Stem cells have made headlines in the scientific and medical realms for over a decade, and with good reason. Some can grow into any type of cell in the body. The therapeutic potential is staggering, and researchers are working towards using stem cells to treat everything from diabetes to spinal cord injuries.
More recently, “stem cell” has emerged as a cosmetics industry buzzword, cropping up in product names, claims and ingredient lists. Stem cells seem ideal for anti-aging skincare, and “stem cell” products allude to stimulating the skin to grow new, younger cells and reverse wrinkling.
Despite products with names such as Stem Cell Therapy and StemCellin, or ingredients that include “stem cell extract” and “stem cell conditioned media,” none of the beauty creams actually contain stem cells. And, none are proven to affect your own stem cells.
So, what’s going on here? What’s in these products, if not stem cells? YouBeauty explains what’s inside, why it could be dangerous and how stem cell beauty companies are skimping on science.
Meet the Stem Cells
Before we delve into the beauty creams, a brief biology lesson. Stem cells come in several varieties: embryonic (ESC), adult (ASC), induced pluripotent (iPSC) and human parthenogenetic (hpSC). All can develop into other cell types, or differentiate, but not all are created equal. And, just two relate to stem cell beauty products.
In research, ESCs come from embryos that are made from an egg fertilized outside the body, in vitro. Embryos develop from just a small cluster of cells into an entire body, thus ESCs have the potential to differentiate into nearly all cell types, from brain to heart to liver. This quality, called pluriopotency, means they could potentially be used to treat any type of diseased or injured organ or tissue.
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