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The Role of Stem Cells in Beauty—Today and Tomorrow

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: August 31, 2011, from the September 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Stem cells, too, and the controversy surrounding them are a perfect example of how an industry can take advantage of the public exposure of a given technology. We benefited from this in two ways: an interest from a research standpoint that sparked a lot of new work and important findings, and an interest from a public relations standpoint that prepared consumers to listen to what we could tell them about stem cells and their importance in skin care development.

And we are still learning about the potential of stem cells. I attended the Journées Européennes de Dermocosmétique (JED) in Lyon, France, in February, 2011—an event dedicated to stem cells. The breadth of the material presented confirmed the importance of stem cells and the extraordinary progress the beauty industry has made working with them. It also showed how much terrain is covered when the words “stem cells” are used.

This is an opportunity to untangle this vast and exciting field and provide some answers to a few common questions, such as:

  • When using plant stem cells, is it really important to know that the active came from a plant stem cell or are the clinical benefits of the active more important?
  • Did these plant stem cells bring new benefits or have we been using them all along without really paying attention?
  • When talking about human stem cells, are we discussing the effect of the active on skin stem cells? Are these novel effects or just newly measured effects? Do they make a difference in what shows on the skin?
  • Do in vitro stem cell-based models really make a difference for the beauty industry, or are they just another way to bring fancy claims when nothing can be shown in the clinic?
  • Will the beauty industry ever use actual human stem cells or are they only a tool for the cosmetic surgery industry?
  • And what is the deal with stem cells applied to cosmetic and reconstructive surgery applications?

Some of these questions are not easy to answer. But the wide scope of work presented at the stem cell meeting organized by the Centre Européen de Dermocosmetique—whose reputation when it comes to the quality of the scientific meetings it organizes is undisputable—can provide a really good idea of the quality of the research that is conducted today and what roles stem cells play today and will play in the future of the beauty industry.

Here is a summary of what is done with stem cells in the industry today.

Plant Stem Cells