Exposing the Widespread Scam of Anti-Aging Products & Free Trials

Growing up, you almost certainly read at least one story that involved the fountain of youth. Whether it centered around an intrepid explorer who braved hostilities in some remote jungle, or an adventurous scientist who discovered its precious waters in a mountaintop hidden for millennia, since time immemorial humans have fantasized about discovering a simple solution to turning back the hands of time.

Today, you appreciate the wisdom and precious memories that the past few decades have brought, but you’re also ready to look more refreshed and radiant. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you’d probably pay a hefty sum of money to make yourself naturally look 10 years younger. In other words, at this point in your life, you’ve moved beyond tales of fantasy and are intent on finding a real solution to reducing your signs of aging.

For more consumer alerts: Click here to subscribe to HighYa’s YouTube channel

The Rise of Anti-Aging Products

But the truth is that you’re not alone. To outline this, consider that in 2013 alone, anti-aging products and services made up a $261 billion industry, which was “up from $162 billion just five years ago.” Clearly, millions of others share in your quest to turn back the hands of time.

However, consider this: Along the way to finding an anti-aging product that actually works, it’s easy to be coerced “off the path” and into the dark underworld of the anti-aging industry, where any semblance of ethical business practices are thrown out the window, and where scams abound. This is the seedy world of trial-based anti-aging products, and is precisely what we’ll uncover in this article.

But first, let’s begin by defining what we’re talking about.

What are Trial-Based Anti-Aging Products?

Despite how it might seem, the vast majority of anti-aging products available on the market today are manufactured by legitimate companies who invest millions of dollars into the research, testing, and marketing of each one of their products before they ever make it to store shelves. Sure, their products could be considered expensive, but in many instances, these companies are household names within the beauty industry, and have many decades in the business, along with well-earned reputations for quality.

On the other hand, there are the trial-based, online-only anti-aging products that will be the focus of this article. In stark contrast to the previous example, these products are: 

  • Sold only online.
  • Sold only through free trials and subsequent autoship programs.
  • Priced very high, with few benefits to show for it.
  • Claimed to provide “miraculous” benefits with little to no clinical evidence to back them up.
  • Shrouded in mystery. In other words, there’s often very little (if any) information available about the companies who make them.
  • Riddled with customer complaints.

Here at HighYa, we’ve reviewed 200+ anti-aging products to date—along with 2,000+ reviews from readers just like you—the majority of which are sold only through free trials. Some of the most popular of these products include Nuvie Skin Care, DermaKtive, Rejuval Skin, Absolute Derma, and many others. And because of their popularity, we’ll reference these four products as examples throughout this article (along with some others) in order to outline how this segment of the skincare industry operates, and how you can avoid falling victim.

They said free trial, just 4.95 one time payment... Trying to cancel but to no avail. They keep charging 89.15. I need help. –Magda R.

With this in mind, now that we know what trial-based anti-aging products are, let’s take a brief look at how they work.

How Trial-Based Anti-Aging Product Scams Suck You In

Obviously, the defining characteristics of trial-based anti-aging products are that they’re 1) sold only online, and 2) only through “free” trials. So let’s examine how the process works so that you can have as much information at your side as possible the next time you encounter one:

The Setup of Anti-Aging Scams

Imagine that you’re surfing online when you see an advertisement for a product that promises to help you look 10 years younger in just 30 days. Intrigued, you click on the ad and are taken to a site where you’re repeatedly told how wonderful and revolutionary this product is, but that it’s so popular the manufacturer is having difficulty keeping it in stock.

However, you find out that you can try the product before you commit to an expensive purchase by signing up for a trial. Immediately, you think to yourself, “Hey, why not give this product a try? After all, it’s free right? And tons of other people seem interested, so what do I have to lose?”

As it turns out, nothing in life comes for free—especially not these anti-aging products, and you might lose a whole lot of money in the process.

