What are dermal stem cells? And what do they do in the context of anti-ageing in both products and in cosmetic clinics?
Having heard the words bandied around after over many years working writing about skincare and cosmetic procedures, if I am unclear, it’s probably safe to assume that other people are too – yet like me curious to know more.
Fortunately, my husband, Dr Aamer Khan, cosmetic doctor and co-founder of the Harley Street Skin Clinic (www.harleystreetskinclinic.com) has been working with stem cells for over a decade, not only as procedure in clinic but also in skincare product development. Firstly what are they? “Put simply, every part of the body started with stem cells, because they are the basis of life,” he explains. “By producing growth factors that in turn produce growth hormones, stem cells can produce more cells.”
Not only that, when stem cells are absorbed into the superﬁcial layers of the skin, the growth factors work on receptors within our own skin cells to switch on the ﬁbroblast cells to produce more elastin and collagen. Which repairs a damaged dermis and generates more youthful skin.
“But in addition, when we are older, a lot of our ﬁbroblasts are sleeping,” continues Dr Khan. “These are called ﬁbrocytes so there are both active and inactive cells and the ratio between ﬁbroblasts and ﬁbrocytes changes early in life not to mention rapidly.” During our mid-twenties the ratio tends to be 80 per cent active ﬁbroblasts compared to 20 per cent dormant ﬁbrocytes. But sorry to say, by the age of 55, the ratio may have reversed to 80 per cent ﬁbrocytes and only 20 per cent active ﬁbroblasts.
However there is good news; Sleeping Beauty can be awoken.
“Because ﬁbrocytes are just dormant, not dead, they can be switched back on by stem cells to activate the behaviour of the skin to how it would have behaved when it was more youthful.”
The use of stem cells falls into two categories; skincare and as a clinical procedure which Dr Khan pioneered ten years ago. “More stem cells are stored in fat than any other part of the body so we remove some, or after liposuction keep it for the patient, and send it off to a facility where the stem cells are removed. The process breaks down the enzymes from the fat cells and spinning them, millions of stem cells.”
Isolated and concentrated stem cells are then injected into the face creating a lifting effect to ﬁll in ﬁne lines and repair scar tissue, a stem cell face-lift. Not only that, “we were the ﬁrst to use stem cells in cosmetic medicine for a face-lift, breast augmentation and buttock lift.”
Yet could the body reject it’s own stem cells? “No because it’s an autonomous treatment so long as you use your own. It would be unethical to use those of another person.”
When it come to skincare, back in the day it was considered necessary to use animal stem cells. Thankfully the days of sourcing from sheep placenta or unfertilised human eggs are pretty much behind us. Well, almost. “There are still some animal products out there, even from human foreskin,” says Sarah-Jayne Tipper UK Sales & Clinical Training Director for Swisscode skincare which has recently launched in the UK. “But you don’t need these because plants have the answer.” Swisscode Bionic Stem Cell Age Control £160, www.skinstation.co.uk) contains edelweiss which grows in very challenging altitudes of around 7000 feet producing robust stem cells. “The ingredient must come from the root or the bud of the plant which is the true source of the stem cell.”Meanwhile Sarah Chapman Stem Cell Collagen Activator Duo (£149, www.feelunique.com) contains a combination eight peptides with four stem cells from marine sea fennel, sea holly, argan and gardinia to increase skin density, sculpt and create luminosity.
The Harley Skin Clinic takes the edelweiss green apple because of the number of growth factors in combination with the root of the argan tree in StemCellution Overnight Moisturiser (£109, harleystreetskinclinic.co.uk).
Argan stem cells are also in Alpha-H Liquid Gold 24 hour Moisture Repair Cream (£51, www. cultbeauty.co.uk) which claims to increase skin density, tightening of dermal disuse and reduction of wrinkle depth by 26 per cent.
As for Dr Levy Switzerland skincare ArganCellActiv, an anti-ageing complex sourced from the extracts of stem cells of the roots of the argan tree is also the key ingredient; he calls it ‘the Usain Bolt of stem cells’. You may not remember how your skin was twenty years ago but your stem cells certainly do,” he says and studies saw an increase of up to 80 per cent of these active cells in lab trials.
The uttwiler spatlauber apple features in Clark’s Botanicals Cellular Lifting Serum (£284, spacenk.co.uk) which is beloved by Michelle Obama for it’s rejuvenating effects. Sense a theme coming on? Because this species of apple is also the key ingredient in Salon Science Haircare. “This technology was ﬁrst used in premium skincare as a powerful anti-ageing ingredient and after years of research it was discovered that the active ingredient, the uttwiler spätlauber apple was also effective within the hair follicle,” says Dr Fred Zülli Ph.D. Managing Director, Mibelle Group Biochemistry. “This apple, famous for it’s excellent storability properties had fascinated the team at Mibelle due to its inability to shrivel or breakdown for it’s anti-ageing properties and it was discovered that the fruit was rich in phytonutrients, proteins and long living cells. So not only did these cells protect skin stem cells, but they also helped to delay the biological ageing of hair follicles.”
Far down from the face and hair, echinacea stem cells have the starring role in Collister Intensive Anti-cellulite Serum (£42.00, www.feelunique.com).
Undoubtedly there is more to come. Even after a decade using stem cells Dr Khan is enthused. “It is still really exciting to see what we can do with them in the future.” Stand by for more – there is certainly more to come in the world of the stem cell.