My Instagram feed is so cluttered with ads I’ve gotten fairly good at tuning them out. For the most part, I can convince myself I don’t really need a new shade of my favorite lip balm or more clothes to pull off the latest, greatest fashion trend. Sometimes, though, a brand does something differently that causes me to stop scrolling and engage. Lately, that brand has been ILIA Beauty. As a former beauty editor, I'm fairly familiar with the clean beauty brand and have tried some of its products—but it was the models in the recent Instagram ads (and regular Instagram content) who really caught my attention. On both Instagram and Facebook, I saw video after video featuring older models (and real-life women) using the products on themselves.
The combination of watching people apply makeup in real time and seeing it on a diverse range of skin types and skin tones was refreshing to say the very least. I didn't have to wonder about what the makeup looked like in real life (sans the retouching that is common in so many makeup ads), but I also got to see what the products looked like on skin that had lines, wrinkles, pores, and dark spots. Immediately, it made me want to try more products from the brand. It also made me think about why, exactly, the videos and photos had stopped me in my tracks and just how infrequently beauty brands use older models.
I spoke to ILIA founder Sasha Plavsic about the brand's use of models you'd never previously see in a traditional makeup ad. Plavsic says the first thing she thinks about when choosing models is whether or not they reflect women she knows in real life. “We look to find women that look like our friends, sisters, moms,” Plavsic says. “...women we relate to in real life.”
Plavsic also tells me part of her desire to work with women in an older demographic was because she is in her 40s and noticed a huge gap in the market. “When I looked further, I noticed there wasn’t much conversation directed at women between the ages of 30 to 70, yet many of those women buy a lot of beauty products,” Plavsic says. “It seemed natural to speak to a wider demographic, and we find this demographic really loves being spoken to.”
This perspective led to collaborations like Lynn of @whitehairwisdom’s IGTV with the brand in which she applies a variety of ILIA products. The video has more than 400,000 views and 550 comments. In addition to providing the example that beauty doesn’t have an age limit, the video also highlights something else that makes ILIA’s products so intriguing. It’s clear they were created to work specifically on different types of skin and ages of skin in a way other makeup products don’t.
This is exactly why Plavsic, who knew many traditional makeup products simply don’t work on mature skin (or people in those age groups aren't taught how to apply them based on their needs), chose to create products to support and enhance your features while nourishing the skin. Instead, she focused on using less powder and creating products supported by active skincare ingredients. These products offer immediate aesthetic results as well as deliver visible changes over time.
The combination of skin-enhancing formulas and real-life, diverse models makes ILIA a little different in the beauty world—and it’s working for the brand. “We’ve seen an amazingly positive response, especially from women above 35,” Plavsic says of using older models in their advertisements and other branded content. “We are also being championed by younger women for supporting an older demographic. It’s essentially women supporting women, which I love as a brand vehicle.”
Plavsic is also bringing this ethos to ILIA’s first-ever brand campaign, which launched in September and featured 12 women who ranged in age from 20s to 70s. The campaign, called “Between Us,” was all about real-life relationships and human connection.
Ultimately, this is what seems to work about all of ILIA’s content—whether the brand is advertising their latest launch, like the just-released Liquid Powder Shadow, or launching another “Get Ready With Me” video. There’s something about it (especially when more diverse, 40+ models are featured) that makes you think about beauty a little differently—less about each individual makeup product itself and more about how you connect with it and how it makes you feel. And in a world where every beauty ad can slowly start to feel the same, that’s a pretty great quality.