Older women use beauty products to look good and feel confident rather than to turn back the clock on ageing, researchers said.
They feel less valued and invisible by current campaigns by cosmetics companies with their "annoying" approach of using young women often airbrushed to perfection.
Instead the multi billion industry should target older women's desire to boost their self-esteem.
Dr Carolyn Mair from the London College of Fashion surveyed more than 500 women aged between 40 and 89 online.
While nearly two thirds use make-up daily, only three per cent claim to use it to look more youthful.
They found they were currently represented negatively in advertising with nearly half finding it annoying and over a third said it made them feel bad about their appearance.
Dr Mair said: "Middle-aged and older women feel underrepresented or not represented realistically in the media which affects their confidence and feelings of self-worth.
"They also dislike the young, airbrushed, or cosmetically-altered models used as they struggle to relate to them and consequently, to the products.
"It would be a step in the right direction if advertisers could reconsider some of their marketing strategies and focus less on how a product makes a women look younger and more about how the product can make her feel good about herself.
"Using older models would also make these women feel valued and less invisible in society."
The scientists were due to present the research at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Nottingham this week.