Bizarre Anti-Aging Treatments
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Rhinoceros Horn and 16 Other Bizarre Anti-Aging Treatments

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Bizarre Anti-Aging Treatments
Yuri_Arcurs/istockphoto

TIMELESS QUEST

Some people really do want to live forever. How else do you explain the $250 billion people paid in 2016 alone trying to make themselves appear forever young? But some treatments people are willing to try — and pay big bucks for — seem downright weird and creepy. In this list, we'll run through the most extreme modern methods people are using to slow or even stop the aging process, verifying (wherever possible) which are based in science versus mere folklore.

Vampire Blood Facials
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VAMPIRE BLOOD FACIALS

There have been several trendy beauty treatments in the past couple years utilizing human blood, including German physician Dr. Barbara Sturm's MC1 blood-infused moisturizer and the "vampire facials" made famous by Kim Kardashian. Available at spas throughout the country, the procedure involves injecting a patient's own blood into the skin of their face to supposedly lessen wrinkles and clear blemishes. Though there's little solid research, two dermatologists interviewed by Health.com agreed that the plasma in blood could help stimulate the creation of collagen and new blood vessel to improve large pores, lines, and acne scars.

Genetic Age Reversal
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GENETIC AGE REVERSAL

It's not just Beverly Hills plastic surgeons looking to halt the aging process — scientists are doing it too. Through advances in genetic engineering, they've been able to isolate the genes responsible for aging. Researchers at the Salk Institute managed to successfully reverse the aging process in mice in 2016, and predicted they'd be ready to begin human trials using the same principles within 10 years.

Young Blood Transfusions
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YOUNG BLOOD / PARABIOSIS TRANSFUSIONS

Fans of HBO's "Silicon Valley" may recall an episode where fictional tech billionaire Gavin Belson receives blood transfusions from a younger donor to make himself more virile. Turns out that wasn't strictly satire, as recent studies have shown how transfusions of "young" blood can reverse age-related cognitive impairments in mice. Though the clinical research for human parabiosis treatments has a long way to go, startup Ambrosia is already charging $8,000 per patient to receive a one-time 1.5-liter transfusion.

Marijuana
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MARIJUANA

The marijuana industry has grown in the U.S., and there's been a flood of new findings on the potential medical uses for cannabis. Among the most shocking is that the drug may help reverse the effects of aging on our brains. Researchers from the University of Bonn and the University of Jerusalem found that a non-intoxicating dose of THC administered for four weeks reversed cognitive decay in older mice, suggesting a similar regimen could help relieve the effects of dementia in humans.

Urine Therapy
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URINE THERAPY

Urine therapy is the practice of either drinking or rubbing one's skin with urine to provide a wide range of supposed benefits, from improving complexion to curing cancer. The practice may have its roots in folk therapies used throughout history, but there's precisely zero evidence to show that urine therapy has any medical benefit.

Bee Venom
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BEE VENOM SERUM

Bee venom has natural anti-inflammatory and anaphylactic properties that make it effective in reducing appearances of aging by lessening the number, depth, and length of facial wrinkles, according to research. Thus, many cosmetics retailers now sell facial masks, balms, anti-wrinkle creams, and other beauty products made with bee venom, as well as other products like Manuka honey.

Placenta Face Masks
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PLACENTA FACE MASKS

Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and Simon Cowell have all admitted to trying this "all-natural" beauty treatment, which entails spreading stem cells from a sheep's placenta on one's face to tighten the skin. As with many trendy upscale skin treatments, however, there's only anecdotal evidence to support the treatment's efficacy, with no serious scientific inquiries to prove this is anything more than the latest anti-aging snake oil.

Vitamin IV Drips
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VITAMIN IV DRIPS

Speaking of Simon Cowell, the TV personality and producer is one of the biggest advocates for vitamin IV infusions said to improve one's alertness, immune function, and even athletic performance. As with vitamin supplements taken orally, however, there's no hard proof that the treatments can prevent or cure any illness, and two studies on the vitamin IV drips showed no significant improvement in patients.

