“In five years, guessing people’s ages will be very hard. We are all going to be 38.” These are the words of David Sampayo, a Spanish doctor specialized in hair surgery with offices in Madrid, Valencia and Ibiza. According to the expert, age codes are blurring so quickly that soon we will be 40-ish indefinitely. It will be the end of age groups. We will always be young adults of ambiguous age.
Dr. Sampayo, a self-confessed addict to hyaluronic acid and vitamin serums, says that he and several colleagues repeatedly examined the video of Brad Pitt —who is 59 and turning 60 in December — at this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. “We put it on a huge screen and paused it second by second. We looked at the cheekbones, the definition of the jaw, the hairline, the eyelids, the texture of the skin… we wanted to find out if he had been pricked and where.” However, the experts reached no consensus. “Very good genetics,” “He hasn’t gone under the knife yet,” “I can guarantee that he’s had growth hormone injected,” “Collagen regenerators,” were some of the verdicts.
“He gets a little bit in many places,” says dermatologist Juanma Revelles, director of the Le Boost clinic in Madrid, about Brad Pitt’s aesthetic strategy. In his opinion, the actor follows a comprehensive treatment with which his entire face changes gradually: “Neuromodulators in the forehead and between the eyebrows to soften wrinkles and relax the eyes; filler in the cheekbones to support the face and in the jaw to define it; radiofrequency to tighten the skin and reduce the nasolabial fold; and procedures to improve the texture and luminosity of the skin,” he lists.
In Revelles’ clinic, 20% of the procedures are now performed on men. This percentage is higher among the youngest, and it decreases as age increases. Sampayo’s offices men are legion. They can be seen discreetly waiting for their turn or connected to their vitamin C, magnesium and zinc serums as they do some remote work. “Before, we had to make sure they didn’t bump into each other at the clinic; now they arrive and greet each other,” says Sampayo, who specializes in hair loss.
In the United States, it is estimated that men underwent more than 13 million procedures just in 2022. Masculinization is the most popular treatment: “It consists in injecting fillers in the middle and lower third of the face [cheekbones, chin and jaw] to obtain a square, angular face,” explains Revelles. The second most popular procedure is hair grafts.
“Surgical facelifts are less and less requested; people are opting for non-invasive procedures such as Ultherapy, a technology that generates high-density focused ultrasound that penetrates up to 4.5 millimeters into the skin and improves the loose skin of the neck. It is very successful because it doesn’t hurt and its results are natural and long-lasting,” says dermatologist José María Ricart. In his office, he receives “cadaverous-looking” runners who want to recover the volume of their faces. “In the face, bone and fat are reabsorbed and there is sinking. One of the most critical areas is under the eyes and the area of the lower middle third because the fat component is lost, especially in extreme athletes,” explains Ricart.
Orthomolecular serum therapy, which entrusts almost all treatments to vitamins, minerals and amino acids, fascinates Sampayo, who admits that he himself is a “guinea pig” for his own mixtures. In the cocktails of vitamins, amino acids and minerals, which are administered intravenously, there is a base of high doses of vitamin C, magnesium sulfate, glutathione and a sulfur precursor to improve the skin. After that, they are customized: “Are you losing your hair? We put biotin and a little vitamin B5,” the doctor suggests, as an example.
The most extreme projects to reverse biological age are tested firsthand by biotechnological entrepreneurs who have several things in common: high availability of money, unwavering faith in a god called technology and fear of growing old and dying.
Robert Nielsen, 60, the main investor in Altos Labs, a San Francisco biotechnology company that researches cellular rejuvenation, is trying to “reset” his cells through epigenetic reprogramming, an experiment that has only been tested in mice in a well-known trial carried out in 2006 by Nobel Prize in Medicine Shinya Yamanaka. “The big question is, will this work in humans,” Nielsen told The Wall Street Journal. “At first blush, it seems too good to be true.”
Still, he has to follow an intricate routine to achieve it: he takes a dozen pills every day, including rapamycin (a known antitumor), metformin (a drug used for years by diabetics) and taurine (a natural nutrient whose production declines with age). He also has a full-body MRI done twice a year, visits the dermatologist every three months, and works out every day with an electrical stimulation suit to build muscle mass.
The case of biohacker and billionaire Bryan Johnson is even more extreme. He has invested $2 million in becoming 18 again. He is 45. His entire life revolves around what he calls the Blueprint project: he wakes up at 5:00 a.m. and eats his last meal of the day at 11: 00 a.m. In that time he should have consumed 2,250 calories without adding salt or sugar. He goes to bed at 8:30 p.m. He takes 111 pills, including zinc, turmeric and lithium. He works out every day between 45 and 60 minutes and plays tennis and basketball. He eats about 70 pounds of vegetables each month, especially broccoli, cauliflower, garlic and ginger. His daily meals include the Green Giant shake, with which he swallows 54 supplements including spermidine, creatine and collagen peptides. After 4:00 p.m. he does not consume any type of liquid so as not to disturb his sleep, and he uses a machine to strengthen his pelvic floor and prevent urinary incontinence. He recently told a podcast that he also used a vitamin cocktail and a red light therapy helmet to stimulate the scalp.
As he told Bloomberg, he uses seven facial creams every day, does a weekly acid peel, injects fat into his cheekbones and never sunbathes. Johnson considers himself “a professional rejuvenation athlete.” Two years and $2 million later, he is beginning to reap his first joys: his physical fitness tests are equivalent to those of an 18-year-old, the speed of his aging process has slowed down by 28% and, according to the measurements of his DNA, his epigenetic age — that of his cells — has regressed five years.
Trying to counteract the passage of time and aging may be an act of pride, discipline and sacrifice, but there is no turning back. We have changed. “Before,” reflects Sampayo, “people wanted to grow old with elegance and dignity. Now they just don’t want to grow old. And they are open to anything: pain, experimenting and asking for loans from the bank.”
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