Stem cells are the hottest buzz in skincare right now. Touted as a miracle breakthrough, they promise to rejuvenate skin, regenerate cells, repair elastin, boost collagen, and reduce wrinkles. No wonder so many women are tempted to try them! But should they? Let’s see what science says:
What are stem cells?
Stem cells, both in plants and animals, are mother cells that have the potential to become any type of cell in that organism. They can then reproduce more of those cells. This means they could be used to grow organs for transplants and treat all sorts of diseases.
Skincare-wise, they could be used to get rid of wrinkles and scars. By taking some of your stem skin cells and grow them in a lab, scientists could create new patches of your own skin and use them to rid your face and body of any imperfections. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
All of this is, however, a long way in the future. Stem cells research is still in its infancy. But that hasn’t stopped cosmetic brands from putting them into their creams and marketing them as miracle products that can reverse ageing. The truth is quite different. Stem cells in skincare just can’t work as claimed. Here’s why:
Stem cells must be alive to work
Stem cells only work as stem cells if they are alive. When they are added to creams and lotions, they are already dead. And, if not, they would soon be. Any living organism needs both food and the right environment to thrive. As The Beauty Brains explain, stem cells “would have to have a special growth medium and be kept at a specific temperature. They would need to be refreshed with food too. Stem cell containing creams are not created as such.”
Plant stem cells can’t improve skin function
But even if stem cells were alive and working, why would we want to use those derived from plants, like apples and melons? Stem cells, as mentioned above, have the potential to become any part of the organism they belong to.
So, plants stem cells can become branches, fruits, or leaves, but not skin cells! So how can they rejuvenate skin? They can’t. They are, however, a lot less expensive than human skin cells. That’s why apple or rice stem cells are more likely to be used in skincare.
Extracts from stem cells don’t work as stem cells
Some companies use extracts and components, such as peptides, derived from stem cells. Once made stable, they claim, these ingredients can work as stem cells or positively influence the adult stem cells naturally present in your skin.
That’s not true either. A stem cell, to function as such, must be intact. No single part of it can work in the same way. However, researchers are studying peptides and other ingredients, hoping to find a safe way in which they could be used to affect skin stem cells.
This research is still at the beginning too. Should it be successful, the resulting ingredient would work as a drug, not as a cosmetic. That means that it will require a longer period of testing before it can be approved, and even then it would probably be available only upon prescription.
Can stem cells penetrate skin?
Even if one day alive human skin cells could successfully be added to a cream, would they work when topically applied? Can they, on their own, penetrate the skin deep enough to provide any benefits? Would they need a particularly delivery system to aid penetration? So far, science hasn’t answered any of these questions.
So, are stem cells useless?
Stem cells aren’t yet the miraculous anti-ageing treatment they are touted to be, but they may have some benefits for the skin after all. Because stem cells used in skincare are mostly derived from plants, they may have antioxidant properties. So do many other ingredients, though, so this is not a good enough reason to invest in an expensive cream with stem cells.
The Bottom Line
One day scientists may find a way to use human stem cells to rejuvenate skin and fight premature ageing. But that day is a long way away. Till then, don’t waste money on creams with stem cells. They just don’t work as claimed.
Have you ever tried a cream with stem cells?