Plants are pretty impressive and we don’t just say that because we love a good cactus. Plants have an ability to regenerate their tissue when they are put under stress. Just think of the cycle of trees from fall to spring. Tissue regrowth goes far beyond what human bodies can do. When you cut a branch off of a tree, it can result in the growth of a new bud or branch. We can fix our wounds, but we can’t regrow at that level. This basic plant biology is the reason why the skincare and beauty industry have turned so much attention and research into the world of plant stem cells.
So plant stem cells are like superhero human stem cells?
Similar, yes, but these are not the embryonic human stem cells that are miracles of modern medicine (and political wedge issues…). Both human stem cells and plant stem cells have the ability to divide cells to produce more cells or become more specialized types of cells. These specialized cells can then become anything. Think of plant stem cells like the blank Scrabble piece.
So why would we use them in our skincare?
Our Skin Therapist, Jenna, puts it simply, “when you apply a skincare product with plant stem cell extracts, these molecules talk to your skin cells and motivate them to live longer and stronger, as well as give them new powers like healing abilities added defense against inflammation and oxidative damage from the environment.”
In spite of what they sound like, they aren't live plant cells. The cells in these products will first break apart and then release high concentrations of antioxidants and other nutrients that stimulate cell turnover, telling our skin that it is time to let go of our browned leaves (aka dead skin cells) and then build healthy new ones in their place. It's ideal for skin cells that have been damaged by sun or are looking for some brightening help.
Do all plant stem cells do the same thing?
That is a great question! They do not. While research here is still evolving, most skincare brands source from plants that remain strong for a long periods of time or can grow in harsh conditions, so that they can handle all the environments your skin might interact with. For example, Naturopathica’s Plant Stem Cell Booster Serum has Echinacea Angustifolia stem cell, which stimulates new collagen, and Butterfly Bush stem cell, which is traditionally used as a wound healer in Eastern Asia. The Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum also has plant stem cells. They use Edelweiss, which you might remember from the song from The Sound of Music. Edelweiss is a surprisingly hairy plant that is found in the Alps. It’s used to high altitudes so the plant has created its own system to protect it from the cold and ultraviolet radiation it experiences up there. Different plants and their stem cells will align with different skin goals.
Why are products with plant stem cells more expensive?
You might notice that products that have plant stem cells are more expensive than other products. This is usually because of the cost to produce them – the sourcing and extraction process, which is usually exclusively handled in a laboratory where plants can be grown free of any environmental pollution.
Is this a trend or is it here to stay?
Research continues to be conducted around plant stem cells and their effectiveness in skincare. There are certainly skeptics out there who posit that plant stem cells can’t do everything they claim they can do since they aren’t technically in their ‘alive’ form in the bottle or jar. Even with that, research shows that they contain a boost of highly positive things for the skin like antioxidants for environmental protection.
Our Skin Therapist, Suzanne, was initially a little side eye about plant stem cells. “At first I was unsure about it. Plant stem cells? What? But honestly, I am very impressed with the results that I’ve been witnessing as I’ve used them more. I started to see results in only a few days. It’s definitely more a treatment product. I’d recommend 30 days on, 90 days off. It’s super concentrated, obviously.”
What else should I know before diving in?
You’ll find that most of the products with plant stem cell extracts are serums geared for very specific skincare goals, usually around lifting fine lines and wrinkles or brightening. We always recommend getting your Core Four routine down first – a great daily cleansing, moisturizing, and sunscreen and weekly exfoliating routine. Then step into the plant stem cell serum world. If you’re ready, come chat with us and we’d love to guide you on how to invest.