Anti-Aging Products: Too Good to be True?
The industry is booming, but customers need to keep a level head.
The global anti-aging product market is expected to generate nearly $292 billion in sales by 2015 as the number of creams, lotions, serums, moisturizers, and other treatments (some literally paved in 24-carat gold) that promise to de-puff, perfect and smooth out our skin multiplies by the minute.
But there are a few claims made in anti-aging advertisements that may not be as flawless as they appear.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to beauty giant L'Oreal demanding that it tone down the language used to lure customers to the product Génifique, part of L'Oreal's luxury Lancôme brand. Advertisements for the anti-wrinkle cream claim that it "boosts the activity of genes" and contains ingredients that "stimulate cell regeneration to reconstruct skin to a denser quality"—assertions only drug products can boast. (If the cosmetic company doesn't oblige, Génifique could ultimately be yanked from shelves.)
"Lancôme is committed to complying fully with all laws and regulatory standards," L'Oreal spokeswoman Rebecca Caruso said.
Doctors say consumers need to be wary if a cosmetic product claims to be able to do a little too much.
"First of all, there's nothing that's going to affect our genes—other than a gene transplant. That's absurd," said Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of "Skin Rules" and a New York-based cosmetic dermatologist. "And to reconstruct your skin, the only thing that does that is a laser treatment. I'm glad the FDA picked up on it."
As skin care continues to grow as the largest sector of the natural and organic personal care market—generating $3.3 billion in sales with a nearly 7 percent growth in 2011—there are some who believe that unrealistic ad claims simply speak to the even greater unrealistic expectations of consumers.
"Cosmetic companies are trying to appeal to the yearning of being ageless," said Dr. Vivian Diller, a psychologist who specializes in helping people deal with an aging appearance. "But consumers need to know that there really is no magic solution, pill, bottle or potion. Aging is a natural process that's happening every single day from the minute you're born to the end of life. We all have to accept that with aging comes gradual acceptance and losses."
Those losses may have less to do with moisture and elasticity, but of societal acceptance once one's skin starts to sag.
"What's happening is fear," said Diller. "When women are fearful that their aging appearance will lead to loss of a job, a mate, a position or even attention, there's an instinctive reaction of anxiety. And when feeling anxious, you make decisions that aren't well-thought out and that's when these products and procedures come in. Now, 20-year-olds are getting Botox for fear that if they're 30 and have wrinkles on their forehead, they're going to lose out on something."
But before Baby Boomers (and their successors) resort to Botox, there are other products that can assist almost anyone seeking to live a full life with a fresh face.
As a Philadelphia-based makeup artist, Candice Patrice, 28, has come across her fair share of unreasonable requests.
"People have a lot of unrealistic expectations," she said. "I have yet to see anything seriously turn back the clock. But the obvious things work wonders: sun block—it's the easiest, most effective anti-aging product out there; hydration—hyaluronic acid is good for that as it binds up to 1,000 times its weight in water; getting off dead skin cells, and other alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic and lactic, are pretty effective."
And if that sounds too technical, Dr. Brooke Jackson, a Chicago-based cosmetic dermatologist, suggests a basic skin care regimen—and a bit of common sense (aside from, of course, sunscreen: "Without it, there is no point in using anything else.")
"Antioxidants like vitamin C and E will help fight environmental free radicals," she said. "Retinoids, if you’re able to tolerate them, are a collagen builder. But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."