Stemming the Tide

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Bases and Partners

Now that scientific technology has harnessed the stem cell-fueled power of botanicals, how can it be channeled into skin care? ”Our job is to formulate them properly so these actives can get to where they’re needed in the skin,” says Heathman. “Stem cell compounds are very expensive. You can use just enough to justify putting the ingredient on your label, or incorporate the highest amount possible within the integrity of the formulation. It’s like mixing a chocolate cake: A minimal amount of good chocolate will give you a hint of flavor; a maximum amount will provide a decadent flavor. And too much chocolate may prevent the cake from becoming a cake at all. Even the best skincare ingredients need a delivery system, an interface that gets the ingredient where it needs to go.”

Manufacturers have divergent formulation philosophies and they can choose from among dozens of plant stem cell compounds (see Stem Cell Compound Sampler, next slide). These can be mixed and matched, or combined with other active ingredients. All of this translates to a wonderful variety of choices for day spa owners.

“We started working with stem cell-derived compounds about eight years ago,” notes Allison. “After looking at the strengths of those compounds, we decided that the best way to use them was to add them to already viable products. We tried formulating the best of the compounds alone and mixing two or more of them, but we didn’t get hoped-for results. But by matching Buddleja Davidii Meristem cell cultures with our retinol cream, we were able to achieve wonderful outcomes.”

There’s an impressive array of compounds to work with. Several manufacturers, like Cosmetic Solutions, GlyMed Plus and G.M. Collin, have chosen to work with PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica, the compound sourced from the well-studied Swiss apple. Cosmetic Solutions cites its “fast regeneration and healing abilities,” and pairs it with hydrating seaweed extract and hyaluronic acid in its Skin Stem Cell Serum.

G.M. Collin’s Phyto Stem Cell+, launched in 2011, combines Malus Domestica with its proprietary DNA Repair as well as with Orsirtine, a rice extract high in sirtuin-activating compounds. “Sirtuin 1 is known as the ‘longevity molecule’,” explains Asquith. “Research has shown that when the body takes in fewer calories, it produces more sirtuins and goes into ‘survival mode.’ So by stimulating sirtuin production, we can help skin cells survive longer.”

Some companies tend to opt for the latest ingredients. For instance, Prana Spaceuticals debuted its Mushroom Collection, a six-product line using reishi mushroom stem cells, at the 2012 ISPA Conference. These cells have been shown to combat environmental stress and reduce inflammation. “The use of reishi mushrooms for cancer treatment has been researched extensively at The Mayo Clinic,” adds Cherie Dobbs, CEO, Dermastart (the parent company to Prana Spaceuticals). “Reishi mushrooms boost skin immunity and have a remarkable ability to normalize the skin’s pH. The mushrooms play a significant role in targeting inflammation, the key component in aging.”

Other formulators, such as DermaQuest and HydroPeptide, believe in a cocktail of stem cell compounds. DermaQuest’s Stem Cell 3-D Complex, introduced in the fall of 2011, combines sea fennel, sea holly, gardenia and edelweiss stem cell compounds. “Each brings its own special properties to the formulation,” says Hearns. “The sea fennel and sea holly, for example, are 100% pure marine actives and have their own natural delivery systems. Sea fennel offers a strong defense against UV light, inhibiting 80% of melanogenesis. It not only regulates pigment but also hydrates and promotes wound healing. Sea holly strengthens the dermal-epidermal junction and promotes collagen.”

HydroStem+6 Anti-Wrinkle Stem Cell Regeneration Serum from HydroPeptide contains peptides and six different stem-cell compounds: gardenia, edelweiss, collagen-preserving gotu kola, echinacea, and grape and apple stem cell compounds. “Stem cell compounds are high in antioxidants and can help improve skin firmness and elasticity,” explains HydroPeptide’s Zangl. “But you do need to partner them with peptides, which can help rebuild the skin. It’s also important to use sun protection. We believe in using a mix of ingredients. Different ingredients stimulate the skin in different ways.”

Formulators at DermAware take a similar approach. “Stem cell compounds will not take the place of fruit acids, retinols, vitamins or peptides, but they do have a role,” says Gül C. Zone, president, DermAware. “Spa owners should realize that while many new ingredients will be introduced in skin care, it is always important to present a balanced diet of ingredients that work on different target sites in the skin—and also pay attention to concentration and delivery.” The DermAware A+ Smart Serum family of products combines Swiss apple and grape stem cell compounds with retinol, three types of vitamin C, co-enzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid.

So how does a spa owner choose from among this cornucopia of products?

“You have to be an educated buyer and look at the whole picture,” advises Allison. “In the end you will make your decision, as we do, by looking at the results you can achieve with your clients. Making a skincare choice, even when you’re dealing with advanced biotechnologies, often comes down to common sense.”

Linda W. Lewis is an editorial consultant and a regular contributor to DAYSPA.