Anti-Aging Products: Money Wasters?

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Anti-aging skin care, hair care and gadgets have been gaining in popularity even though consumers have been cutting their budgets.

Anti-aging skin products alone make up an estimated $1.8 billion market in the United States, according to Mintel, a market research firm, and their sales have grown by nearly 15% in both 2007 and 2008.

Big companies like Procter & Gamble (Stock Quote: PG), L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson (Stock Quote: JNJ) are benefitting the most from this trend, but there are ways to fight off aging without breaking the bank or slathering chemical concoctions on your face.

Lifestyle Lift

The Claim: A Lifestyle Lift can include a number of procedures including non-invasive facelifts and eyelid tightening, depending on the customer, to eliminate sagging jowls, folds and so-called “turkey neck,” according to the company. The procedures are performed by specially-trained doctors, but unlike a regular facelift, which can require cutting into the deeper layers of the face and requires general anesthesia, the Lifestyle Lift is considered minimally invasive.

Price: As much as $9,500.

Where it Fails: It’s not an invasive surgery, but you do receive local anesthesia, notes LifestyleLiftProblems.com, a site that's actually run by Lifestyle Lift itself. In some cases, these popular procedures cost more than a regular facelift, which costs an average of $8,945, as MainStreet previously reported.

“Family has told me that they can't see a difference, and … by the way, in the ‘before’ picture they wouldn't let me smile so I would purposely look as bad as possible,” wrote one commenter to Consumer Affairs.

An Alternative: There are plenty of facial exercises that help with a sagging neckline, and many of them are practiced and promoted by Yogis and other alternative medicine professionals. That’s because as you exercise your face, you improve skin elasticity which prevents wrinkles, and doctors agree.

Neckline Slimmer

The Claim: “Reverse the effects of aging without cosmetic surgery” and “slim your neck in just two minutes a day.” One blogger says it’s like “a pogo stick for your chin.” It’s a resistance tube that rests on your chest just below your neck. The top end is placed under your chin, and you drop your chin to your chest for one repetition with resistance.

Price: About $20.

Where it Fails: A number of consumers have complained that their orders came with skin creams they never asked for and additional shipping and handling charges for those items. What’s more, you can get the same effect by simply using your hand for resistance.

An Alternative: You can do neck exercises that are just as good using your own hand.

Facial Exerciser Gadgets

The Claim: Susan Somers used to peddle the Thighmaster, now it’s the Facemaster, which sends electrical currents through your facial muscles using electrodes on the ends of wands attached by wires to a power supply. The FaceTrainer is an actual mask that you put on your face to allow electric currents run through you.

Price: $199 for a FaceTrainer, $228.95 for a Facemaster.

Where it Fails: Devices like this can cause broken capillaries, according to some critics. You might even experience serious muscle pain.

An Alternative: There are plenty of facial exercises that don’t require gadgets. Not surprisingly, one of the tips here suggests reducing your calorie intake in order to reduce face fat.

Anti-Wrinkle Creams

The Claim: Reduce wrinkles and add a healthy glow using ingredients including Retinol which neutralizes the skin-damaging effects of free radicals, Hydroxy acids which remove the upper layer of skin cells and Coenzyme Q10 according to the Mayo Clinic.

Price: Perricone MD, for example, goes for $95, and they can likely cost you more.

Where it Fails: Generally speaking, there isn’t much of a difference between really expensive anti-wrinkle creams and cheap one, according to Consumer Reports, and some leave pores looking clogged. Some of these products don’t even help reduce wrinkles, Consumer Reports found.

An Alternative: Ladies’ Home Journal says Olay Regenerist Collection anti-wrinkle cream, which go for about $20, are just as good as the more expensive products. Of course, prevention is key while you’re still young, so the Environmental Working Group provides a guide for the best sunscreen.

Under-eye Circle Treatments

The Claim: Some under-eye creams which contain oat proteins promise to fill out the skin to eliminate that sunken look around the eyes.

Price: Often as much as $50 or more. Lotus Eye Gel, for instance, costs $48 for half an ounce.

Where it Fails: There’s little if any evidence that these treatments really work, reports The New York Times. The reason why they’re popular, however, is because there are so many that don’t work that consumers will try anything new in hopes that they well, the Times suggests.

An Alternative: Tiredness and alcohol consumption can make your skin look dull and thin and some medications can dilate blood vessels, so getting plenty of sleep and moderating your drinking is a good start. Birth control pills can also cause dark circles as well.

Genetics may also be at play if you chronically have dark under-eye circles, according to the Times, however. And there’s not much you can do about your genetic makeup, or your age for that matter.

Microdermabrasion

The Claim: Microdermabrasion blasts away the effects of aging and sun damage by virtually sandblasting your skin. At a spa or dermatologist’s office, a small sprayer shoots tiny aluminum oxide crystals, vitamin C crystals and other abrasives onto your face, removing the top layer of your skin and promoting the growth of lower layers of skin.

Price: Neutrogena sells what amounts to a home sander for your face for about $165 and treatments at a salon for easily $50 or more.

Where it Fails: Microdermabrasion can make your face pink for several days, and major scarring, like what you’d get from acne, may not be treatable with microdermabrasion, according to the International Rosacea Foundation.

An Alternative: A regular exfoliating cleanser, which contains coarse particles that you rub against your face, might do the trick. And if you already have a cleanser at home, you can make your own from sugar, coffee grounds or ground almonds, for example.

Hair-thickening Shampoo

The Claim: It boosts the diameter of hair strands and perks up lifeless locks. Many of these shampoos contain Pro-vitamin B which improves damaged hair and work directly on your hair follicles to improve growth. Meanwhile many shampoos that are marketed as “volumizing shampoo” simply contain humectants that cause the hair to absorb more water and swell, explains WiseGeek.

Price: As much as $40 for a 6-ounce bottle of shampoo alone.

Where it Fails: It can be incredibly pricey and some of these products simply don’t work.

An Alternative: a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of growth-promoting protein and iron can make a difference, according to WebMD, including salmon, green veggies and beans.

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