinkles, age spots and blemishes, to the promotion of things like preventative botox, chemical peels and tactical filler there's been a real emphasis on starting and maintaining a rigorous and targeted facial regime at a young age in order to stay looking young and “fresh” for the longest time possible.

We should look beyond the young people who are so afraid of ageing and look towards the people and industries capitalising on their fear: social media organisations, marketing companies and influencers, much of the media and, most of all, cosmetics conglomerates making billions of pounds every year.

Insecurity, anxiety and a desire to look young is incredibly lucrative, and when we consider who is profiting, it makes sense that the younger they can instil these fears into potential customers, the more money they can make off them.

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I’m not going to demonise the people who use anti-ageing products. Who make use of the procedures that are available to them – it’s their business, but I do think we as a society should be more mindful of the negative ways we talk about ageing, and the harmful attitudes we might be perpetuating.

There is nothing wrong with wrinkles, just as there is nothing wrong with acne, or eczema, or rosacea or any other state in which skin finds itself, but there is such an abundance of marketing telling us wrinkles are a problem, one we need to invest in solving before it's too late.

The way the media discusses ageing in the context of female celebrities contributes to attitudes which permeate every facet of our lives. Women are described as being beautiful “despite” their age, and are routinely praised for not “looking their age”, which makes ageing seem as though it’s a moral failing, or something that can't be considered beautiful.

This is doubly damaging when the people being praised for not looking the age they are have had access to treatments, products and lifestyles which are not often disclosed as the true secret to looking younger than one might expect.

The use of filters and editing, curating the way we see skin appear in adverts, movies, in magazines and on social media can lead people to believe that unblemished, unwrinkled skin that shows no visible signs of ageing is not only achievable, but aspirational.

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We need to do more to reassure young people that their skin is an organ. Yes it's important to take care of it and doing so can even form part of a robust attitude of self-care and self-confidence, but it's not possible or feasible to expect skin not to change, grow and mature with the passage of time and the changes a body goes through in life.

It's often said that ageing is a privilege, and I'm inclined to agree. There are so many things that we gain as we age: wisdom, new perspectives, achievements and experiences that continue to develop and grow year after year.

Having known people who have died well before their time, who never got the chance to grow older and see their smiles settle into permanent etchings of joy, I think when it comes to the ageing process perhaps we should instil within young people and society in general less commiseration, and more celebration.

May we all get the chance to experience a life so long and full of smiles that we can count among our achievements some lines painstakingly crafted by decades of self expression.