Ingredient Spotlight: Stem Cells in Skincare

It is no secret that stem cells in skincare have become all the rage. South Korea, a leader in stem cell research, has become a trendsetter in functional stem cell based anti-aging products. Stem cells have been shown to help in recovering skin health, skin regeneration, and delaying aging of skin cells. But because the technology is still fairly recent, stem cells are not as widely-known and used as an ingredient in skincare. Team Eunogo is here to help decipher the terminology and explain the latest in stem cell advancements in beauty.  Let’s get started:

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are, essentially, the building blocks of your body - the raw materials that get purposed for specific functions and also serve as a way to repair the body (in our case specifically, skin). The other special quality stem cells have is the ability to divide over and over again to produce new cells. Those new cells can either keep dividing, or can develop into specialized cells. For example, several labs around the world are working on using stem cells to grow new skin for burn victims. 

Are All Stem Cells the Same?

In short, no. First we can look at the two main sources for stem cells: animal and plant.  Animal stem cells can come both from humans and other animals, while plants are self explanatory and in skincare usually refer to botanical sources already commonly found in skincare. In both cases (plant and animal) the stem cells are generally used in skincare to generate cell turnover.  

Is there a difference in human stem cells?

Yes! There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic/umbilical and adult.  Embryonic stem cells supply new cells for an embryo as it develops into a full grown baby and are pluripotent, meaning, they can change into any cell in the body. Adult stem cells cells supply new cells as an organism grows and to replace cells that get damaged. Adult stem cells are multipotent, which means they can only change into some cells in the body, not any cell like the embryonic ones. Research on both types of stem cells is useful to help understand how bodies and cell systems grow, develop, and repair or replace themselves once they are damaged.

How Are Stem Cells Harvested?

Plant stem cells are harvested through plant cell culture technology, where new and undifferentiated cells are taken from the inner stems and then, like animal cells, multiplied in a laboratory setting. Plant stem cells are cultured in labs away from pollution and pesticides so that scientists have more control over the quality and quantity of whatever anti-aging quality they are looking to produce.  

Embryonic stem cells are harvested from embryos that are three to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells.  These embryos are usually donated with consent from the donors from in-vitro fertilization clinics which created, but did not implant the embryos in a uterus.  These stem cells then grow/divide in special solutions inside a petri dish.  Umbilical stem cells are usually collected at birth, through umbilical cord clamping, and are also donated with consent for scientific research purposes. 

Adult stem cells are transformed into stem cells using genetic reprogramming. Before you say, “Wait a minute, why don’t we just use the reprogrammed adult cells for all the research,” you have to remember that adult stem cells are not pluripotent, and therefore cannot be used for a multitude of functions. Additionally, adult stem cells may be prone to environmental hazards such as toxins, or errors in the cell DNA during replication.  

How Ethical Is This?

Guidelines for human stem cell research have been in place since 2009, but the ethical component usually applies to embryonic stem cells. The guidelines define embryonic stem cells and how they may be used in research, and include recommendations for the donation of embryonic stem cells. Also, the guidelines state embryonic stem cells from embryos created by in vitro fertilization can be used only when the embryo is no longer needed.  

The ethical question comes into play when talking about beliefs about when life begins. For those who believe that life begins at conception, the fact that the harvesting of embryonic stem cells also destroys an embryo means that a life has been destroyed. 

Why Are We Seeing Stem Cells in Skincare?

Functional derma cosmetics are a multi-billion dollar industry, and when research indicates that stem cell based therapies and skincare does, indeed, improve and show a significant difference in skin moisture content, trans-epidermal water loss (loss of water through your top layer of skin), and improvement in the appearance of wrinkles, you better believe that cosmetics companies sit up and pay attention. 

In South Korea, much attention was paid to cosmetic raw materials using human stem cells as a new growth engine at the end of the 2000s, and continue today.  In fact, there are several derma-cosmetic brands that lead the forefront of this technology.  Accordingly, the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety implemented strict Regulations on Cosmetic Safety Standards, which contain the safety standards of human-derived cell and tissue culture as raw materials for cosmetics.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Research and Development for these products is very time consuming and expensive, so the costs trickle down to the pricing of the actual functional products. Hopefully, as the technology continues to advance and become more mainstream, the price will become more and more accessible.  

Team Eunogo Recommends:

XOUL is a K-beauty brand that specializes in cosmetics infused with Stem Cell Technology. Stem cell culture fluid has been proven to have various effects and results and has attracted a lot of attention and popularity as an ingredient for cosmetics. XOUL Cosmetic makes high-end stem cell cosmetics readily available to consumers.  XOUL Ever Moist Lip Balm is made with stem cell technology and volufiline, a natural ingredient found in lip filler.  

AOSA is a Korean cosmetic company and their Cell Bio Cosmetic Line uses the Transdermal Delivery System to effectively deliver good ingredients to the deeper layers of the skin.  The AOSA Dermarssance Miracle Infusion Dual Cream contains Wrinkle Care cream with 5,000PPM stem cell solution and a gel texture, and Nourishing cream, with 40,000PPM stem cell solution and velveteen texture. 

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