Stem Cells in Skin Care: What They Do and How They Work …

By daniellenierenberg

If you think light therapyis a high-tech way to heal your skin, wait until you hear about this trending skin care ingredient thats going to sound incredibly brilliant: stem cells.

Dermatologists have turned to stem cells to fight wrinkles and improve skin turnover and overall appearance. Yep, you heard right. Stem cells, the same ones used in innovative medical research to treat Alzheimers and certain types of cancer, are now being sold over the counter in the form of creams, serums and other skin care products. Except theres one major difference here: These stems cells are usually derived from plants (or occasionally animals). However, they work similarly to human stem cells and may offer anti-aging benefits for your skin.

Human stem cells are unique because of their ability to divide. In certain organs, they can even become specialized to repair and replace damaged tissues. Stemcellsare rapidly dividingcellsin the body that have the ability to give rise to morestemscellsor become other types ofcellswith more specialized function, explains Dr. Sejal Shah, board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor in New York City. Plant stem cells serve similar functions, she says.

Both plant and human stem cells contain proteins and amino acids, adds Dr. Michele Green, board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor in New York City. These signal the bodys cells to rejuvenate and may result in younger-looking skin, she says.

As mentioned above,stemcellscontain amino acids and peptides, which are skin care powerhouse ingredients for skin rejuvenation. These are the building blocks forcellrejuvenation, so over the past few years, there have been a variety of both animal- and plant-basedstemcellsin skin care products, explains Green. Stemcellsnaturally have antioxidant properties and they nourish skincellswhich promotescell turnover and increases collagen production.

This could result in fewer lines and wrinkles, improved skin texture and tone, and younger, better-looking skin, she says.

But keep in mind, its not actually living stem cells that youre seeing in your face cream, Shah notes. Most cell skin care products contain plant stem cells, and more specifically, stem cell extracts. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, though. She says these extracts are often rich in antioxidants and may provide growth factors to help renew and repair the skin. The extracts themselves can benefit the skin, but its not accurate to think that part of this type of product will then become a new skincell. Remember, plantcellscannot become humancells,and they are no longer living once they have been processed and added into skin care.

Dr. Eve Lupenko, board-certified dermatologist at Greenberg Cosmetic Surgery in New York City, is starting to use treatments containing plant-derived stem cells in her practice. The reason why we prefer to use plant stem cells is that you dont have to worry about transmitting human and animal diseases, she says. We are seeing plant-based stem cells in skin care products these days because they repair the skin on a cellular level (a much deeper level). Most regular skin care products dont penetrate into those areas of the actual skin cells.

The efficacy of stem cells in skin care depends on who you ask. Some dermatologists like Lupenko swear by them. Stem cells have the potential to repair skin cells, and they also protect your skin from external factors and create a more youthful look, she says. They go into the skins cellular level, and they are able to deliver moisture and reparative agents to where they need to go.

Others arent convinced about why exactly stem cells are suddenly buzzing in the skin care world. They can be rich in antioxidants and often contain hydrators and moisturizers, so they can be good for the skin, Shah says. But do I think they are more effective than non-stem cell products? Not necessarily.

Green sees the potential in using stem cells in conjunction with other treatments. The products work, however, you can improve the benefits dramatically with other procedures such as the Fraxel laser, thermage, injectable fillers, botox and PRP, a mix of micro-needling with platelet-rich plasma.

If youre interested in trying out stem cells, work with your dermatologist to determine which products would work best for your skin, recommends Lupenko. Its important to use them regularly if youd like to see results, she says.

And even though you might find some stem cell products derived from animals, Green recommends sticking with plant-based stem cells. Theres more research in their efficacy, she says.

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