The Science of Beauty


Over the past few years, stem cells have become the skincare industry’s hot anti-aging ingredient. Now commonly found in many products, the science behind stem cell technology is often confusing for both clients and spa professionals alike, mostly due to the fact that there are several types of stem cells that have made their way into the skincare arena, claiming to help clients reduce the signs of aging by decreasing the effects of free-radical damage, stress, and poor lifestyle choices, which can wreak havoc on the skin. Much of the confusion occurs because the science behind the use of stem cell technology in products and treatment protocols can be
difficult to decipher.

Simply stated, human stem cells are unique biological cells that have the powerful ability to morph into any type of cell in the body. Because they don’t have a specific function, they can, and have been, used to transform into a multitude of cells with a more specific function when needed to assist any type of diseased or injured organ or tissue. As we age, our stem cell count decreases due to free radical damage and environmental factors, such as poor diet and stress, which affects the body’s ability to protect itself. While human (embryonic) stem cell treatments are being offered at a number of medical spas, this is not necessarily a viable option for traditional spas. “Stem cells need specific nutrition via a blood supply in the tissue to survive and function,” says Jörg Gerlach, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. “If they were layered onto intact skin, the stem cells would just die. However, if stem cells are applied to a fresh open skin wound, after a burn injury for example, then the cells are in contact with the blood supply in the open tissue and could survive and potentially regenerate the skin.”

But, according to John DiFolco, the director of operations at Personal Cell Sciences, there is a successful way to combine human stem cells in skincare products. The company’s products, U Autologos, are derived from each client’s adult stem cells through a scientific process involving a doctor. The process works by collecting a small amount of the client’s adipose tissue (body fat) in a mini-liposuction procedure by a physician, who then sends the sample back to the laboratory. “Once we receive the sample, we process the client’s adipose tissue to isolate their adult stem cells,” explains DiFolco. “At this point, we store a portion of the stem cell sample for their future use, and the remaining portion of the stem cell sample is grown and cultured to produce conditioned media or what we call Autokine-CM. Each client’s Autokine-CM secretes various cytokines, growth factors, and matrix proteins when cultured in our proprietary media that is specific to the individual. The client-specific Autokine-CM is then hand blended together with clinically proven ingredients to create its own set of U Autologous skincare products.” 

Another stem cell option involves using botanical stem cells from plants, which, in many ways, mimic the benefits of human stem cells by secreting a similar enzyme that helps to stimulate human stem cell growth and protect them from damage. “Plants have stem cells comparable to human stem cells,” says Christine Heathman, CEO and founder of GlyMed Plus, whose skincare line incorporates plant extract derived from the stem cells of the rare Swiss Uttwiler Spätlauber apple. “It is well known for its excellent storability and longevity potential due to its long-living tissue stem cells.”

G.M. Collin also incorporates Uttwiler Spätlauber into its products because of the benefits it offers. “By stimulating aging skin stem cells, it has been shown to lessen the appearance of wrinkles,” says Karen Asquith, director of education of G.M. Collin. “Plant stem cell extracts provide important nutrients to human stem cells. These nutrients improve the viability and health of human skin stem cells. They also protect and maintain the function of skin stem cells to ensure longevity and to delay skin aging.” Because promoting a treatment as a “stem cell facial” can be misleading to clients, Asquith suggests simply incorporating products containing stem cell technology into already existing protocols. “Stem cell products can be integrated into many specialized treatment protocols,” she says. “My recommendation is utilizing the stem cell serum, cream or gel-cream, and eye product in a clinical treatment with Algomask, an occlusive mask that increases the skin’s absorption of the products.”

According to Cassie Miller-Hart, a licensed esthetician and West Coast educator for HydroPeptide, botanical stem cell technology contains specific components that improve the vitality of skin stem cells and protect against negative environmental influences and is even more beneficial when combined with peptides. “Aging skin stem cells become less effective at healing, endure increased oxidative stress, and become more prone to generative disease in skin tissue,” says Miller-Hart. “Our scientists work with six different botanical stem cells that address a range of skincare concerns, from super antioxidant protection to healthy collagen support. They go a step further by combining this blend of six stem cells with two of the latest generation peptides that make up an ingredient that stimulates the most relevant structural proteins of the dermal/epidermal junction. Peptide and stem cell technology restore structure to the skin and protect it from environmental stressors.”

One popular treatment at The Four Seasons Resort Biltmore Santa Barbara Spa (CA), says Miller-Hart, is HydroPeptide’s Advanced Resurfacing Stem Cell Facial ($180, 50 minutes; $250, 80 minutes), which incorporates the power of botanical stem cells and peptides to rejuvenate, revive, and protect the skin, re-energizing the client’s skin cells, increasing hydration, and reducing wrinkles, as well as firming and lifting the skin. “Everyone can benefit from the multifunctional benefits that botanical stem cells provide,” she says. “Six different plant stem cells delay signs of aging by protecting our skin stem cells. In short, stem cells can be thought of as super-antioxidants that help prevent oxidative stress and DNA damage to cells. Spa-goers get excited about plant extracts for the youthful qualities they restore to the skin.”

