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Do Anti-Aging Therapies Really Work? The Science in 2024

In movies and TV shows, the popular trope is that characters who go searching for elixirs of youth ultimately learn that it isn’t what they were expecting it to be.


Fortunately, life doesn’t work exactly like the movies, so what is the deal with anti-aging therapies in reality? Do they actually deliver, and if so, how well?


This guide by The Hack will help you separate fact from fiction, and equip you with insights on which anti-aging therapies you should consider exploring, and which ones you should probably avoid.


Anti-Aging Treatments: Health Boost or Bust?

The world’s understanding of anti-aging treatments and therapies has advanced dramatically in recent years, with over 13,000 peer-reviewed research papers published on the subject in just the last five years.


Several independent clinical studies have found strong positive correlations between anti-aging treatments and a variety of benefits ranging from improved skin and disease prevention, to slowed aging, faster healing, cognitive benefits, and beyond.


But if you really want to figure out whether anti-aging treatments work, you first have to define what exactly “anti-aging treatment” means. It could be anything from drinking more water to stay hydrated, to using a skin cream, to complicated surgical procedures like stem cell grafts.


Here are the most important groups you should know about.


Common Anti-aging Treatments



Anti-Aging Therapies


Category

Examples

Advantages 

Limitations

Research Evidence on Effectiveness

Topical treatments

Retinoids (e.g., tretinoin, retinol), Antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol), Peptides, Hydrators (e.g., hyaluronic acid), Exfoliants (e.g., alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids), Niacinamide

No surgery or injection. Easy to apply. No recovery period. Targets specific skin concerns. Widely available over-the-counter.

Results take time. Effectiveness varies with skin type. Long-term and consistent use needed. Unsuitable for severe aging signs.

Injectable treatments

Hyaluronic acid, collagen, calcium hydroxylapatite, 

Poly-L-Lactic Acid (PLLA), platelet-rich plasma (PRP), 

Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), Calcium Hydroxylapatite (CaHA), Autologous fat, etc.

Quick procedures. Immediate and noticeable results. Minimal downtime. Long-lasting effects. Can target multiple areas of concern. 


Potential for bruising, swelling, or redness at injection sites. Risk of allergic reactions. 

Possibility of asymmetry.

Requires injection by a trained healthcare professional. Not suitable for everyone, especially those with certain medical conditions or allergies.

Dermal fillers show positive results in restoring volume and smoothing wrinkles.


Energy-based devices

Laser therapy, Radiofrequency (RF) devices, Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, Ultrasound devices, Microneedling with radiofrequency (RF), Cryolipolysis (coolsculpting), High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), Broadband Light Devices, Fractional Laser Resurfacing, Red light therapy, PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) therapy

Stimulates collagen production. Improves skin texture and tone.

Reduces wrinkles and fine lines. Targets specific skin concerns.

Minimally invasive or non-invasive. Minimal downtime due to the procedure, unlike invasive treatments. Suitable for various skin types.

Chances of side effects like redness or swelling

Risk of pigmentation changes or scarring

Multiple sessions often necessary

Not suitable for certain medical conditions

Results may vary depending on practitioner’s skill

High treatment cost  


Findings across multiple studies provide evidence for the anti-aging benefits of several energy-based treatments HOCATT therapy, PEMF therapy, Cryolipolysis, Red Light Therapy, and so on.

Minimally invasive procedures

Microdermabrasion, Chemical peels, Micro-needling (collagen induction therapy), Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy


Minimal downtime

Less discomfort compared to surgical procedures

Lower risk 

Quick recovery

Natural-looking results

Less invasive than surgical alternatives


Results may be less dramatic or long-lasting 

Multiple sessions may be required

Potential side effects such as redness, swelling, or bruising

Not suitable for all concerns or skin types

Limited effectiveness for severe aging symptoms

Cost may accumulate over multiple sessions

Research shows increased collagen production and skin tightening with minimally invasive procedures like micro-needling and improvements in wrinkles, skin texture, and tone following treatments like microdermabrasion, and chemical peels.


At What Age Are Anti-aging Treatments Most Effective? 

As you can see from the table above, there are dozens of anti-aging therapies that have been shown to work. The question is, when should you start them?


Most experts say integrating anti-aging interventions to your life in your 20s can delay the early signs of aging. In your 30s, adding powerful ingredients like retinol, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin C into your skincare routine can deliver measurable benefits.


But as with most things in life, if the best time was yesterday, the next best time is today. Moisturizers, antioxidants, and anti-wrinkle creams can still be effective well into your 40s and 50s.


Of course, there’s a lot more to anti-aging therapies than just how you look. Other functional benefits of anti-aging can include:


Research shows that treatments deliver many of these anti-aging benefits for people well into their sixties and seventies.


How to Choose Anti-Aging Therapies That Work for You

No two people are exactly alike – even identical twins, who are essentially genetic replicas of each other, don’t respond exactly the same way to different treatments.


This means, to ensure optimal health and wellness outcomes for yourself, your decision-making process has to be far more nuanced than just looking at spec sheets of p-values for the effectiveness of different therapies.


Here are a few questions that you must ask yourself and take into consideration to navigate the world of anti-aging interventions effectively.


Medical

1. Do you have any known allergies that could impact your suitability for specific treatments?

2. Are there any medical conditions, skin types, or other factors that could affect your eligibility for certain treatments? For instance, pregnancy, breastfeeding, autoimmune disorders, epilepsy, diabetes, skin type, etc.

3. Are you currently taking any medications that might interact with the proposed treatments?

4. Have you recently undergone any surgical procedures that might influence your treatment options?

5. Does your current age fall within the recommended range for the treatment under consideration?


Lifestyle

1. Are you comfortable with the procedure's nature, including the technologies employed, method of action, and invasiveness?

2. Are the potential temporary side effects, if any, acceptable to you?

3. Are you comfortable with any additional changes and commitments that may be necessary? This could include time requirements, potential days off, sun exposure limitations, etc.

4. Does the expected timeline for results align with your expectations?


Financial

1. Are the initial or upfront costs within your budget?

2. Do the ongoing costs, such as follow-ups and maintenance, including lifestyle adjustments, seem manageable to you?

3. Are there any potential hidden costs or expenses associated with the treatment that you should be aware of?


Emotional

1. Do the anticipated benefits meet your expectations in terms of extent or magnitude?

2. Are there any past experiences or traumas that might affect your emotional well-being during the treatment journey?

3. Are you confident in your decision to pursue this treatment, or do you have any lingering doubts or reservations?


Consulting with experienced professionals who offer personalized guidance tailored to your unique needs, thinking about the cost, risks, and how much downtime you're comfortable with, and choosing reliable centers and professionals.


It's crucial for you to understand all of these factors to build clear and realistic expectations of what the treatments can and cannot achieve, ensuring you're not disappointed. If you need assistance figuring any of this out, don’t hesitate to get in touch – our resident wellness specialists are always happy to help.


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