A Comprehensive Guide to Buying Anti-Aging Products & Avoiding Scams

If you’ve been hunting around for a new, more effective anti-aging beauty treatment, you’ve very likely encountered dozens of products that make extraordinary claims like these:

Guaranteed to make you look 10 years younger in only 10 minutes!

Turn back the clock by rebuilding your skin at the cellular level!

Find out how this one amazing ingredient can erase lines and wrinkles forever!

Perhaps you’ve even handed over some of your hard-earned money for products like these, only to be left with nothing but disappointment and a lighter wallet after everything was said and done. Unfortunately, as we mentioned in our recent article titled Top 4 Internet Scams Targeting Seniors, senior citizens on fixed incomes—but who also want to age gracefully—are often the ones who fall victim to these anti-aging scams, but who are often least able to afford them.

But whether you’re 65 and retired or 25 and just starting your professional career, we all want to look our best for as long a possible. As a result, we’ve become a nation obsessed with looking youthful, and it seems that we’ll spend whatever’s necessary in order to accomplish this. Ultimately, this means that the anti-aging products industry has blossomed into a global behemoth over the past decade, bringing in more than $261 billion in 2009, which represents an almost 40% increase from just 5 years prior. Because of this, it’s clear that anti-aging products and many of the related scams won’t be going away anytime soon.

But how did we find ourselves in this position in the first place, and what can we do to avoid anti-aging scams as a whole? And when it comes down to it, are there any alternatives to keeping your skin healthy and looking younger? Read on to find out the answers to these important questions.

Why Are Scams So Prevalent Among Anti-Aging Products?

When talking about scams related to anti-aging products, it’s important to understand the basic legal issues surrounding the industry as a whole, which will give you much better insight into why they’re so prevalent. As such, let’s begin by taking a look at the difference between a “cosmetic” and a “drug.”

Cosmetic vs. Drug

First and foremost, there is often a very blurry line between a product that the FDA classifies as a cosmetic, which is subject to very little oversight, and one classified as a drug, which is subject to a great deal of oversight. Loosely, the FDA classifies a drug as, "articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" and "articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals." On the other hand, the FDA classifies cosmetics as “products intended to make people more attractive.”

Examples of anti-aging products that might be classified as drugs are ones that boost collagen production or alter cells in some way as to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. On the other hand, an anti-aging cosmetic not classified as a drug might be a cream simply intended to moisturize your skin. However, (continuing with these examples) you’ve likely noticed that many anti-aging products often claim to moisturize and to alter your skin in some way, which means they could be classified as both a cosmetic and as a drug.

FDA Regulation

As we alluded to above, similar to nutritional supplements, beauty, anti-aging, and other over the counter products classified as “cosmetics” are not regulated by the FDA, and the “companies are not legally required to tell FDA about their products and safety data.” This means, as long as anti-aging products include the disclaimer that they’re not “intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease," manufacturers can basically make any claim they like, without having to support these claims with a single shred of evidence or to show that they’re safe to use. In fact, the FDA doesn’t get involved until enough people have complained about a specific product, at which point the legal process begins.

However, on their Cosmetic Transparency page the FDA even admits that, “the agency has a number of ways to monitor these products but often the available safety information is limited.” To add insult to injury, even if an anti-aging cosmetic is found to be based on untruth or to be unsafe, litigating against the manufacturer and having their product(s) pulled from shelves can take years, whereas the company could have released multiple similar products in the mean time, and then the process starts all over again.

Widespread Scams

While less-than-stellar anti-aging product manufacturers have typically been the ones to take advantage of FDA loopholes, the unfortunate fact is that many mainstream cosmetics manufacturers have begun dipping into the hazy world of unsubstantiated claims in order to promote their anti-aging products as well, as recently evidenced by L’Oreal and Avon.

Because of the widespread use of scams across the anti-aging products industry, what hope do you as a consumer have to differentiate fact from fiction? In other words, what tools can you utilize to help you avoid falling victim? Let’s take a closer look.

How to Identify & Avoid Anti-Aging Scams

Now that you know more about why anti-aging scams are so prevalent, suffice it to say that, while there are definitely a whole lot of companies lurking in the shadows waiting to take your money, this doesn’t mean there aren’t quality products available. But how in the world can you tell the difference?

