Does anti-ageing work?

Just had my monthly facial, or should I say my monthly 'consultation'. There I was thinking I was in a spa, hidden under blankets, listening to the sound of waves when my therapist (complete in white surgical attire) handed me my "prescription". I was told to apply specialist eye gel to the eye area every night followed by a layer of serum. The products could be purchased downstairs. When did beauty regimes become medicalised? And on top of that, do the treatments actually work?

The cynic in me maintains that the healing is in the skin itself, not what you put on it. Not smoking, staying out of the sun, hydration and a healthy diet will ensure that the largest organ in the body - the skin - is functioning just fine. Slap on a barrier - it can be cream, gel or vaseline - and it helps to create an environment that gets the cell renewal process geared up to perform. This means it doesn't matter if your pot of cream is £3 or £300.

With a little more digging, I was surprised to learn that actually certain creams can work better than others and that yes, some anti-ageing creams really do what they say on the tin. They can plump up the skin, minimise fine lines, deminish pores or improve pigmentation. The difference between the creams and products prescibed by dermatologists is that if the creams are shown to work in trials, then they get classified as medicine. This leads to prescriptions being needed, a limitation of the market and reduced profit margins. So they keep it quiet. Anti-ageing creams can have a physiological effect on the skin, targeing the dermis (i.e. the deeper layer of the skin) where the changes of ageing happen.

There is no cure for ageing. Even face lifts have a shelf-life of 10 years. Trying to flatten your forehead with your hands has no effect - been there and just looked like I had the world's worst headache - which brings me to Botox. Despite knowing it's a poison, it's temporary and expensive, I thought that it may help that people couldn't read my angst at immunisation rates still not at herd immunity or think me serene when my toddler's potty training has failed again. But the public health person in me paused to ask, "does its usage delay ageing?"

Botox has absolutely no effect on the ageing process. You're only line free for as long as the botox is present, it wears off and you're wrinkly again. Prolonged use doesn't slow down the ageing process, it has no effect on removing or reducing wrinkles in the long-run. Use it in your 20s and it has no preventive effects whatsoever. You'll still develop wrinkles as you age; how quickly will depend on your genetics and your lifestyle. What was a little scary was if you have sustained use, you risk weakening the muscles and this causes saging.

Perhaps the best approach is what my 70 year old aunt does. She takes off her glasses and looks into the mirror and she's nineteen again.