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Category — Are you kidding?

Fish Kiss

fish kissWhen I wrote about the Anti-aging Ick Factor almost a year ago, I never dreamed that I would personally ever participate in any such ickiness. But there I was strolling down Strøget, Copenhagen’s assertively commercial, seemingly endless pedestrian street when I passed a place called Fish Kiss Spa. I assumed it was an unfortunate translation and had nothing to do with actual fish, or kissing, neither of which seemed spa-related.  In Stockholm I had noticed a furniture studio with the unfortunate name, Acne. So why not Fish Kiss?

I walked in.

It turned out to be a small room lined with fifteen large fish tanks positioned on a long low ledge that ran under fifteen throne chairs. Not actually thrones but the kind of oversized, quasi-fancy seats you find in upscale pedicure places. Six or seven women were sitting on these throne chairs with their legs submerged in the fish tanks.

fish tankAnd what was in the fish tanks you are wondering? Well, fish, of course, small, dark fish, maybe an inch long. Each tank had perhaps a hundred or so of these fish. It was hard to make an accurate count as most of them were attached to the feet and legs of the women. They were, in fact, nibbling at the skin of the feet and legs of these women.

These fish, the salon attendant told me, were special dead-skin-eating fish from Turkey. They had no teeth. They attached themselves to your submerged parts and… well, ate at you by a combination of gumming and sucking. This process of exfoliation was supposed to make your skin smooth, increase circulation and rejuvenate (as in make young) your feet. “It feels a little weird at first,” the salon lady told me.

Had I not been on vacation, had I not just walked close to 20 miles, much of it on ankle-twisting cobble stone, had I not made the mistake of wearing 15-year-old Chacos with seriously worn webbing, had my husband not dared me…I would have swum right by Fish Kiss Spa.

I didn’t.

LK fish feet 4You can gauge the level of enjoyment I derived from that experience from the photos I’m including here. The spa woman who told me it would feel “weird” at first, said after you got used to it, it would be “relaxing.” Apparently, I never got used to it. Do you remember how it felt when you were a kid and you went swimming in some murky lake and minnows darted around your legs and you screamed? That’s how it felt. Only worse and for 20 minutes. (Hey, I paid for 20 minutes, I was going to get 20 minutes.)


LK fish feet 1Did the treatment turn back the feet of time (sorry, I couldn’t’ resist). Nope. My feet looked like the same slightly scaly, well used, in severe need of a pedicure feet they were when I walked into Fish Spa.



fish feetBut I did walk 18 miles the next day.

June 25, 2014   No Comments

The Anti-Aging Ick Factor

JAPAN-LIFESTYLE-HEALTH-COSMETICSInspired by – or, more accurately, amused, astonished, repelled by – the recent media attention given to snail facials (yes, you read that right), I decided it was time to do a Ten Ickiest–  not to mention silliest, wrong-headedist, waste-of-moneyistAnti-Aging “Treatments” list.  Warning: Read on an empty stomach.

1.  Snails on the face (imagine Samuel L. Jackson – “Snakes on a Plane!” — yelling this).  This is a mysteriously popular facial, currently de rigueur in Japan, in which, you guessed, live snails crawl across your face.  The slime they secrete along the way is supposedly rich in anti-aging gook.

2. Bee Venom facials.  Happily you don’t stick your head in a hive for this one.  Unhappily, someone slathers your face with apitoxin (bee venom), a complex mixture of proteins that presumably tightens your skin – probably by causing local inflammation.

3. Snake venom facials.  Mimics a snake bite (and this is a good thing?)– by freezing the face and erasing fine lines.

4. Freeze-dried placenta face mask.  Human, sheep, pig.  You choose!  Claims to “stimulate immune system.”

5. Bird droppings facial cleanser.  Nightingale guano, dried and powdered, is full of “deep-cleaning enzymes”!  Who knew.

6. Blood injections.  Your own blood, actually just the separated and purified plasma, is re-injected, because…hell if I know.

7. Leech therapy.  Leeches have actually made a comeback and are being used in hospitals to help heal wounds.  That’s not what this is about, though.  Here many repulsive crawling things are placed on your (unwounded) body.  They attach themselves, and, while sucking at you, release “blood purifying” enzymes.

8. Bull semen hair conditioner.  No comment.

9. Fish tank mani-pedi.  Okay, so you immerse feet and/or hands in a tank filled with toothless carp who nibble away at the dead skin on said body parts.  This has got to be the weirdest way to exfoliate I’ve ever heard of.

10. Beer bath.  Very big in Prague (where pivo is cheaper than water).  Involves sweating away toxins in a yeasty, hoppy hot tub.  (Predicated on the erroneous notion that you sweat out toxins. Better to just drink the beer.)

What do these Top Ten have in common in addition to their expense, total lack of scientific backing and general repulsiveness?

They have little or nothing to do with anti-aging.  Even if letting snails inch across your face improved the quality of your skin, even if bee venom or snake venom or bird shit smoothed out wrinkles…so what?  Exfoliated feet, shiny hair? What exactly does this have to do with living a healthy, vigorous, engaged life, with physical and mental fitness, with the vitality, resilience and creativity that is at the core of staying youthful?


July 24, 2013   5 Comments

The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Anti-Aging

mitochondriaTo celebrate yesterday’s launch of my book, COUNTERCLOCKWISE: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging, I offer this little excerpt…in hopes of leaving you wanting more.

