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Are you striving for an Age Zero appearance?

From size zero to age zero – can you relate to the latest fashionable number? We investigate the growing phenomenon

When you think of the term ‘age zero’ what springs to mind? Perhaps you think of a new-born baby, too young to have its age counted in months or weeks. The more sartorially-savvy may be cast back to a toxic late 90s/ early noughties era when zero was an aspirational clothing size.    

In the world of aesthetic treatments, age zero is becoming shorthand for an aesthetically enhanced look that we’ve all grown accustomed to, thanks to reality TV shows like Love Island and TOWIE.

The term 'age zero' is used to describe women and men who could be anything from 20 to 40 years old – we just can’t work it out. They look ‘done’, yet curiously and often weirdly hard to pin an age range onto. Celebrities like Rylan Clark-Neal and Amy Childs are good points of reference for the age zero approach to aesthetic treatments.      

Aesthetic Practitioner and Etre Vous Expert Deborah Forsythe says that very few people who opt for aesthetic treatments start out at age zero.

“People often start with subtle treatments that enhance their natural beauty," she says. "They are pleased with the results and the confidence boost that comes with it, and start to think that having more will make them look and feel better and better. This kind of ‘more is more’ approach is rarely effective when it comes to aesthetic treatments, however.”  

Counsellor Zena Nicholas agrees that age zero is usually a look that develops over time. “Many of us want to achieve all of today’s beauty standards – the large lips, high cheekbones, sharp jawline and of course, no wrinkles,” says Nicholas.

“However, over time we can lose touch with what looks natural or even good. The aim becomes solely about maintaining these features and this is how we arrive at age zero.”

While age zero seems to develop Benjamin Button-style over time for most people, some of us actively want to begin at zero. Nicholas believes the combination of media and pandemic-driven isolation has contributed to the idealisation and normalisation of this phenomenon.

“Thanks to the pandemic, we haven’t been socialising like we used to," she says. "Instead, we have been largely indoors and shows like Love Island have been consistent companions in our homes.

“We’re scrolling filtered social media accounts to the point where an un-doctored photograph is the one that stands out as looking weird. This daily diet of influence can make us feel like age zero is normal and we are the ones that are not.”

Psychological hardwiring also plays a role in encouraging us to embrace age zero, explains Nicholas. “Our tendency towards ‘herd mentality’ predisposes us to believe it is safest and best to fit in with those around us.

“In the past, this sort of thinking probably helped us to recognise and be accepted within a tribe. Nowadays, herd mentality is often reflected in our looks. Groups of friends dress the same, for example, and if all of the people you admire and aspire to be like are age zero then it seems important you look that way too.”

According to experts, one thing age zero and size zero have in common is that they breed an often unrealistic and unsustainable attitude to appearance and growing older gracefully.

“The media can make us believe that naturally ageing is disgusting and I think we see that reflected in the age zero look, with people who would rather look odd than older,” says Forsythe.  

In her work as a counsellor and founder of the online forum Counsellors’ Staffroom, Nicholas is passionate about celebrating and valuing diversity. “As a mental health practitioner, it is concerning to me that people are being given negative messaging around being normal, imperfect and unique, as of course we all are,” says Nicholas.

Just as the body positivity movement has helped to make size zero an antique phrase, aesthetic experts are confident that age zero is not a trend that is here to stay.  

Forsythe believes the industry has a valuable role to play in guiding and improving people’s attitude to beauty and individuality. “Aesthetic treatments and self-care can make you look better at 40 than you may have at 20, but no one and no treatment can hold off time completely and indefinitely.

“Practitioners have an ethical responsibility to educate people about their skin and their bodies. Good aesthetic treatments are about helping you to look your best, not about promoting a Stepford Wives type of identikit beauty."

Deborah Forsythe, CEO

When I originally qualified, my speciality was in Accident and Emergency medicine where I was at the forefront of acute...

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