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February 15, 2011

The Science of Anti-Aging Skincare

Two new cutting-edge technologies keep you looking forever young.

two new cutting-edge technologies to keep you looking young forever

Photo Credit: Bill Diodato

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Cell Survival

Imagine a burn victim whose skin can miraculously regenerate with an injection of her own stem cells — no painful skin grafts required. Sounds like a sci-fi dream. But in the fast-evolving world of stem cell research, this technology is very much in sight — we're talking years, not decades, away.

The magic of stem cells is their versatility: "They have the ability to divide, renew themselves, and form new organs," explains Dr. Alfred Lane, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Recent discoveries have shown that somatic [adult] stem cells, found in skin, can be programmed to grow new skin, hair, and nerves." Or, theoretically, any of the 200-plus types of cells that make up our bodies, in addition to healing wounds and fixing chronic skin diseases like psoriasis. Now just imagine what they could do to reboot wrinkled, sagging, mottled skin.

Beauty companies are eager to find out. So much so that some are even teaming up with the medical world's researchers to reap the benefits of their discoveries — as in the case of Dior/LVMH's partnership with Stanford University's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Dior delved into Stanford's findings to formulate the new Capture Totale antiaging skincare line. "What's been established is that epidermal stem cells fuel the turnover of all skin cells, which essentially keeps complexions looking bright, plump, and refreshed," says Eric Perrier, head of LVMH Research and Development. "Problem is, stem cells are also the most fragile of cells. Stress from the sun, pollution, and other toxins weaken them significantly as we get older." The goal: Protect these frail cells. Dior does it with TP Vityl, a topical ingredient derived from vitamin E, which absorbs into the dermis. "Think of it as SPF for stem cells, protecting them so they work more efficiently," adds Perrier. One Essential serum, the line's star product, uses TP Vityl to up the strength of proven wrinkle-smoothing, skin-tone-evening ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and AHAs.

Stem-cell-boosting skin creams are cropping up everywhere, but serious research and clinical tests separate the coveted from the late-night infomercial specials. La Prairie's new Cellular Power Infusion combines a special peptide with "red grape stem cells and extract of Swiss snow algae, to trigger the natural self-repair of your skin's stem cells," explains Dr. Sven Gohla, vice president of R&D for the brand. "Otherwise, epidermal stem cells—the skin's own renewal resources—get weaker with age, and skin gets thinner, less radiant." In extracting stem cells directly from hardy plants and fruits, companies hope they will lend a similar level of protection to our skin: Stem cells from Swiss green apples (which remarkably almost never brown) are found in Sonya Dakar's Nutrasphere Stem Cell Transformer and StriVectin's SD Eye Concentrate; extracts from especially winter-resistant roses make up Goldfaden's Alpine Rose Stem Cell Cream; super-antioxidant-rich raspberries fuel Chantecaille's Biodynamic Lifting Neck Cream.

For a customized fix, New York beauty guru Mary Schook's Stem Cell Facial has garnered a loyal list of (top-secret) bold-faced devotees. The key to her treatment is the electricity-assisted application of serums (she won't disclose the brand used) infused with real adult human stem cells. "My clients have been giving up Botox and fillers. The treatment increases collagen, so even fragile skin looks alive and spongy!" she enthuses. A caveat: With sessions starting at $600, regular facials get expensive.

At that price, most women have no choice but to forgo Botox. But trading a frozen forehead for a naturally radiant, plump complexion? Priceless.

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