Do Anti-Aging Skin-Care Claims Go Too Far?

The anti-aging skin-care market is a competitive one, to say the least. So when products come out claiming to give you the face of a 20-year-old, you have to stop and wonder: Are these statements legitimate? And if they are not, should they be allowed? Most say no. 

This is where advertising watchdogs and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) come in. Over the last couple of years, they have been cracking down on brands that advertise unsubstantiated claims about their anti-aging products like wrinkle-reducers and dark spot correctors. It's gotten so bad that the FDA has recently threatened to even stop big named brands from selling their products if they don’t dilute their claims. 

The problem stems from the fact that consumers expect a cream to do what it says it is going to and for dermatologists and plastic surgeons, this is problematic as it skews expectations for what is really possible. "I think many people are swayed by advertisements that promise to erase wrinkles, remove dark spots, and clear the skin in general," says New York dermatologist Rebecca Baxt, MD. "I always tell my patients if it seems too good to be true, then it is too good to be true." 

Summit, NJ, plastic surgeon Paul J. Carniol, MD, agrees, stating that every product, despite how it's advertised, has limitations. Because of this, he believes there should be tighter regulation on brands. "Considering the extent of the claims or implied claims for these products," he says, "it would be better if the FDA or the Federal Trade Commission had more formal rules as to what types of studies or data must be presented before making effectiveness claims for cosmetic skin-care products." 

If you are looking for products that are guaranteed to work, ask your board-certified dermatologist for recommendations, says Pearland, TX, dermatologist Robert C. Kratschmer, MD. "As a physician, my patients expect that my recommendations come from experience and true knowledge. They trust that I have made that investigative effort on evaluation of products to ensure that know what it can and cannot do," he says. And look for the gold standards of skin care, ingredients that we know work well, says Dr. Baxt "like tretinoin (retin-a) and sunblock, as well as injectables and fillers. Lasers and peels can help also."