A Typical Reality of Anti-Aging Scams

First, the product’s trial will last only for a short time, often for 14 days, for which you’ll initially be charged $4.95 (or a similar amount). These trials almost always begin on the date your order is placed, and the product will typically arrive at your door within 4-5 business days. This means that by the time you receive your anti-aging product, you might have less than a week to give it a try before being required to cancel.

And if you don’t cancel before the 14th day, the manufacturer will charge you full price, which is frequently in the $90 to $100 dollar range. At this same time, you’ll be enrolled in the company’s autoship program, which means you’ll continue receiving a regular supply of the anti-aging product (e.g. once every 30 days) and your credit card will be charged accordingly each time.

But here’s the catch: If manufacturers made this process perfectly clear before you handed over your credit card number, it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, these companies do the exact opposite and reveal this information only in discreet areas with very small, hard to read text. And in some instances, this information isn’t available anywhere on the product’s website, and is only found buried deep within the Terms & Conditions.

A screenshot of fine print outlining the trial’s detailsAn example of fine print outlining the trial’s details. Taken directly from the Nuvie Skin Care (now Jivam) website.

Pro Tip: If you’re considering signing up for a trial-based anti-aging product, read the fine print underneath the section where you enter your credit card information. If you don’t find anything there, locate the product’s Terms & Conditions (often found in a link at the bottom of the home page, or on the product’s ordering screen) and search for the term “trial” by pressing Ctrl +F on your PC (or Cmd + F on your Mac). This should take you directly to the section you’re looking for. 

Marketing Tactics Used by Trial-Based Anti-Aging Scams

Today, as a whole, consumers are more informed about the products and services we purchase than at any other point in history, so we often approach them from a very skeptical point of view. And although these free trials may seem like a good deal, as informed consumers, we generally require more information before making a decision. And manufacturers know this. 

But here’s the catch: Companies selling these trial-based products will often resort to one or more of the following underhanded marketing tactics to convince you to buy:

Fake Legitimacy

Anti-aging scam websites will frequently claim that their trial-based products have appeared in large, reputable publications or on national TV networks in an apparent attempt to make them seem credible—or to make it seem that they’re so revolutionary that the media simply can’t ignore them.

A screenshot of publications and networks that the manufacturers claimTrial-based anti-aging products are almost never featured in any of the publications or networks that their manufacturers claim.

Sometimes, these companies indicate that only their ads appeared in these publications or networks (as in the example above), although they also frequently claim to have been featured in them as well.

Regardless of what they claim, it’s almost always the case that there’s no third-party verification showing these products appeared in these publications or on these networks, whether as an advertisement or a feature. In other words, they are lies intended to make you think the product is legitimate.

Pro Tip: To find out if a trial-based anti-aging product has appeared in popular publications or on national networks, type “[product name] + [network or publication name]” into your favorite search engine. If the only results are for sites selling the product, this is a very good indication that their claims are false.

Fake Articles & Fake Celebrity Endorsements

Speaking of publications, many trial-based anti-aging products websites will post fake news articles that appear to come from legitimate sources, and which often claim that celebrities are lining up to try their products.

An example of a fake news articleAn example of a fake news article featuring fake celebrity endorsements from the trial-based product Rejuv ES.

However, as with the claims in the previous section, there is no independent verification that the celebrities cited in these “articles” have used (or even heard of) these products.

Pro Tip: If a trial-based anti-aging product claims to be promoted by a celebrity, type “[product name] celebrity endorsement” into your favorite search engine and glance at the results. Note: If you have a specific celebrity’s name, even better. Simply type in “[celebrity name] + [product name]” and see what results appear.

If you find that all of the results contain links selling the product you’re researching, you can rest assured that the news articles and celebrity endorsements are fake.

Fake Customer Reviews

Traditional advertising methods, such as TV and radio commercials, are quite expensive and are often far outside the budgets of startup anti-aging products companies. Because of this, these companies will almost always enlist the help of independent affiliates who earn a commission from each product sale they refer. 

Because these affiliates are not directly associated with the companies whose products they’re promoting though, they’ll often resort to some less-than-stellar advertising techniques, the most popular of which is creating fake customer review websites. These sites are intended to make you think that you’re reading a legitimate customer review about an anti-aging product, when it’s actually just more marketing hype.

