10 beauty and anti-aging products you don’t need

Many promise the Fountain of Youth in a bottle, but reality can be disappointing.
© MSN Healthy Living // © MSN Health

The human impulse to appear younger -- or, at the least, less old -- probably goes all the way back to the beginning. Cleopatra took regular milk and honey baths to rejuvenate her skin, while Romans applied anti-aging lotions made from barley, vinegar, basil juice and fennel oil. Today, the beauty industry is huge business, racking up nearly $70 billion in sales in the U.S. last year. Thousands of products claim to hold the secret to erasing wrinkles, firming sagging skin or turning back the clock a decade or two. It can all be very confusing. For while there are many products out there that do work, there are many more people can just do without.

-- By John Zebrowski for MSN Healthy Living

1 of 12 Woman applying face cream (Laflor/Getty Images)

Placenta collagen mask

Touted as a potent anti-aging application, the placenta collagen mask claims to reduce wrinkles and “neutralize” the aging process. But does it? It certainly sounds good, says Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, a Boston-based cosmetic surgeon. “The placenta makes it sound like youth and babies,” he says. But while the product might have some good moisturizers in it, the collagen part won’t do much. The reason is that collagen molecules, which can help make skin look younger, are too big to work when applied topically –- they need to be injected. “It’s a bit like saying you’re going to cool off a bottle of milk by holding it against the outside of the fridge,” he says. “It’s just not going to work.”

2 of 12 Facial mask (Jonathan Storey/Getty Images)

Lash growers

There’s one product on the market approved by the FDA to grow lashes: a repurposed glaucoma drug called Latisse. Longer lashes are essentially a side effect. “They had all these 80-year-olds walking around with long lashes,” says Dr. Rebecca Tung, an associate professor of dermatology at Loyola University. Tung says that Latisse works, but it’s not cheap, running about $120 per month. Latisse’s success spurred a host of imitators, some which ran afoul of the FDA for sneaking similar drugs into them. Tung says the knock-offs kind of work, but they’re not actually much cheaper than Latisse. She recommends going with Latisse, but if people don’t have $100 per month for thicker lashes, they can just stick with mascara, which will at least make lashes appear a little longer.

3 of 12 Eyelash accessories (4FR/Getty Images)

Lip plumpers

Full, plump lips can become an obsession for some people, spawning a lust for new ways to create the “bee stung” look that can, sadly, end up closer to trout pout. Injections can give people the desired look for several months, but at a price. For as little as $25, people can get temporarily plump lips from topical products that feature cinnamon, menthol and hot pepper extracts. The point is to irritate lips so they become inflamed and seem more alluring. “Anything that irritates lips works,” says Spiegel. “You can get the same effect by pursing your lips together and tapping on them. Lips respond to trauma by getting swollen.”

4 of 12 Lip plumping products (Lip Plumping Shop)

Exfoliators and microdermabrasion

One way people try to make their skin look younger is by removing old, dead layers. What lies beneath appears fresher. Exfoliation and microdermabrasion describe several different ways to accomplish this, whether through the application of acids, scrubs or tools designed to buff away dead skin. It’s often cheaper than chemical peels or surgery, but it's not without issues. For one, the procedures are less effective than a peel for not a ton less money. Plus, if done too often, microdermabrasion can thin the skin. “They are not the best products for your skin and can even prove to be quite irritating over time,” says Dr. Brian Glatt, a New Jersey-based plastic surgeon. Alternatives are chemical peels or, for much cheaper, home exfoliators such as sugar scrubs and products with hard particles such as ground walnut shells.

5 of 12 Dermatology services (Erel photography/Getty Images)

Geisha facial

Sometimes, the only way to get that fresh-faced feel is with bird poop. Victoria Beckham and Tom Cruise are reported to be big fans of the geisha facial, which uses purified nightingale droppings to bestow a youthful appearance on those brave enough to cover their faces with the stuff. A facial can cost $200, and while probably not harmful, there’s no proof that using the excrement from a particular bird is uniquely beneficial to skin. “I think this is a matter of whether you can deal with having bird poop on your face,” says Dr. Gary Goldfaden, a Florida-based dermatologist. A cheaper – and less icky – alternative would be a standard facial.

6 of 12 Bird (Jaap Hoogenboom/ Foto Natural/Getty Images)

Frownies

While not quite as old as Cleopatra’s milk bath, Frownies have been around a long time. First sold in 1889, these adhesive strips are supposed to fight wrinkles by essential immobilizing facial muscles. Stick them on the forehead and between the eyes for a few hours and watch the wrinkles and lines fade. But do they work? People swear by them, but Tung said any benefits will be short-lived. “They don’t hold a candle to Botox,” she says. Spiegel says Frownies are “similar to sucking in your gut when you meet someone. You look better, but you’re going to have to exhale very soon.”

7 of 12 Frownies (Courtesy Bing Shopping)

Anti-wrinkle glasses

If you want to get rid of wrinkles while looking like a character from a Japanese anime film, the Mejikara Anti-Wrinkle Glasses are for you. Made from silicon rubber, these glass frames claim to essentially push wrinkles back in place while massaging the skin to create a more youthful appearance. Dr. James Marotta, a New York plastic surgeon, says that they’re about as effective as holding your skin up with your fingers. He recommends a facial, where “the skin massaging is actually enjoyable” or Botox, to help with the wrinkles. “[The glasses] may enable you to lose your sense of fashion, but definitely not your wrinkles,” he says.

8 of 12 Mejikara Anti-Wrinkle Glasses (Japan Trend Shop)

Under-eye creams

Anyone who’s had a bad night or two of sleep has dealt with under-eye circles. They make you look haggard and old. Under-eye circles removers can be cheap, as little as $20, and for some people without significant issues, they can be helpful. With ingredients such as caffeine, they can reduce puffiness. But any effects are temporary, and if the condition is genetic (thin skin or sagging) or resulting from allergies, the creams might not do much. “For the most part you’re not fixing the problem, you’re camouflaging it,” says Spiegel. “With a very minor procedure in the office, you can pretty much get a permanent correction.”

9 of 12 Mediderm Rx cream (Courtesy Bing Shopping)

Anti-aging creams

Imagine if you could get a “face-lift in a bottle” or “Botox in a jar.” Sound enticing? “Buyer beware,” says Candy Langan, a New Jersey nurse who specializes in skin care. “There are more gimmicks in this category than any other.” Anti-aging creams use any number of ingredients such as Retinol, alpha hydroxyl acids and peptides to get rid of discolorations, reduce wrinkles and promote a firmer, more youthful complexion. Tung says a lot of these are common ingredients in the skin care world do, and have been shown to do, some good. The problem is that the claims don’t meet with reality. “It’s only a face-lift in a bottle for someone who is 21 and doesn’t need a face-lift,” she says. “If you’re 65, you’re not going to find a fix in a cream.”

10 of 12 Man applying facial cream (Dimitri Otis/Getty Images)