Warning Signs for Anti-Aging Product Scams

To begin with, as with most of the other products and services you purchase, if an anti-aging product makes claims that sound too good to be, this should be your first inclination that it might be a scam. On top of outlandish claims, WebMD lists 15 warning signs for anti-aging product scams, the most prevalent of which include:

  • Claiming that their products are made from a “secret” or “ancient” formula.
  • Sales pitches that involve a whole lot of hype and “filler” and provide little-to-no information about how the product actually works.
  • That the “answer” to turning back the clock was staring them in the face the whole time, and was so simple that everyone else just overlooked it. Often this accompanies the claim that the “establishment” is conspiring against them to suppress the “breakthrough” they’ve achieved.
  • Selling products without medical or scientific support for their claims. If there is some scientific study related to their product or the ingredients it contains, manufacturers might overhype the findings, or in some instances outright lie about them.

Slow Down & Do Your Research

With all of this in mind, if you find an anti-aging product you’re interested in purchasing, be sure to thoroughly research it here on HighYa as well as other consumer advocacy websites. Not only do sites like these provide you with detailed, “hype-free” information about the product itself, but they’ll also provide you with direct feedback from consumers who’ve used it. As such, you’ll be able to make a more informed, well-rounded decision about whether or not the product’s right for you.

Speaking of informed decisions: The sales pitches featured on anti-aging products websites, whether in text or video form, are often specifically designed to cause you to make an emotional decision versus an informed one. Because of this, you shouldn’t make any immediate decisions after visiting the product’s website, but instead you should first discuss all of your options with your physician (see more about this in the final section).

Look for a Product Label

Internet-based anti-aging manufacturers are fairly notorious for not including a product label on their website, which is especially disconcerting considering the fact that this is something you’ll be putting on your skin. While their physical product may ultimately contain a label in order to remain in compliance with the FDA’s labeling guidelines, this means that you’d have to order the product in order to find out what it contains. Instead, if an anti-aging product doesn’t provide a label on their website, we might recommend staying far away.

“Free” Trials & Autoship Programs

By requiring you to only pay a minimal shipping and handling fee up front, “free” trials are often structured so that you only have a couple days to try the product before you’re charged full price. On top of this, you’ll likely be signed up for an autoship programs once your trial ends, which means that you’ll continue receiving the anti-aging product on a regular basis and your credit card will be charged accordingly.

These autoship programs are often named something whimsical like “Good Looks Club” or “Turn Back the Clock Membership,” which is simply intended to make it sound like a no-brainer that you should sign up. However, we’d recommend avoiding products that use these marketing tactics altogether.

Money-Back Guarantees

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to purchase an anti-aging product, it’s a good idea not to be swayed by money back guarantees. While it may seem like this signifies that the company stands behind their products, many less-than-stellar manufacturers often make the refund process as difficult as possible, and may even subject you to steep ”restocking” or other fees if returned.

GMP Certified

Another similarity with nutritional supplements is that anti-aging products often claim to be manufactured in a GMP-certified facility. However, according to the FDA, there are “no regulations set forth specifically for GMP requirements for cosmetics.” What does this mean? In short, this means that just because an anti-aging cosmetic advertises that it’s GMP-certified, the designation ultimately doesn’t hold a lot of weight in this segment of the market.

Personality

Finally, while this one might sting a bit, keep in mind that some personality types can be more susceptible to fall for anti-aging scams than others. For detailed information about this, be sure to read through HighYa’s 4 Common Signs of Scam Victims article.

What Can You Do to Naturally Reduce the Signs of Aging?

If you’re looking to effectively reduce the signs of aging without putting yourself in harm’s way or potentially falling victim to an anti-aging product scam, the first person you should speak with is your physician. This is because they’ll often have some good insight into the anti-aging industry as a whole, as well as with what works and what should be avoided.

However, once you’ve spoken with your physician, you’ll likely learn that there are no anti-aging treatments available—even ones that avoid using the “red flags” noted above—that are proven to slow, stop, or reverse the aging process. Instead, the most effective methods of accomplishing this are by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking. In fact, these methods can also help you avoid a wide variety of diseases and to sustainably lose weight, while also helping you to look years younger.

Do You Have Any Recommendations for Avoiding Anti-Aging Scams?

Have you purchased an anti-aging product that worked well, or were you scammed by an unscrupulous company? Do you have any other tips or tricks that might help others look and feel young?

If so, be sure to leave a comment below and share your knowledge with the world!


Derek Lakin

Senior Editor at HighYa. With more than a decade of experience as a copywriter, Derek takes a detail-oriented, step-by-step approach to helping you shop smarter. Whether it’s nutritional supplements or new scams, he believes an informed consumer is a happy customer. Connect with him on Twitter: @DALwrites


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