I was recently asked by a patient: “What are stem cells and why are they showing up in skin care products”?
Stem cells have a great potential to transform into many different cells. A single stem cell can differentiate into a bone cell, muscle cell, skin cell, etc. They are the undifferentiated “center stem” from which all other differentiated cells branch off. Embryonic stem cell research was very controversial but now most stem cell research use adult cells which when exposed to certain enzymes releases large numbers of stem cells.
Why would you want to put stem cells on your skin? Theoretically and potentially they may play a role enhancing the production and migration of young skin cells from the deep epidermis. These young cells may replace visible aging skin cells and reverse the aging process. The skin will look youthful with more young skin cells on the surface.
Sounds too good to be true? In skin care products you get only extracts of plant stem cells. Live stem cells (plant or otherwise) will not survive the production process required of a skin care formulation. What is seen in “stem cell containing” skin care products is some key material from the stem cells and includes the antioxidants ferulic acid, quercetin, and ellagic acid.
At present, plant species stem cells probably do not influence human species skin cells. Plant stem cell extracts contain antioxidants that can be found in greater available concentrations in some already formulated skin care products which we have carried for years and many of you are presently using. Just add some hydrators and poof – stem cell technology at less cost.
Thomas J. Francel, M.D.