If you want to put the brakes on aging, forget those fancy, high-priced potions.
That seems to be the lesson found in May's issue of Consumer Reports, which highlights studies on products marketed to the aging baby boomer generation, including balding treatments, hair dye and anti-wrinkle serums.
In a study of 8,042 participants whose hair loss wasn't related to chemotherapy or illness, the most effective treatment was the prescription pill Propecia - though just 27 percent of men deemed the drug very effective. Rogaine can be used by both sexes with the possible not-so-sexy side effect of facial hair growth for women, though the study showed it was mainly ineffective and better suited to people with very recent hair loss. Expensive hair transplant surgery which can cost upwards of a staggering $10,000 per job, yet often needs to be repeated and carries the risk of infection, a long recovery, scarring and patchy hair growth.
"The market for baldness remedies plays to a particularly vulnerable segment of society. It's a deeply personal, devastating issue to many who desperately want to believe that there's a panacea out there," said Tod Marks, Senior Editor at Consumer Reports.
"At the end of the day, the best remedy may actually be acceptance. Those surveyed pointed out actual benefits of being bald: you won't get hat head, you won't waste time grooming your hair, and you'll save lots of money on shampoo, conditioner, gels, mouse, hair dryers and other haircare products," added Marks.
We're not so sure folks will excitedly line up to get on that bandwagon, though.
The success of the highest ranking products - DermaSilk 5 Minute Face Lift and Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle - was still limited and fell short of the advertising claims illustrated on their boxes. Prescription retinoids, which are an aggressive form of Vitamin A, continue to excel as the only creams scientifically proven to reverse the loss of collagen that causes wrinkles.
"Consumers should focus on getting back to the basics like moisturizing and shielding skin from the sun. Beyond that, if you want to try an over-the-counter anti-wrinkle product, realize that the results may be minimal if any," said Jamie Hirsh, Associate Editor at Consumer Reports Health.
"For more dramatic improvements, talk to a dermatologist about using a prescription retinoid like Renova, Retin-A or their equivalent generics," advised Hirsh.
But don't toss your hope for budget solutions into the bucket just yet; there's great news for gray roots.
In a test of 13 at-home hair dyes meant to color gray hair brown, the results showed that for less than $13 bucks, consumers can easily and effectively cover their own grays without a visit to the salon that could easily cost ten times or more to achieve the same look.
The high hair color achievers? Clairol Texture and Tones, L'Oréal Paris Superior Preference, Clairol Natural Instincts and Clairol Natural Instincts For Men all concealed grays the best.
For best color results, ignore the photo of the model on the front of the box and instead pay careful attention to the color charts on the back or sides to determine how a shade will work for you. Some formulations aren't made for hair that is more than 50% gray, so read labels before opening up your wallet if your coloring needs are greater.
And if all else fails, it may be helpful to heed some sage advice from writer Mark Twain:
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."