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Stem cells application for beauty purposes: insanity or upcoming trend

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Key words: cosmetic trends, minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, demographic trends, stem cells (embryonic, fetal, infant, adult), pluripotent state, mesenchymal stem cells, keratinocytes.

Beauty and youth always took a special place in people’s minds. In Slavic fairytales, one can find stories about the Apples of Youth and the Water of Life that make old people young and healthy again [1]. Herodotus described the Fountain of Youth 2,5 thousand years ago, and in 1513 the Spanish voyager Juan Ponce de León, encouraged by stories about that mysterious fountain, set up an expedition to search it. He did not manage to find it, though he discovered Florida [2].

Nowadays, the procedures for returning a young and beautiful look do not resemble fictional stories, and for plenty of people they create a constant pattern in everyday life.

According to the Plastic Surgery Statistical Report issued by American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2020 [3], the leaders of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures were biomaterial infiltrations such as Botulinum Toxin Type A and Hyaluronic acid [4].

In comparison with 2019, the numbers decreased for 13% and 11% correspondingly, which can be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even considering only minimally invasive operations performed in USA in 2020, the total amount has reached 13.2 million, which is impressive, isn’t it?

Well, if it is still not, consider that it is 1.1 million operations per month. Or, even better, approximately 35 thousand operations per day. Now it is definitely impressive.

As for the gender distribution, in the same report one can notice that 92% of all cosmetic procedures were performed for females (10.4 million), and the rest 8% are counted on men.

Meanwhile, the other, and the most representative way to assess this data is to check the demographic trends in the cosmetic procedures area. As we can see on the Picture 2, almost a half of all minimally invasive operations refers to the age of 40-54 years (5.4 millions), and about 30% were performed for the people of age 55-69 years.

Picture 2 – Cosmetic procedures demographic trends in USA (2020)

At first, you can think that this is just a bunch of numbers, but in the same time, this information proves that, as people get older, they become more concerned about their look and well-being.

Therefore, observing a way that humanity made from myths and tales to Botox, Mesotherapy and Lipogems [5] to regenerate healing and avoid aging, we can imagine the techniques that will substitute or extensively modify the procedures we are familiar with today. One of the cornerstones of up-to-date research in this field is the use of stem cells.

Stem cells

Since the beginning of the century, scientists actively study stem cells as a possible solution of aging and aging-caused diseases because of their unique characteristics:

  • self-renewal, which means the ability to differentiate indefinitely into identical daughter cells;

  • differentiation into any cells from epithelial to neural [6].

Basically, stem cells can be classified in accordance with their sources [7]. The general characteristic of them is presented on Picture 3.

Picture 3 – The classification of stem cells according to their source

Analyzing the possible sources, we can define ethical considerations that restrict the use of stem cells in general. Indeed, early research of stem cells for treating diseases required oocytes. The procedure of oocytes extraction causes discomfort and increases health risks, therefore, at first research communities paid women for donating oocytes [8]. However, as we can imagine, some women used this opportunity to gain money. The pressure they felt was high, so in 27 of 30 members of EU the donations of tissues and cells is mandatory to be volunteer and unpaid [9].

In case of obtaining embryo stem cells cultures, the living human embryo needs to be destroyed, which immensely increases the moral load of the research because a lot of people around the globe consider early embryos as living beings that should not be harmed. In consideration with this controversy, after long disputes, in 2011 European Court of Justice banned all the patents based on embryo stem cells [10].

Obviously, even talking about matters of life and death the application of stem cells seems to be controversial, let alone the beauty! However, one of the possible approaches in this area could be the autologous use of adult mesenchymal stem cells. This method has some prominent advantages: personalized approach of the procedure and the absence of immune system reaction on foreign cells. Among the drawbacks, we can define the small amount of possibly derived cells, the difficulty, and pain of the extraction procedure. Moreover, adult stem cells have restricted ability to proliferate, that essentially lowers the efficiency of the procedure.

Despite the difficulties and pain, the use of derived stem cells for beauty reasons such as skin rejuvenation (anti-aging and hair loss) is quite popular nowadays [11].

Having been searching the solutions to reduce negative aspects of cells extraction, Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon managed to reprogram mature cells into pluripotent state in 2006. This event unlocked the door to the new branch of stem cells research.

In 2010, Lian and his team generated mesenchymal stem cells from the pluripotent state, which occurred to be the foundation for the next upgrade of existing studies.

In 2018, Nakayama with colleagues succeeded in obtaining mesenchymal stem cells from the skin cells keratinocytes [12].

These discoveries reflect the possibility to obtain stem cells, applicable for beauty purposes, without pain and risks. Naturally, it will require advanced technologies and high-capacity equipment. Considering the scale of interest and never-ending demands for anti-aging instruments, we can foresee the immense extension of the technique that we use today. Usually, the development of innovations directed on their further popularization and increase of availability.

Therefore, who knows, maybe one day we realize that miracles, that we thought were impossible, will become our new reality.


[1] The Apples of Youth and The Water of Life: a Russian fairytale. Adapted by Aleksey Tolstoy, translated from Russian by Amelia Parkes.

[2] The elusive Fountain of Youth (2021, March). Legends of America.

[3] 2020 Plastic Surgery Statistical Report. ASPS National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery Procedural Statistics.

[4] Non-surgical techniques aimed at the improvement and rejuvenation of the face. Facial aesthetic medicine.

[5] Faour B.Y. Lipogems®: an innovative technique for tissue regeneration (2022, March 23). Emotion: Erasmus Mundus Student Project.

[6] Rusnak A.J., Chudley A.E. Stem cell research: cloning, therapy and scientific fraud (2006). Clinical genetics. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0004.2006.00678.x

[7] Bongso A, Lee E.H. Stem Cells: Their Definition, Classification and Sources (2005). Stem cells: from bench to bedsite. doi: 10.1142/9789812569370_0001

[8] Vogel, G. Therapeutic Cloning Reaches Milestone (2014). Science. doi:10.1126/science.344.6183.462

[9] COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT on the implementation of the principle of voluntary and unpaid donation for human tissues and cells. Brussels, 21.4.2016. SWD(2016) 128 final.

[10] Callaway, E. European court bans patents based on embryonic stem cells (2011, October 18). Nature.

[11] Jo H., Brito S., Kwak B. M., Park S., Lee M.-G., Bin B.-H. Applications of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Skin Regeneration and Rejuvenation (2021). International Journal of Molecular Sciences. doi: 10.3390/ijms22052410

[12] Liu G., David B.T., Trawczynski M., Fessler R.G. Advances in Pluripotent Stem Cells: History, Mechanisms, Technologies, and Applications (2019). Stem Cell Reviews and Reports. doi:10.1007/s12015-019-09935-x

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