Plant based stem cells have garnished avid attention in recent years. Their use in cosmetics, such as restoring skin creams, has become wildly popular. It’s important to note however, that the plant-based stem cells found in these products are living stem cells, but are actually the beneficial compounds found inside the stem cells! These are all the natural proteins, sugars, and growth factors that stem cells use to adapt and build new tissue. Understanding the difference between human stem cells and plant cell derivatives can help better illustrate the benefits of these types of products.
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Frontiers of Cosmetic Research
It’s important to note plant based stem cell research is fairly adolescent. One will find plant based stem cell products having already flooded onto the consumer cosmetics market. As the United States FDA states, “other than [spinal] cord blood for certain specific indications—there are no approved stem cell products.” For those with an eye on the natural products market, it’s almost common understanding that FDA approval seldom happens for non-pharmaceutical compounds. This isn’t to say non-spinal-derived stem cell products aren’t effective, just that the FDA hasn’t declared as much. Skincare and cosmetics are one of the largest health markets in the world and natural treatments such as collagen and Argan oil products have seen a large rise in popularity recently.
Understanding Stem Cells
For those that might not be up-to-date on current stem cell understandings, there are a few bits of info that can provide a fair understanding. Stem cells are different from other types of cells in the body in the following 3 major ways:
- Stem cells are capable of dividing for long periods of time
- Stem Cells are unspecialized
- Stem Cells can transform into specialized cells
These are simple notions, though work well to accurately describe the function and dynamics of stem cells. In the human body, stem cells are generated at sites where new tissue is required, such as muscle, nerve tissue, or epidermal structures like skin or hair. These cells are able to divide freely—an action not seen in other cells—and can eventually transforms into specialized cells to become permanent additions the human body. In a laboratory setting, a starter culture of stem cells can proliferate into a large quantify in a short period of time. In this manner, researchers are able to cultivate stem cells able to be used for certain types of therapies.
Stem cells derived from embryonic cells are regarded as being the most flexible in their ability to adapt. These are the most controversial types of stem cells, and require the destruction of the human embryo. All around the world however, licensed practitioners are using patient-derived stem cells for a range of cosmetic therapies such as face lifts, skin-tightening, and hair follicle rejuvenation. These types of therapies center on the notion that living stem cells can transform into new living tissues such as skin, hair, nerves, or even muscle tissue. Current plant-based stem cells products on the other hand, focus more on providing natural compounds such as proteins and growth factors to help facilitate this type of process naturally—as opposed to directly doing it.
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Plant Based Stem Cells & Skin Care
Notable celebrities such as former ‘Posh’ Spice Girl Victoria Beckham have made very public declarations of their affinity for plant-based stem cell cosmetics. News agencies and over-zealous marketers have a tendency to really latch onto the term ‘stem cells’ and can cause some confusion in the minds of consumers. Understanding just how plant based stem cells are used in cosmetic products can help better understand their value, without getting them confused with living human stem cells. Researchers take a certain type of stem cell, named totipotent stem cells (young), and basically crack them open to get what’s inside. This allows scientists to cultivate the types of natural compounds used by stem cells such as proteins, sugars, growth factors, and other compounds thought to be beneficial to human health.
Technically, the types of products using these compounds might be better described as plant based stem cell derivatives—but that’s kind of confusing as well! Plant based stem cell treatments offer a wide range of restorative natural compounds, but living stem cells aren’t among them. Understanding this major difference can help understand that the products listed for hundreds of dollars per ounce—are little more than advertising ploys in most cases. Plant based stem cell products are more expensive than traditional cosmetics, but can still be found in very affordable options. Realizing they aren’t equivalent to live human stem cell therapy can help avoid the temptation of buying overpriced products, and better considering the benefits of the appropriately-priced options.
Putting Together the Pieces
Stem cells are a truly exciting frontier of science with many potential applications in supporting health and longevity. Their unique ability to transform into specialized cell tissue makes their possible applications nearly endless. Their use and regulation is a source of controversy, and is carefully watched over by regulatory agencies around the world. Plant-based stem cells offer a less controversial source of these materials, but aren’t typically used in the same way. Skin care products labeled as containing plant based stem cells contain non-living cells, and are designed more so with the derived compounds such as growth factors and proteins in mind. Many of these extracted compounds found in plant-based stem cells have supportive research indicating their potential application of skin care and related cosmetic application. They may well be some of the best skin care products on the market—albeit some of the most expensive—but they shouldn’t be regarded as equivalent to live stem cell therapy.