An example of a fake review website for CellumisAn example of a fake review website for Cellumis. Note the many grammatical errors.

Pro Tip: When searching for reviews about a trial-based anti-aging product you’re thinking about purchasing, look for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as sentences that don’t make sense. If you see too many of these errors, it could be a strong indication that it’s a fake review intended to mislead instead of inform.

Also, if each of these “reviews” contains a link where you can purchase the product, this is also a good indication that they’re fake and created by affiliates.

Fake Clinical Results

The people behind trial-based anti-aging products understand that you crave proof showing their products work as advertised, so they’re more than happy to present you with pretty charts and graphs, and numbers galore. However, many times these statistics or “clinical results” are simply made up and have no basis in reality.

A screenshot of BeauDerma's websiteBeauDerma is claimed to have produced these results, although no clinical references or citations are provided on the product’s website.

Pro Tip: If you find that a manufacturer continuously claims that their anti-aging product is clinically proven, or you consistently come across images that claim to reflect clinical results, look for citations directly next to these claims. Or, scroll down to the bottom of the product’s home page and look for a link that reads something along the lines of “clinical trial.” If you don’t find either of these, it could be an indication that these claims are mistruths. 

Evidence of Underhanded Selling Tactics

In fact, even when many of these manufacturers do actually provide “evidence” (e.g. before and after images) that their trial-based anti-aging products work, it’s often just another underhanded marketing tactic that shows how far they’ll go in order to make you believe that their products will provide you with the benefits they claim.

This is because these pictures are often the exact same image, with the after pic digitally enhanced to make it appear that it provides anti-aging benefits.

An example of before and after picturesAn example of before and after pictures that are clearly the same image. Taken from the Nuvie Skin Care website.

Pro Tip: If you compare key sections of these before and after images—such as framing, hair placement, eye position, and any other prominent features, such as earrings—and find them to be identical, this is a sure sign that they’re the same image.

Who Makes All These Trial-Based Anti-Aging Products?

As you might imagine, based on everything we’ve discussed up to this point, many of the companies behind these trial-based anti-aging products like to remain as discreet as possible, and to reveal very little (if any) information about themselves. Because of this, it can often be difficult to find out:

  • Who manufactures these products.
  • Where they’re manufactured and under what conditions.
  • What ingredients they contain.
  • Why they’re so expensive.
  • What the company’s history is, and what their online reputation is like with customers.

And if you are informed the company’s name, there’s often very little information available about them online, other than directly related to the product you’re researching. In fact, even when these companies are pulled out of the shadows and listed on mainstream websites such as the Better Business Bureau, they often purposely don’t respond to complaints.

Think about it this way: Since we don’t know much (or anything) about the companies who make these products, what ingredients they contain, or the amount of these ingredients—in addition to all the other less-than-stellar practices they employ—is this really something you want to put on your skin? Almost certainly not.

Scam Anti-Aging Websites are Usually Here Today, but Gone Tomorrow

Although we might not always be informed about the companies behind these trial-only anti-aging products, based on our extensive experience reviewing them, we’ve found that many of their websites are nearly identical (see image below), which leads us to believe that either they’re made by the same company, or there is a very popular website template that all of these companies are using.

Screenshots of websites that are nearly identical to one anotherHere, you can clearly see that these websites are nearly identical to one another, which is very common among trial-based anti-aging products.

In our opinion, while we always like to give manufacturers the benefit of the doubt, these are probably the same product from the same companies, just branded differently. 

This is because we’ve found that many of these anti-aging manufacturers will simply change the name of their trial-based product once the word gets out that they’re a scam, and then they’re on to steal the hard-earned money of thousands of other consumers. And the process repeats itself over and over again.

An example of an expired domain nameIt looks like Rejuval Skin’s website has been shut down and the manufacturer has moved on to its next product.

What Are Customers Saying About These Online Anti-Aging Products?

