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Plant Stem Cells: The Next Generation in Skin Care Technology

By: Sam Dhatt
Posted: September 28, 2012, from the October 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
plant stem cells in professional skin care

Since the dawn of time, humans have stumbled upon various natural ways to keep their skin youthful-looking—even if they didn’t know why a certain method worked. Cleopatra’s milk baths maintained her beauty, and it is known today that the lactic acid in the milk served as a gentle exfoliant. The ancient people of the Mediterranean and Middle East treated their skin and hair with the olives they cultivated; today it is known that the olive’s flavanoid polyphenols are powerful antioxidants. For centuries in Japan, Kabuki performers and geisha removed their makeup and fought hyperpigmentation with nightingale droppings; today it is known that the droppings contain natural enzymes, such as guanine, an amino acid with ammonic bleaching qualities. And the list goes on.

The modern consumer has a huge advantage, not only in knowing why these ancient methods worked, but also in having access to breakthrough technological discoveries that vastly increase their effectiveness. Cells can be extracted from blossoms long-prized for their beauty and fragrance—such as edelweiss, gardenia and sea fennel—then cultivated in a laboratory to multiply their molecular potency by literally 1,000 times or more. This concentration, not available in a raw state, allows the product to deliver a powerful dose of active ingredients to the consumer. It brings together the best of the botanical and clinical worlds.

What consumers want

As a skin care professional, you may feel overwhelmed by what your clients require. The truth is, they want it all. It’s no secret that the anti-aging market continues to be the epicenter of the skin care industry. Every brand, from the drug store house-label to the most elite spa trademark, discusses the anti-aging properties of products and treatments; even brands oriented toward young consumers now lay the groundwork for anti-aging practice in their marketing positioning. However, the consumer’s definition of anti-aging results has shifted significantly in the past few years, requiring increasingly versatile and sophisticated product formulations. A generation ago, the key concern was wrinkles.

Then, a 2006 study released by Karl Grammer, PhD, founder and scientific director of the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology at the University of Vienna, Austria, added a new twist, pointing to the importance of skin tone—defined as consistent distribution of pigmentation—as a trait that mattered at least as much as wrinkles in determining a woman’s perceived age and relative attractiveness. These findings have ignited consumers’ awareness, expanded their expectations, and resulted in a flurry of new lightening, brightening and whitening products to arrest and reverse hyperpigmentation.

Besides achieving smoothly textured and evenly pigmented skin, a third requirement of today’s skin care consumer is the need for the facial contour and silhouette to be kept taut and sleek, firmly supported by a robust collagen and elastin infrastructure.