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Plant stem cells in skin creams

By Arthur W. Perry, MD, FACS December 12, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

As you are deluged with advertisements for various skin care products, you might come across those that advertise "plant stem cells".  What the heck are these, you might ask...and why are they in my skin care products?

The companies that say they use these ingredients make all sorts of claims that these provide miraculous changes to the skin.  Here's the truth...

It is impossible to put plant stem cells in skin care products.  Stem cells are living material and if they could be isolated and added to your product, they would certainly die during processing.  But no company is really trying to add live cells...or any cells at all.  

Here's the science behind this scam....

Plants are powerhouses that make all sorts of chemicals to protect themselves from the environment.  Since they can not walk out of the blistering sunshine and find the shade of a neighboring tree, they need to produce their own sunblock.  That's why plants have such deep and rich colors.  Those colors are the sunblocks and antioxidants that protect plants from UV damage.  Plants also have evolved protections against heavy metals that might be in the soil.  

Many of those chemicals are concentrated in the "stem cells" of those plants...(no stem cells are NOT the cells in plant stems, but some companies seem to have forgotten that one, too...).  So, if stem cells are isolated from the remainder of the plant cells and the chemicals they produce are concentrated and collected, this concoction is called the "stem cell extract".  That is what many of these companies allegedly put into their skin care products.

Now, when we look at these extracts, three questions come up...  First - what is the concentration of the extract in the product and second - what is the mix of chemicals in the extract, and third - do those chemicals actually do something for your skin...

Since stem cell extracts are a virtually nebulous concept and since no company will divulge how much of these they actually put into their products, you, the consumer, are left with many questions...and empty wallets if you purchase.

I prefer to use real ingredients with many scientific papers documenting that they actually do real clinical situations.  That means that when you squirt that stuff onto your hands and rub it into your face, you can expect real results.  

I'm all for the advancement of science, but consumers need to beware that fraud lurks on many shelves...even in the fanciest of stores...

(C) 2013 Arthur W. Perry, MD

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Tammy K. February 5, 2016 at 10:27 PM Reply
Hi Dr. Perry,
I have had bags under my eyes from childhood. I have seen the study results from Eyeseryl Acetyl Tetrapeptide-5, which supposedly reduces the puffiness under eyes. Is this true? Would you consider including this in your own product? I am considering purchasing an eye cream or serum that contains this if it works but dont want to be duped of course. Curious on what you have found. Any assistance appreciated.
Arthur Perry May 8, 2016 at 5:30 PM Reply
Just saw your post - sorry about the delay. This is a "tetrapeptide" and as such it has very limited scientific data. In fact there are no publications in peer reviewed scientific literature that says this chemical does anything for intact skin. One study indicates that when injected, it is beneficial and the other study shows it may help cells in tissue culture. It is a BIG stretch to put this in skin care products and expect it can do anything. And if it did, I would surprised if it could actually help the eyelids since their aged appearance is due to fat, excess skin, wrinkles, and pigment. I only use PROVEN ingredients in my products.
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Arthur Perry July 6, 2018 at 9:58 PM Reply
Thanks for your comments. I only wish the system would inform me when your comments come in. Just saw this!
AdvikDev May 31, 2018 at 11:04 AM Reply
The information was to a great degree helpful it's to a great degree valuable and covers each one of the points.

Arthur Perry July 6, 2018 at 9:59 PM Reply
I keep hearing those commercials on the radio for skincare with plant stem cells! When will the FDA take notice of this fraud?