When encouraging clients to use products at home containing stem cell technology, explaining the benefits is key because of the complexity of the science behind it. “Educate, educate, educate,” says Asquith. “Consumers need to understand exactly what stem cells can do for their skin, the safety of stem cells, and the clinical studies that have been performed to confirm their effectiveness. Consumer education is key.” Heathman agrees. “Knowledge of the important role stem cells play in skincare has opened up new skin treatment options and retail profit for spas,” she says. “Botanical stem cell extract is an important age-management tool phenomenon and should be an essential part of spa treatments that include retail skincare. This is an exciting time to be in specialized skincare, as you now can offer your clients a new approach to age management with innovative stem cell treatments and homecare. Continued study of stem cells, their functioning relating to aging, and how they help reset the skin’s aging clock is groundbreaking and revolutionary.”


Are your clients intrigued by stem cells? Consider offering the following products in your spa.


B. Kamins Nia-Stem Moisturizer Kx: This moisturizer with plant niacin, stem cells, and Bio-Maple Compound improves skintone and texture. It increases cell life expectancy and promotes tissue regeneration.


Éminence Organic Skin Care Bamboo Firming Fluid: This active age corrective fluid features strengthening bamboo, hydrating coconut and monoi, a natural retinol alternative, and Swiss green apple stem cells.


EmerginC Scientific Organics Collection: This collection features potent concentrations of clinically studied proprietary apple and grape stem cells.


Germaine de Capuccini Timexpert Rides X.CEL Youthfulness Recreation Cream: Featuring Swiss apple stem cells, this cream provides cells with nutrients, which penetrate under wrinkles to repair and recreate youthful, smooth skin. South and West:; North and Central:


Gloprofessional Cyto Luxe Cream: Containing stem cells from the buddleja davidii shrub known as the butterfly bush, this cream improves the appearance of aging skin and includes collagen and hyaluronic acid.


GlyMed Plus Stem Cell Power Serum: This serum helps reset aging skin at the cellular level with powerful peptides, cellular lipids, and a Swiss apple cell culture known for its extended longevity.


G.M. Collin Phyto Stem Cell+ Serum: Using plant stem cells, this anti-aging serum harnesses free radicals, brightens the complexion, and softens and smoothes skin texture. It visibly improves the overall appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as the firmness of skin.


HydroPeptide HydroStem+6: Six botanical stem cells derived from Swiss apples, echinacea, edelweiss, gardenia, gotu kola, and grape reactivate skin’s youthful elements. It revitalizes and protects clients’ own stem cells from aging and UV damage and fights wrinkles and loss of firmness and hydration.


Institut’ DERMed Anti-Oxidant Peptide Serum: This advanced anti-aging serum is formulated with Pro-Coll-One peptides and apple stem cells, which stimulate collagen production and prevent free-radical damage.


Lélexo A Stem Factor: Based on the naturally derived active ingredient PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica from apple stem cells, A Stem Factor is a
paraben- and propylene glycol-free serum containing whole leaf aloe vera, traditional humectants, and emollients that reduce visible signs of aging.


Le Mieux EGF-DNA: Containing a group of 53 amino acids that are essential for wound healing and cell regeneration, EGF-DNA accelerates skin repair.


Lifeline Skin Care Recovery Night Moisture Serum: Using a patented human, non-embryonic stem cell extract that nurtures collagen and elastin at night, this serum provides a number of vitamins and minerals that defend against free radicals.


Naturopathica Plant Stem Cell Serum: This anti-aging serum uses ECOCERT-certified natural and organic plant stem cells. Echinacea stem cells boost collagen synthesis, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, while butterfly bush stem cells protect the skin.


Personal Cell Sciences Regenerative Firming Serum: This serum helps improve the appearance of the visible signs of aging using a high concentration of Autokine-CM, an individual blend of powerful growth factors secreted by a client’s adult stem cells.


Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare StemFactor: Utilizing more than 150 skin growth factors derived from adult stem cells, this serum gently repairs and stimulates new cells to build collagen and elastin, heal hyperpigmentation, and reverse aging.


Phytomer Youth Performance Wrinkle Radiance Serum: This serum contains an encapsulated combination of molecules derived from laminaria algae, which stimulate the skin’s stem cells to fill wrinkles and recreate cellular substances.


Prana SpaCeuticals Mushroom Collection: The mushroom stem cells incorporated in this line help enhance cellular recovery, reduce free radicals, promote cell regeneration, and improve skin texture.


TwinLuxe Anti-Aging SPF Moisturizer: Infused with stem cells and antioxidants, this SPF 40 moisturizing treatment helps build new skin cells and minimizes damage to older cells.


Yüm Skincare Illuminating Apple Stem Cell Crème: This rich, rejuvenating moisturizer contains stem cells of the Uttwiler Spätlauber apple.


Vitelle Apple Stem Cell Brightening Serum:
Ideal for mature, oily, or hyperpigmented skin, this hydroquinone-free
serum boosts cellular enhancement and UV resistance.


ZO Medical Retamax: A potent combination of 1 percent retinol, buddleja plant stem cells, and biomimetic proteins work together to trigger the natural formation of collagen and strengthen skin’s protective barrier. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E save skin from free-radical damage and inflammation.