Everybody wants to look younger and unfortunately there are many shady companies out there trying to make a buck. Put that combo together and you have the makings of a SCAM that sucks you in with the promise of erasing wrinkles but just end up stealing your money. Let’s see how they do it…

First They Draw You In With Beautiful People and Grandiose Claims

Many of these anti-aging creams use pictures of beautiful models and some even have celebrity names attached to them. While some of the more “legitimate” companies have celebs officially endorsed by them (for example 63-year old Jane Seymour pitches Crepe Erase), some of them will use a famous name without permission (Dr. Oz is often used, even though Dr. Oz himself says he never endorses particular products). 

They’ll also claim things like the product is “Botox in a bottle” or that it feels like a “mini face-lift.” One quote we’ve seen a lot is “9 out of 10 dermatologists recommend using anti-aging products.”

A screenshot of a 9 out of 10 dermatologists recommend using anti-aging products banner

Notice it doesn’t mention any particular brand (or really mean anything at all for that matter) – but it sounds good! 

They May Toss in Some Fancy Ingredients

Many times, they’ll highlight a certain special ingredient– for example we recently came across one called LeReve24K that claimed to have 24 karat gold and another called Lumera said to have diamonds. 

Both of these sound fancy, right? Well the truth is that while diamond powder might indeed help clean your skin by removing dead cells, it’s really no better than cheaper exfoliates used in over-the-counter creams but lets them charge you more money for it. Same goes for gold, which in small doses can’t harm you and may give the skin a little sparkle, but could also cause inflammation. “At best, [skin creams with gold] do nothing, and at worst, they can give you irritation of the skin,” said Dr. Judith Hellman, a NY dermatologist quoted in the New York Times.

They May Even Have Some “Proof”

Many shady companies don’t bother to offer anything other than saying it’s scientifically proven and have a fancy chart…

A screenshot of a graph

Some of them do link to studies that seem to show their ingredients “work.” Usually, they’ll either hope you won’t read it too carefully to find out that these tests are only conducted on 10 people or run by the same company that makes the product. (Get wise: read our article about how to understand a clinical study here.)

Live Science did an investigation of some of the most common ingredients in many anti-aging products. They found some of them are possibly beneficial, for example peptides may hydrate skin, but they concluded the only ingredient proven to reduce wrinkles is retinol, an over-the-counter version of a product called Retin-A. But don’t go getting your money out yet – read more about retinol in our article about our search for the Fountain of Youth. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist!)

Then They Get Out the Hook… The Trial Offer!

After they’ve dazzled you with diamonds or celebrities and blinded you with science they bring out the big lure… the trial offer!

Screenshot of a free trial offer

Notice the words “limited supply” designed to get you think they’re going to run out. (They won’t.) Also notice the word “free” is missing.

Usually there’s a form just like the above where you put your name, address, phone, and email before you even see the details as to what this “miracle” product costs! The reason they do this is so they can keep your personal information and use it to spam you later even if you decide not to buy the product!

The Tiny Terms and Conditions

Once you’re on the order page, they may present you with a screen that shows the product is free with just a small shipping fee. It may say something like 14-Day Trial Offer. But if you look at the terms and conditions – sometimes it’s on a separate page or in small type in a light-colored font at the very bottom – usually they’ll drop a few bombshells like:

a) The 14-days beginning from date of ordered, not when it arrives in the mail! Because shipping times for these products are notoriously slow (see our article entitled Where the [BLEEP] is My Package) this could greatly affect your trial period.

b) Once this so-called trial period is over, they hit you with the 1-2 punch – first, they’ll charge you for the supposedly free product (usually $80-$100) and they’ll sign you up for an auto-ship program, sending you more product and billing you every month. Many consumers complain that canceling these programs are difficult with lousy customer service

This type of billing/auto-ship doesn’t happen with just the shadier anti-aging companies. At the top of this article we mentioned Crepe Erase, a product endorsed by a bona fide celebrity and marketed by Guthy Renker, a company that has an A+ rating from the BBB. 

Crepe Erase does everything perfectly legally, it’s just that many consumers excited about ordering the product fail to read the terms and conditions and don’t realize all the charges.

Debby M from Tulsa OK related her story to us:

“I ordered 2 intro kits. One for me and one for my aunt. I received them yesterday and instead of 59.99 on my credit card for each kit, (free shipping) they had charged my credit card $119.90. Then at the bottom it says next month $119.90 and the third month $119.90. I should have read everything better as I thought it was a total of $59.90 for each kit. The total was $359.70 for 2 kits that were advertised for $119.90.”

What You Can Do To Avoid Trial Offer Scams

The most basic advice we can give you is: if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. Especially when it comes to anti-aging products and free trials! 

The second piece of advice is: read all the fine print. This includes clicking on the Terms and Conditions (you may have to even zoom in with your browser to read it).

If these don’t turn you off also remember: getting older is perfectly normal and there is still no way to turn back the hands of time. 

Simple Ways To Look Younger (and Feel Better)

When it comes to looking younger than you are, there are some simple steps we’d like to recommend. First: wash your face regularly. You can use a gentle exfoliate but don’t overdo it or that can cause irritation. Second, a moisturizing cream at your local drugstore is likely as effective (and cheaper) than one you can buy online. Plus, there’s no auto-ship! Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun or use sunscreen.

And here’s a little tip we like to give out especially because it’s so easy (and free): smile! Studies show that people who smile tend to look younger than those that don’t.

You may also want to read: 10 Secrets of the Anti-Aging Industry (MarketWatch)

If you feel like you’ve already been scammed, fear not – read this article about how to deal with fraud!

And let us know what you think of this article below!