Skincare 101

Stem Cells

What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells exist in plant and animal organisms. Stem cells are “undifferentiated” cells meaning that they do not have an assigned role yet. Once a cell becomes differentiated it can become a heart cell, a skin cell, a brain cell and it will always be that type of cell.

Stem cells are able to unlimited number of divisions but the differentiated cells have a lifespan. “The lifespan of a differentiated cell is limited to a set number of divisions (50 times) and this cell division is necessary for growth and repair. For example, when you cut your skin, skin cells must divide to replace those that were lost. These divisions are limited, so if you cut your skin in the same spot every month, eventually your skin will not be able to repair itself in that spot like it once was able to do; this is called “senescence”. Sometimes environmental factors such as UV ray might cause the senescence to happen much earlier.”

Unlike prior belief, stem cells are present in the adult body, and can be stimulated to make new cells and repair skin tissues. The skin has its own sources of stem cells which are located in dermis, hair bulge and in the deepest layer of epidermis. Since the differentiated cells are regularly shedding off the skin epidermal stem cells need to continuously make and deliver newly differentiating cells. Epidermal stem cells regenerate the outer epidermis layer and dermal stem cells regenerate the skin’s fibroblasts, which are responsible to produce the collagen & elastin, two of the most important natural wrinkle-fighters in the skin!

Skin aging is the result of decrease in the “quantity” or “quality” of skin stem cells meaning that the stem cells become tired and worn-out by age and their activity decrease, therefore boosting their activity is believed to help prevent as well as reverse skin aging. 

How cell-infused skincare benefit the skin
Stem cell-infused skincare might be able to slow down skin aging by:

a. Stimulating epidermis or dermis stem cells to produce more differentiated skin cells (regeneration).
*Stem cells require growth factors in order to work because growth factors tell stem cells what to do!
b. Strengthening and protecting human stem cells and preventing premature senescence.

Different perspectives on using stem cells for cosmetic purposes 

After reading so many papers, I found quite different perspectives on plant and human stem cells used in skincare:

1. Some clinical studies have proven that using human stem cells after in-office procedures could help rejuvenating the skin. There are even brands now that are infusing human stem cells into topical skincare products and all of them are backed up by some sort of clinical trials. Researcher and dermatologists in this group certainly believe in the anti-aging power of human stem cells. They claim that they encapsulate extracted stem cell proteins inside nanospheres to ensure the proteins remain active in the stem cell skin care.

2. The second group are sure that the human stem cells can not stay alive, be delivered efficiently or do anything for the skin! and even if it actually works it could be very dangerous! in 2012, a woman who underwent a stem cell facelift in Beverly Hills started to grow bones on her eyelid! why? well stem cells are blank cells and all of a sudden they’ve decided to become bone cells instead of fat cells!!! 

*The FDA still does not approve of cosmetic stem cell products or their procedures, and this is because there has not been enough time to do enough studies on their safety or efficacy. 

3. The third group believe in the power of Plant stem cells. The Plant stem cells in skincare products are not alive stem cells but they have substantial antioxidant activity, “proven to protect human skin stem cells from UV-induced oxidative stress, inhibit inflammation, neutralize free radicals, reverse the effects of photo-aging and help to preserve the youth of the skin cells by directly influencing cell regeneration and preserving the extra-cellular matrix.”

For cosmetic purposes, plant stem cells are reproduced in cell cultures. The best extracts can be obtained from the stem cells of the plants which have been habitants in difficult environmental conditions or they have the ability to “heal” other plants. Plant cells grown as liquid suspension cultures can be used as “biofactories” for the production of secondary metabolites. “Secondary metabolites are those compounds that support the survival activities in plants. The grown stem cells are exposed to high pressure, and then to cell membrane digestion and the release of its contents to the substrate. These metabolites are concentrated in the plasma of the stem cells.”  

Actives found in Plant stem cells and their benefits for skin:

1. Antioxidants: they prevent collagen breakdown and protect the skin cells from oxidative stress, UV ray and heavy metal-induced damage. The extracts obtained from plant stem cells are excellent sources of antioxidant compounds, such as polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, triterpenes, carotenoids.

2. Anti-aging substances: to boost the activity of the stem cells, stimulate skin regeneration and prevent stem cells from premature senescence. Some substances with regenerating properties are signaling proteins and peptides, like cytokines and chemokines. “A cytokine called Kinetin which is found in high concentrations in some plant stem cells  and is natural growth factor is one of the strongest inhibitors of aging process in human cells”.  For instance, Dr. LEVY Switzerland® has discovered that the stem cell extract from the roots of Argan tree is the best activator & vitalizer of human dermal stem cells.

Different companies use different cell culture technologies for production of these active cosmetic ingredients.

Companies in the cosmetic industry producing and doing research on plant stem cells:
Mibelle AG Biochemistry company (Switzerland)
Active Concepts LLC (USA)
Sandream Impact LLC (USA)
Akott Evolution S.R.L. (Italy)
Biocosmethic (France)
Infinitec (Spain)
Innova BM (Bulgaria)
In vitro Plant-tech AB (Sweden)
Sederma (Croda Personal Care, United Kingdom)
Provital Group (Spain)
Natural Bio‐Materials (NBM) Inc (Korea)
Naolys (France)
Phenbiox SRL (Italy)
Vitalab s.r.l. (Arterra Bioscience s.r.l, Italy)
Vytrus Biotech (Spain)

Brands using stem cells:
Sarah Chapman
Dr. Levy Switzerland
FactorFive
Rodial
Acure
MZSKin
Obagi
Zelens
AnteAGE MD
Kindred Skincare Co. Serum Magique
Skin Design London Alpine Rose Glow
AlphaH
Nurse Jamie
Swisscode Bionic
Juice Beauty
W=hb2
Ayuna

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