ASCP Skin Deep

MAY | JUNE 2016

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32 may/june 2016 expertadvice INGREDIENTS Fountain of Youth? Stem cells: an overview of the newest antiaging miracle ingredient by Susanne Schmaling In the last issue, you learned about the parts of a cosmetic formulation. Now let's take a look at an active ingredient that has become popular in recent years: stem cells. Stem cells are marketed in skin care products as an antiaging miracle ingredient. Is it true? Can stem cells actually affect the skin when applied topically? This is a science-heavy and somewhat controversial topic that requires more detail than can be discussed here, so I'll break it down into some simple concepts. For additional information, be sure to check out the references at the end of this column. WHAT IS A STEM CELL? To start, we need to define what stem cells are and how that may relate to an ingredient calling itself a stem cell. A simple definition comes from Merriam-Webster: "An unspecialized cell capable of perpetuating itself through cell division and having the potential to give rise to differentiated cells with specialized functions." How the stem cell perpetuates itself is dependent on how the DNA is expressed, which means that different types of organs and tissues are developed based on what the DNA code says. In this same manner, damaged DNA code can cause disease and organ malformation. WHERE IN THE SKIN ARE ADULT STEM CELLS LOCATED? Living adult stem cells are found in the bulb of the hair follicle and within the skin's basal layer and dermis. For a skin care product application, the focus is on epidermal stem cells only. Dermal stem cell treatments require deep penetration into the skin (a procedure that is out of scope for estheticians), which can cause unforeseen complications. 1 WHAT IS THE HYPOTHESIS FOR USING STEM CELLS? Adult stem cells can be damaged by disease, internal stress, and ultraviolet radiation. The theory is that using lab- created plant or human stem cells can protect and stimulate existing cells to repair the skin. We are born with a limited amount of stem cells, and the goal is to prolong their life and get them to continue the regeneration process (once a stem cell is damaged, it cannot replicate). The regeneration process is accomplished by using extracts such as epidermal growth factors, which have been shown to heal wounds and generate skin growth and repair. Claiming that a product is "using stem cells" is misleading. It's actually the factors extracted, such as antioxidants, cell-stimulating peptides, enzymes, and growth factors that make the ingredient work. Some skepticism with the performance of these products includes: • Stem cells, whether plant or human, must be alive in order to have any effect; using stem cells in a cream is not an effective way to keep these cells alive. 2 • Stem cells must be delivered deeply into the skin to be effective; this process turns a cosmetic into a drug. • Stem cell extracts, such as enzymes and growth factors, are sensitive to temperature and are hard to stabilize in a cosmetic formulation. For every argument that this ingredient works, there is one that says it will not. There is a lack of peer-reviewed in vivo (on live humans) studies that support the efficacy of this ingredient. Primarily, the claims of stem cell preservation and stimulation are the focus of most of the arguments.

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