At 23, Johnette Marmo looks like she’s taken a dip in the fountain of youth: Wrinkle-free skin. Ageless appearance. Glowing good health. Ah, but how will she look at 25? Marmo says she doesn’t worry about lines and wrinkles. Still, she covers her face with a towel when she sits in the sun.
And she heeds her older friends when they tell her not to frown.
“They tell me frowning will form lines on my forehead,” she says.
Americans, many as young as Marmo, spent $44.6 billion on anti-aging creams, supplements, vitamins and face lifts in 2004, according to the Business Communications Co. An aging population will push that market to $72 billion by 2009, the firm predicts.
“There are more products available, and I see more younger women coming in for consultations,” says Dr. Wieke Liem, a dermatologist with offices in Orange and Newport Beach, Calif.
The tangled web of beauty and health almost always finds medical professionals and product manufacturers at odds. Liem endorses none of the products or treatments designed to deny aging.
Neither does Dr. Mahtab Jafari, associate director of the pharmaceutical sciences program at the University of California, Irvine. “We need clinical studies on these products,” she says.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate these products, although the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a warning recently about serious physical harm that can come from ingesting certain anti-aging products. The problem: The GAO was not specific about which supplements are harmful.
Newport Beach-based plastic surgeon Dr. Malcolm Paul questions the benefits of creams and supplements while supporting laser treatments, Botox injections and face lifts.
HEALTH IS BEAUTY
Dr. Andrew Weil, a University of Arizona professor and author of a new book, “Healthy Aging” (Knopf 2005), says all this concern about what works, what doesn’t and what might actually do harm is misplaced “because there are no anti-aging medicines or techniques that work. But it’s never too early to think about how to eat, how to reduce stress, how to maintain health and make good lifestyle choices, how to exercise,” he says.
“I get alarmed when I see very young people getting Botox face lifts. We are too youth-obsessed.”
Weil advocates aging naturally. Tinkering with the body — breast implants as a high school graduation gift, for instance — is harmful, he says, because it diminishes normal development and the aging process.
Weil, however, has developed his own line of skin care products for Origins. The Weil products “are very philosophically aligned with me,” he says. “I gave them ideas for products using Asian mushrooms (starting at $35) which have anti-inflammatory effects and are designed to improve the health of the skin.”
Paul Holden, director of vitamins for Mother’s Market, is skeptical. Cosmetics with dollops of this or that special ingredient don’t work, he says. And even vitamins and supplements won’t work if a person doesn’t live a healthy lifestyle.
“It starts with good diet and exercise,” he says. “That’s the basis of staying young. Balance.”
PILLS AND SUPPLEMENTS
The U.S. market for cosmeceuticals — supplements that target skin health and beauty — is valued at $12.4 billion and will reach $16 billion by 2010, says the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, a Chicago-based nonprofit group that promotes various medical procedures. More than 11,000 physicians from 65 countries are members of the academy and call themselves “antiaging physicians.”
Among the newer products is Acai Power Caps, marketed by Sambazon in San Clemente, Calif., as nature’s “antioxidant superfruit.”
Surfers Rick Black and Ed Nichols were enjoying the sights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when they stumbled upon beach bars concocting energy drinks and dishes from the pulp of this rain forest berry.
Now Sambazon markets these acai (ah-SIGH-ee) smoothies through natural food stores and some vitamin outlets.
The little berry will improve skin tone and texture, Black says.
But then, so will a trip to the produce counter at your local supermarket, says Jafari, who recommends a good salad as the best source of antioxidants, until scientific studies are completed.