Do stem cell creams really work?

With competition rife for sales in the beauty industry, marketing departments of beauty companies are all vying for your dollars, promising instant anti aging in a bottle.

Unfortunately in my 33 years in the industry, I still have yet to find such a product – it takes constant regular repetitive daily care to actually achieve any results, plus some highly active regular facial treatments.

There are are a constant stream  of promises being made, of amazing ingredients which will ‘turn back the hands of time’. One of latest of these being Stem Cells.

A few years ago they were introduced with great excitement, claiming to regenerate the skin, achieving significant anti-ageing effects. To many this sounded quite scary, but to most, it sounded like a solution! Encouraged by promises of younger looking skin, we have lapped up stem cell research in beauty ever since, putting more money in the cosmetic company’s pockets.

Biochemist Danne Montague-King founder of DMK skincare, says that “the latest variety of stem cell therapy hoaxes that have abounded for a few years now, and despite enormous testing and research to the contrary, have flourished”. Hoaxes being the operative word!

Founder of Zelens skincare, plastic surgeon and internationally renowned expert in the field of skin cancer and skin ageing, Dr Marko Lens says “Stem cell technology used in medicine is completely different from the stem cell technology used in cosmetics.”

“First of all let’s define the word ‘stem cell’. In human physiology: stem cells are pluripotent cells with high self-renewal capacity and multi-lineage differentiation ability. This means that the stem cell can be developed in any kind of cell of the body,” points out Lens.

“In the epidermis of the skin specifically there are so-called epidermal stem cells located in basal layer of epidermis, sebaceous gland and hair follicle bulge region. They are essential for  skin repair and regeneration. However, they are highly sensitive (vulnerable) to external factors. In medicine however, human stem cells are harvested from the tissues and grown in special cultures and then used -injected in to the body-tissues.”

But in skincare, these cells are not human, they originate from plants. They are taken from the stem of the plant which means that the word stem cells is correct in so saying that the cells come from the stem from the plant – but it is not the same as stem cells in the human body.

We are not talking about human cells, but extracts from the cells which are obtained from extraction of the plant cells using a process of high pressure homogenisation. This means that these actual plant cells are dead cells! They in actual fact are not really anymore active than natural plant extracts.

“It is in fact misleading for consumer,” Lens points out.

“The truth of it is that stem cell products using plant stem cells are not hi-tech. “All we are talking about products containing simple plant extracts,” Lens warns.

Louise Hoban, Biotechnologist and Formulator at David Deans Skincare says “In my professional opinion I cannot see how plant stem cells will have any more benefit to the skin then freshly squeezed apple juice in a cream. This is because stem cells require inch perfect conditions with strict monitoring for stem cells to remain active, I cannot see how these conditions can be maintained in a cream or serum”

Eminent Australian stem cell expert Professor John Rasko describes it as “not even plausible” that a stem cell from an apple or a plant would have any benefit on a human skin, “or anywhere else for that matter.”

There are now skincare products out there which contain Non embryonic stem cells, which are harvested from human cells. Although there has been amazing success in using stem cell therapy injections  – these treatments use the person’s own stem cells, not someone else’s as there is a high chance of stem cell rejection. So if doctors need to use a person’s own stem cells to get results, what makes us think that applying another human’s stem cells in a cream will work?

If you really want to make a difference to your skin, you are better off using a skincare product which contains Peptides. When collagen is depleted by age and environmental factors, including sunlight, it is not fully replaced. As a result, smooth, young skin slowly becomes thinner and wrinkled over time. As collagen deteriorates, it produces certain peptides.  These peptides send a message to your skin that it has lost collagen and needs to generate more. When peptides are applied topically, your skin thinks that it’s a collagen break down product and that your body needs to manufacture new collagen.

But this subject is another blog post!

So simply – when it comes down to it, I agree with the what the team from David Dean’s Skincare say when someone gets excited about buying a product which contains stem cells “Why would you want to look like a carrot?”

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