Cryotherapy
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CRYOTHERAPY

Whole-body cryotherapy clinics have gained popularity in the last few years, promising results such as strengthened immune function, improved mental health, burned calories, and an "instant anti-aging effect." Alas, there's no evidence that whole-body or localized cryotherapy treatments provide any of these benefits, or indeed do anything more than reduce muscle inflammation, the same as an ice pack would.

Gold Facials
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GOLD FACIALS

Supermodel Bar Rafaeli helped popularize this anti-aging skin treatment, wherein one's face is slathered with 24-carat gold cream, in the grand tradition of Cleopatra reportedly sleeping with pure gold across her face. The practice may have a long history, but that doesn't mean its benefits are backed up by scientific inquiry — in fact, studies suggest that gold particles present in this treatment and other cosmetic products can actually accelerate the aging process and cause premature wrinkling.

Snail Slime
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SNAIL SLIME

Demand for snail farming in Italy has increased by more than 300 percent in the past two decades, as snails' slimy secretions have become increasingly common in skincare products claiming to heal acne and reduce wrinkles. There have been salon treatments where patients let snails crawl across their face or, on the less extreme end, have their skin pricked before a serum of snail slime is applied. According to cosmetic scientist Colin Sanders, the serums work because they shrink upon drying to tighten the skin, an effect you could easily obtain from cheaper water-soluble liquids like egg white.

Semen Facials
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SEMEN FACIALS

It may sound like a bogus middle school-aged myth, but there are still pop songs and beauty magazine articles perpetuating the rumor that male semen is good for skincare and reducing appearances of aging. Once again, there's no proof semen provides any cosmetic benefits, and topical application could even facilitate the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Leech Therapy
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LEECH THERAPY

A common fixture of antiquated medical treatments, leeches are parasitic bloodsuckers whose saliva proves surprisingly effective at thinning the blood to improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Leech therapies and pharmaceutical drugs improve chances of positive outcome for everything from heart disease and cancer to diabetes and recovery from facial reconstructive surgery. Because of its anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties, leeches have also been found to help sufferers of osteoarthritis, the most common joint disorder.

Bird Poop
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BIRD POOP

In 19th century Japan, geisha and kabuki performers used excrement from nightingales as part of a skincare regimen to remove their lead-based face paint. Bird poop is now a popular facial ingredient in the West, too — at least in certain high-end spas — said to make one's skin softer and brighter. These treatments can help in retaining moisture and adding a shimmery quality to one's skin, though bird poop is far from the only substance to provide these benefits.

Baby Foreskins
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BABY FORESKINS

"Ocean's 8" co-stars Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett have both undergone the beauty treatment colloquially known as a "penis facial," where a serum made from Korean newborn babies' foreskins is applied to make adult skin appear more youthful. The $650 facial is predicated on the concept that stem cells in the infant foreskin may encourage cellular growth and collagen production, but there's no evidence to suggest this is true, especially since the treatments entail several more tried-and-true facial treatments.

Mercury
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MERCURY

Women of the Victorian era used the liquid metal mercury — commonly found in thermometers — to make themselves appear more youthful. Mercury did prove adept at eradicating acne, scars, and wrinkles, but only because its toxicity corroded the skin's surface. We know the dangers now, yet the FDA and other state health organizations have discovered numerous beauty products still contain trace levels of the toxic element.

Bizarre Anti-Aging Treatments
Yuri_Arcurs/istockphoto

RHINOCEROS HORN

The horns harvested from endangered wild rhinoceroses are unfortunately used as a homeopathic cure-all in some parts of Asia like Vietnam, where it's sometimes advertised as an effective treatment for cancer, hangover, or age-related symptoms of erectile dysfunction. There's no evidence to support these or any other medical claims regarding rhino horn, which serve to perpetuate an illicit and ecologically harmful poaching trade.