With competition frantic for sales in the beauty industry, marketing departments of major beauty brands are busy vying for your dollar, and are lately even promising to deliver the ‘anti-ageing’ effects of stem cells in a convenient take-home bottle.

Though unfortunately, during my 33 years in the beauty industry, I have not come across such a product. It takes constant, repetitive daily care to actually achieve any results, plus some highly active regular facial treatments. There are a stream of promises being made – of amazing ingredients which will turn back the hands of time – one of latest being stem cells.

The wonderous effects of stem cells were introduced with great excitement only a few years ago, claiming to regenerate the skin, achieving significant anti-ageing effects. There was fear in many, but to most, it sounded like a dream solution. Encouraged by promises of younger looking skin, we have lapped up their claims ever since, pouring money into the pockets of large cosmetic companies.

Biochemist Danne Montague-King founder of DMK Skin Care states, ‘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 renowned expert in the fields of skin cancer and skin ageing, Dr. Marko Lens (UK) 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.

‘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 to external factors. In medicine however, human stem cells are harvested from the tissues and grown in special cultures and then 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, rendering the word stem cells incorrect in so saying that the cells come from the stem from the plant – but are not the same as stem cells in the human body.

These cells are extracted by a process of high pressure homogenisation. This means the plant cells are actually dead cells, and are no more 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,’ he informs.

Louise Hoban, Biotechnologist at David Deans Skincare states, ‘In my professional opinion, I cannot see how plant stem cells can have any more benefit to the skin then freshly squeezed apple juice in a cream. Stem cells require inch perfect conditions with strict monitoring to remain active. How these conditions can be maintained in a jar of cream or serum?’

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 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 person’s stem cells in a cream will work on us?

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, which send the message 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.

Simply put, I have to agree with the team from David Dean’s when they respond to somebody excited about a product containing stem cells – ‘Why would you want to look like a carrot?’




Yvette Van Schie is a make-up artist and holistic positive ageing beauty therapist, beauty and health writer and holistic ageing speaker, from the Southern Highlands in NSW. She also runs
the blog Ethix Beauty, and is currently working on her first book on Menopausal health.