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Few Understand the Risks or Effectiveness of Products and Procedures

WebMD Health News

Misinformation Abounds on Anti-Aging Products

May 13, 2004 (New York City) -- Nearly 90 million Americans use or have used "wrinkle-erasing" products and procedures to help fight the effects of aging, but a new survey shows many are confused about the risks and potential benefits associated with them.

The survey, released today and commissioned by the National Consumers League, shows only about half the women who have used an over-the-counter anti-aging product felt it delivered what it promised and was "worth it."

Although 93% of women and 65% of men said they were familiar with over-the-counter anti-aging face creams, six out of 10 people surveyed said the FDA regulates whether these creams are safe and effective.

But the FDA does not regulate cosmetics for safety and effectiveness before they reach the market. This type of regulation is reserved for prescription drugs and over-the-counter products containing active ingredients that are classified as drugs.

"Consumers lack the facts they need to make informed decisions," says Carol Golodner, president of the National Consumers League, in announcing the survey results today in New York City.

Golodner says that the number of anti-aging products and procedures, such as over-the-counter lotions, facial peels, prescription creams, injectable wrinkle fillers and cosmetic surgery has grown dramatically in recent years. For example, the number of Botox cosmetic injections alone grew by more than 150% from 2002 to 2003, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Survey Reveals Consumer Confusion

The online survey of 1, 343 adults 25 and older looked at public attitudes toward and experience with various products and treatments designed to reduce the signs of aging. Harris Interactive conducted the survey between March 29 and April 9, 2004.

Researchers defined the categories of products and procedures as follows:

  • Over-the-counter facial products. These are creams, masks, gels, and vitamin and herbal extracts products applied directly to the face that can be purchased without a prescription.
  • Prescription facial products. These are creams, masks, and gels that are applied to the face and that require a prescription from a doctor.
  • Injection therapies. These are non-surgical procedures that involve facial injections, such as Botox, collagen injections, fat augmentation (filler) injections, and facial injections to remove spider veins (sclerotherapy).
  • Skin resurfacing therapies. These are nonsurgical procedures that change the surface of the skin on the face, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser skin resurfacing, photofacial light treatments, and laser, photoderm, or electric current treatment of facial spider veins.
  • Surgical procedures. These include invasive cosmetic procedures on the face, such as facelifts, eyelid surgery, and forehead surgery.

Brush Up on Beauty

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