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What’s the Deal With Plant Stem Cells in Skincare?

Stem cells. Scientific marvel, vital component of all living things and… breakthrough skincare ingredient? So it would seem! If you’ve spent any time browsing the beauty aisles recently, you’re likely seeing plant stem cells popping up as a major power player.

But are they really worth your attention? Yes, with a few caveats.

read on. 

Stem Cells: The Basics

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The Science of Stem Cells

All living things have stem cells; undifferentiated cells from which all other specialized cells are created. Blood cells, muscle cells, brain cells - they all come from stem cells. Plus, these “mother cells” can regenerate and divide in a way that specialized cells simply can’t.

Because of these abilities, stem cells have always had a ton of important medical purposes. Researchers use and study human stem cells to:

  • Help them understand how diseases occur
  • Potentially replace diseased cells. See, stem cells can be guided into becoming specific types of cells, and these new healthy cells can be used to replace diseased or damaged cells and tissues. This could potentially help with conditions like burns, aging, and even major diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
  • Test new drugs for safety and quality

The problem? There’s a lot of debate and controversy around extracting human stem cells - particularly embryonic stem cells - and using them for treatments. That’s why, for skincare purposes, scientists turned to stem cells extracted from plants and fruit.

Plant Stem Cells and Skincare

In adult humans, stem cells generally work in response to a wound stimulus (aka if you hurt yourself). Plant stem cells, on the other hand, are much more active. In fact, many experiments showed that plants like carrots can completely regrow themselves from just one stem cell. That’s some powerful stuff!

So how do these plant stem cells work in skincare? Well, normal skin cells die super frequently (approximately every month). What’s more: during that month, these cells are consistently facing damage from things like

  • UV rays
  • Poor nutrition
  • Free radicals
  • Environmental pollutants

All of these damaging factors increase the risk of cell damage and harmful mutations - which age alone can contribute to. Over time, all of this leads to visible signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, lack of collagen, and texture concerns.

The idea, then, is that plant stem cells can come in and provide antioxidant and rejuvenating benefits to those tired and damaged cells, ultimately helping to create healthy cells and youthful-looking skin.

So do they actually work? Well, there havebeen some studies that show positive results:

And the list goes on.

Plant Stem Cells: The Fine Print

That said, it’s important to point out a few things to be a smart stem cell consumer. 

You're Not Dealing With Live Cells 

First - the stem cells found in cosmetics are never alive. They're exposed to stimulating factors - like UV radiation or toxic substances - and broken open to get the benefits in a cosmetic formula.

This is necessary. If they weren't broken open, the antioxidant and rejuvenating components wouldn’t be accessible. The benefits, then, actually  come from antioxidants and active extracts found within the cells - so don’t anyone trick you into thinking you’re dealing with live cells.

Also, pay attention to the type of stem cells used and the process that the particular company uses, since that matters too. Done incorrectly, and you're basically just dealing with snake oil. 

Second, it's important for you to keep in mind that these studies are small, so their results are still not universally accepted.`That said, stem cells won’t hurt, so you can always give them a try.

Look For Complementary Ingredients

The good news? Whether stem cells are 100% proven to work, they definitely don’t hurtthe skin. And they’re usually fond in formulations that have all kinds of other great-for-your skin ingredients, including:

So look for this kind of ingredient list if you want to get the most bang for your buck. 

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