The pursuit of younger-looking skin has led many to purchase anti-aging facial creams, supplements, and even costly facial procedures to mimic young skin. Recent advancements suggest that stem cells may be the anti-aging ingredient we were all looking for. It has been estimated that the global sales of personal care products in 2017 was about $630 billion (1).
Can a younger face bring you happiness?
The tale of the fountain of youth, a mystical spring that holds the ability to restore the youth to anyone who bathes in it, has been shared for many years with people wanting to find ways to obtain younger looking skin. Therefore, identifying new technology that can give positive results is beneficial to the consumers and the companies that make them. So, what new technology may provide us with the fountain of youth? It turns out it may be the cells that are already in us, stem cells. Stem cells are essentially self-renewing cells that give rise to various other cell types. Recently, stem cells have been marketed in the cosmetic industry for facial skin health benefits, as well as antioxidant properties and the ability to promote cell turnover to increase the production of important proteins, such as collagen (which is responsible for the structural support of the skin and helps the skin prevent wrinkles).
Stem cells have been suggested to have the ability to prevent oxidation, which hinders the skin’s natural repair process, as well as reduce inflammation and increase collagen. However, the potential of utilizing stem cells as a way to rejuvenate skin still is a growing topic in the research of skin care. To identify whether human stem cells have the ability to increase the strength or durability of skin, a study was performed to determine if signs of skin aging ,such as wrinkles, were improved (2). In this study, the method used to administer stem cells was facial microneedling. Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that injects the skin with very small sterilized needles. The benefits of this procedure are thought to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and skin imperfections. This method utilized media conditioned with secretory factors derived from mesenchymal stem cells, which are self-renewing cells present in umbilical cords and bone marrow. They can be isolated from human amniotic fluid and differentiate into the cell types osteoblasts, adipocytes and chondrocytes. This media has increased growth factors, chemokines and cytokines such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), transforming growth factor (TGF-β), interleukin (IL-6 and IL-8), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α), which play a role in wound healing. The production and secretion of growth factors from conditioned media have also been shown to stimulate both collagen synthesis and migration of skin fibroblast which improved wrinkling of the skin (3).
Another study with ten volunteers included male and female participants who were between 41 to 60 years old and showed facial aging. These volunteers displayed significant improvements after microneedling treatment of conditioned media compared to the pre-treatment state (4). The microneedling was achieved through the utilization of a derma roller which punctures the skin, and with stem cell conditioned media which is applied to the punctured skin layer. Improvements were apparent after five sessions of treatment, administered two weeks apart. Improvement evaluations included clinical and histological assessments by skin biopsies. This study improved crow’s feet wrinkles (which are found in the corners of the eyes) in all patients, improved skin texture in 70%, and forehead wrinkles in 50% of patients. Overall, this study had a small number of patients but provides supportive evidence towards the benefits of facial microneedling with stem cells, which is also supported by another study (5).
As research in the stem cell field advances, their applications will become more well defined, especially in the cosmetic industry. Current findings point towards the more widespread use of stem cells as a potential tool for facial rejuvenation in the future. However, larger cohorts and long-term longitudinal studies would be needed to provide more robust evidence. Additionally, as cosmetic applications, these treatments are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet, leaving room for unsafe and understudied practices at stem cell clinics. Furthermore, the long-term safety of using stem cells is not well documented. Reports of people getting rashes after taking stem cells are also present in the literature, suggesting that it may be premature to rush to your doctor to take injected stem cell treatments.
By Casiana Gonzalez, BS and Camilo Echeverria, BS. Edited by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD and Stephanie Palacio, PhD.
1. Kumar V. Perspective of natural products in skincare. (2016) Pharmacy and Pharmacology International Journal. 7;4(3).
2. Lee, HJ. et al., (2014) Efficacy of microneedling plus human stem cell conditioned medium for skin rejuvenation: a randomized, controlled, blinded split-face study. Ann. Dermatol. 26, 584–591.
3. Kim W-S, Park B-S, Sung J-H. (2009) Protective role of adipose-derived stem cells and their soluble factors in photoaging. Arch Dermatol Res. 301(5):329–336.
4. El-Domyati M, Moftah NH, Nasif GA, Ameen SW, Ibrahim MR, Ragaie MH. (2020) Facial rejuvenation using stem cell conditioned media combined with skin needling: A split-face comparative study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 19(9):2404-2410.
5. El-Domyati M, Abdel-Wahab H, Hossam A. (2018) Combining microneedling with other minimally invasive procedures for facial rejuvenation: a split-face comparative study. International J Dermatol. 2018 Nov;57(11):1324-1334.