I know I’ve crossed the line when I call my husband, all excited, and practically yell into the phone, “I’m getting a muscle biopsy!” Yes, this is good news. Very good news. A respiratory physiologist I’ve been sweet-talking has just agreed to do the biopsy, which means I can discover the state of my mitochondria. Almost as important, it means I have a potentially entertaining way of writing about one of the geekier subjects in this book (the aforementioned mitochondria) – because after all, who doesn’t want to hear about a muscle biopsy?

The line I’ve crossed is what I will do (to myself) to turn back the clock and, incidentally, to get a story. Having my face computer-aged to seventy-five and subjecting my fragile ego to viewing the result? Harrowing. But sure, okay. Intense pulse laser treatments? A little painful, but no problem. Breathing into a mouthpiece connected to a plastic hose connected to a computer while cycling full-speed as a good-natured but inexperienced grad student draws my blood every three minutes? That’s close to the line. But a biopsy? A procedure defined as “the medical removal of tissue from a living subject”? I’m looking at that line in my rear view mirror. ….

The next morning, bright-eyed and empty-stomached, I present myself at Hans Dreyer’s lab. It’s in a medical research building attached to a major hospital, and it looks, feels and smells like a hospital: band-aide-colored walls, fluorescent panel ceiling lights, the whoosh of central air conditioning. I feel my blood pressure rise. I hate hospitals. As I wait for Dreyer to gather what he needs for “the procedure,” I have time to think about just how much I hate hospitals, and just how much time older people spend in them. One of my goals in life – and certainly a long-term goal in this counterclockwise journey – is to spend as little time in them as possible as I get older. I’m all about that “rectangularization of morbidity” thing: healthy, healthy, healthy, dead. That’s the way to do it. ….

I am directed to lie down on a hospital bed and roll up my sweat pants to expose my left thigh. I crane my neck to watch Dreyer prep the site, draping, swabbing, etc. as if, well, as if something major is going to happen. All the while I am asking mitochondria questions, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook held overhead using one of those pens NASA developed that can write upside down.

“This will feel like a bee sting,” Dreyer says, holding aloft a Lidocaine-filled syringe. He injects carefully. “Followed by a little burning,” he adds. Unnecessarily.

Here’s what the New York Times had to say about the book yesterday.


June 5, 2013   5 Comments

Yet Another Miracle!

magic pillJust how many miracle pills can there be?  Are there really dozens of astonishing, astounding, amazing, age-reversing, disease-defying, energy-boosting, mind-sharpening, skin softening, muscle-building pills and potions?  Are health and vitality just a capsule away?

Uh, no.

But you’d certainly think so cruising the internet or flipping through the pages of health and fitness magazines.  (Or watching infomercials …which, of course, none of us admit doing. I, however, can admit this because it was all in the name of research.)

Tru-Pure Green (with 45 percent chlorogenic acid…whatever that might be) is “a miracle pill in a bottle.”  Protandim ( a secret mix of phytochemicals) turns back the clock.  TA-65 (made from Chinese herbs) is the secret to cellular youth.  No, wait: carnosine is the fountain of youth.  And don’t forget resveratrol.  You’ve heard about the miraculous power of this pill (derived from red wine) to rejuvenate you head to foot.

It’s not just internet hucksters who are promoting these “get young quick” approaches.  The way mainstream media, even – gasp – the New York Times, reports on scientific findings also fans the flames.  A study showing the possibility of the potential of promise (you get the idea) gets major coverage.  Never mind that the youthenizing substance in question showed its promise in a Petri dish.  Just yesterday, the Times reported on “New Optimism” on resveratrol. It’s actually the same as the old optimism.  Lab-based studies have been intriguing for years.  Person-based studies, not so much.

That old if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true rule stands. I’ve just spent a year and a half doing deep research, interviewing both established medical scientists and veteran holistic practitioners, following up internet hyperbole, scouring peer reviewed journals – and trying some of this stuff myself.

There is promising research.  There are supplements, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that appear to have some age-reversing affects.  In the lab.  In lab rats.  Worms.  Flies.  There’s very little solid, large-scale, placebo-controlled, double-blind testing in humans.  If you want to be smart about your Miracle Pill purchases, if you want to track the latest in good, scientific evidence, I suggest clicking over to this site. But mostly I’d suggest stopping the search for a miracle and starting to live the kind of active, health-conscious life, a rich intellectual, creative – even spiritual life — that will, in fact, increase vitality and turn back the biological clock.

March 13, 2013   No Comments

Anti-aging clothes? Really?

copperCan clothes make you younger?

I don’t mean dressing hip, or nipping and tucking with Spanx.  I mean clothes that reverse the signs of aging.

Here’s the hype:

WearRepair, a line of leggings, tanks and shirts, claims to reduce wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation (aka age spots), and improve overall skin texture.  The magic ingredient is copper oxide engineered into the fabric. Presumably, cooper oxide stimulates the production of capillaries and collagen (the connective tissue that supports the skin), the same process touted by many anti-aging beauty facial cremes.  Huffpost, The Gloss, NYC radio and Rachel Ray have fueled the hype.

Looking for proof, are you?

The Rachel Ray show did a 30-day trial with her audience, members of which reported that they saw significant decrease in age spots after the second week.

Okay, I said, like, proof, as in some research, some scientific evidence?

The benefits of copper peptides for tissue regeneration (particularly effective in healing wounds and skin lesions) were discovered back in the 1970s when they were widely tested and documented with clinical evidence.  Theoretically, it is possible that intact skin might react in healing ways.  But there is very little research on the cosmetic and anti-aging use of cooper.  And none (except for Rachel Ray’s audience) on cooper-infused clothing.

Best way clothing can prevent premature aging?  Wear it to protect your skin against sun exposure.  Tanned skin is damaged skin.

February 13, 2013   No Comments