Based on all of the information above, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of these trial-based anti-aging products have very low online reputations with customers. In fact, between all the trial-based anti-aging products we’ve reviewed here at HighYa, the average reader rating is just 1-star, with common complaints citing:

  • Failure to work as advertised. Some consumers have also complained of negative reactions, such as redness, hives, over-drying of skin, and painful bumps.
  • Difficulty cancelling trials. As we noted at the beginning of this article, by the time you receive your anti-aging product, you may have only a couple days to try it out before needing to cancel your trial, which isn’t realistic. On top of this, the company may be very difficult to reach, and even if you do reach someone, customer service personnel may be rude and give you the runaround and make it as difficult as possible to cancel before you’re charged full price.
  • High prices that are far out of line with any benefits you can realistically expect to achieve.
  • Unknowing enrollment in autoship programs. We’ve read countless reviews claiming that customers racked up hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in credit card bills before figuring out what was going on.

A screenshot of consumer reviewCustomer reviews for trial-based anti-aging products are rarely positive.

Let’s Talk More About Customer Service

Although we mentioned it above, the customer service (or lack thereof) provided by many of these anti-aging product companies is so deplorable that we feel it’s important to reiterate it again in its own section.

The reality is that many of these companies provide only a thin veneer of customer service once the sale is complete, which often simply amounts to someone picking up your call and then repeatedly making it as difficult as possible to cancel your trial or process a refund. As such, if you’re expecting some kind of support in the (very likely) instance you’re dissatisfied with the product, you’re almost certainly bound for disappointment.

Related: Dealing with Unethical Customer Service? Get Your Credit Card Company Involved

However, the sad fact of the matter is that this is all part of the manufacturer’s plan, and goes hand-in-hand with their other tactics. After all, they’re only concerned with making the sale; everything else is secondary.

Why Aren’t These Anti-Aging Companies Being Stopped?

If you consider all the strikes against these trial-based anti-aging companies, you might wonder, “Why aren’t they being stopped? Why doesn’t someone step in and do something about it?” Great questions.

The next time you’re researching one of these products, scroll down to the bottom of their home page and you’ll likely find text that reads something similar to the following: 

“The statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). [Product] is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease(s). Representations regarding the efficacy and safety of [product] have not been scientifically substantiated or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Despite their grandiose claims, anti-aging products like these are basically classified as supplements, versus drugs. And as we detailed in our Nutritional Supplements Buyer’s Guide, supplements manufacturers are not required to seek FDA approval for their products before releasing them to the public. In fact, the government only gets involved after enough consumer complaints have amassed. Even then, by the time the company has been subjected to the legal process, they’re often already on to their next product (as we outlined in the section above).

The good news is that consumer advocacy organizations like HighYa are hot on the tails of these trial-based anti-aging products, and are intent on getting the word out to as many as people as possible before falling prey to these crooks.

The Bottom Line About Trial-Based Anti-Aging Products

To summarize, what have we learned about trial-based anti-aging products in this article? 

  • Their free trials are all but guaranteed to charge you full price for the product, which will almost certainly be far out of line with any benefits they provide.
  • These companies will use underhanded marketing tactics to convince you to buy, such as creating fake customer reviews, sham celebrity endorsements and bogus news articles.
  • Manufacturers very often make grandiose claims without backing them up without so much as a shred of clinical evidence.
  • Their subsequent autoship programs are intended to lock you into recurring shipments and to rack up as many charges as possible.

So where does this leave you? 

Here at HighYa, we’re on your side. We want to make sure you always have as much information at your fingertips as possible, so that you don’t waste a cent of your hard-earned money on scams and products that don’t work.

With this in mind, it’s our opinion that trial-based anti-aging products should be avoided altogether.

If you found this article helpful, please share with your friends by clicking on the buttons at the top of this page.

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


comments powered by Disqus

Want to Learn to Shop Smarter and Scam-Proof Your Life?

Join over 2 million HighYa readers who receive weekly how-to guides, tips & reviews and get a FREE COPY of our 145 Scam Hacks e-book. Enter your email below to get started!