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Posts tagged 'plant stem cells'

Plant Stem Cells in Skincare

By Arthur W. Perry, MD September 7, 2019 No comments

© 2019 Arthur W. Perry, MD, FACS

One of the newest trends in skincare is the use…or alleged use…of plant stem cells. There are many dozens of moisturizers, serums, perfumes, “firming” creams, masks, and other products that claim to use plant stem cells to improve appearance.

Plants produce a myriad of chemicals that allow exposure to ultraviolet light blasting sunshine for many hours without developing DNA damage.  Many of the chemicals are pigmented antioxidants – chemicals like: 

  • green sulforaphane, isocyanate, indoles, and chlorophyll in broccoli 
  • red lycopenes in raspberries
  • purple and blue anthocyanins in berries, 
  • orange and yellow beta cryptothanxin in carrots
  • brown flavonoids in mushrooms
  • white allicin in onions and garlic
  • orange carotenoids in tomatoes
  • and red phenolics in citrus, blue beta-cyan and red betalain in beets, and yellow beta-xanthin in Swiss chard.   

A healthy diet should include a wide variety of colored fruits and vegetables, giving us a wide variety of protective antioxidants.  The chemicals are made by cells in roots, stems and leaves and can be made in larger quantities by special stem cells, under the right conditions.  These cells allow plants adapt to stresses by producing extra protective chemicals.

There are many studies proving skin can look younger and more attractive after applying a variety of plant based antioxidants and substances like Vitamins A and C, niacinamide, and fruit acids.  But the million dollar question is whether plant stem cells be helpful to humans?  To function, they would first have to be alive. Think about how lettuce turns brown after just a few days.  So how could stem cells survive the process of being isolated from a plant and being squirt into bottles that sit on store shelves for months in the heat of summer? In fact, no product actually contains live plant stem cells.  Those that imply that on the label are exaggerating at best.  You might call this fraud, but I’ll try to keep the high road. Giving companies the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that they use “stem cell extract” - a mixture of all sorts of chemicals that plant stem cells might produce.  Like all of those pigmented antioxidants listed above and good things like vitamins A, C, and E.  

Products with genuine stem cell extracts use a wide variety of substances created by plants.  These chemicals might be useful and they might be useless – it depends on what they are, their concentration, a bunch of complicated chemical factors, and the time of the day that they are applied.  One thing is an absolute certainty:  they cannot be better than the individual chemical ingredients they contain.  And another thing is also certain: “stem cell extracts” have no known benefits that have been studied under rigorous scientific conditions.

So the bottom line? Stick to products with proven science or you will simply be throwing out your money.  

Plant stem cells in skin creams

By Arthur W. Perry, MD, FACS December 12, 2013 6 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 work...in 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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