Stem-Cell Face Cream: Worth It?

Joan Kron, Allure magazine

Are you one of those consumers who prize individuality and self-expression? Did you specify the color of the stripes on your Goyard bag? Do you design your own Keds? Well then, we have a new personalized face cream for you, and we hope you're in the top one percent of wage earners, because a year's supply will set you back nearly $20,000.

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Today, Personal Cell Sciences is introducing a line of facial treatments called U-Autologous. Autologous means taken from your own body and, just as the name suggests, a little bit of your own DNA will be in every drop. The first three products are labeled Stem Cell Regenerative Firming Serum, Moisturizer, and Eye Cream, which are all slight misnomers, since, according to Natalia Rulle, the company's creative director, "they do not contain any stem cells." Stem cells can't actually survive in a topical cream, she explains, but we'll get back to that in a second.

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First, don't expect instant gratification: Developing a face cream with your own cell tissues takes time. The process begins at the office of a surgeon, where a quarter cup of fat is removed from your abdomen and sent to a lab. There, it's cleansed of impurities and cultured with an enzyme that yields a stew of adult stem cells and related substances-growth factors, fibroblasts, cytokines-known as the Stromal Vascular Fraction. "These are proteins spit out by your stem cells that give instructions to skin cells and other tissues to repair themselves," says Rulle.

Six weeks later, a technician removes several CCs of your personal brew from a frigid storage vat, mixes it into a base made up of emulsions rich in antioxidants, and ships it to you (or U, in the company's parlance) in pump bottles. In testing, the firming serum from the new line was used twice daily by 20 women, ages 25 to 60. After eight weeks, says Fredric Stern, an ophthalmologist in Bellevue, Washington, who participated in the study, there was a 15 to 85 percent improvement in wrinkle depth, and 78 percent of the women had significant improvement in elastin and collagen production.

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While those numbers sound impressive, there is actually no way of knowing how much of the benefit came from the base emulsion and how much was due to the added stem cell-derived concoction, according to an independent cell scientist we consulted. (A different type of study would be needed to determine that.) Since U-Autologous is being offered as a cosmetic, no FDA approval is required, either. Still, for those women who like to put their stamp on the products they consume, and those who are willing to live with fuzzy science, this may be the face cream of the future. U never know.

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