Plant stem cell research is an exciting frontier in skincare.

Many people would like to remain eternally young and radiant. While no magic bullet will stop the aging process, some researchers believe a new field of skincare can slow the signs of aging. Advanced research has found a positive link between plant stem cell extracts and anti-aging/anti-wrinkling processes.

Stem Cells and Skin
Stem cells are un-programmed cells that can change into cells with specific functions. They have the capacity to replenish themselves through self-renewal and also the ability to divide almost limitlessly. Cutting-edge research on plant stem cells (which are different from the controversial human stem cells studies) have demonstrated some promising health benefits to human skin. A new hope for problems such as wrinkles, visible capillaries and sun damage, plant stem cells have proven to support the skin’s cellular turnover.

Environmental toxins, excessive sun exposure and improper nutrition can result in prematurely aged and damaged skin. As a way to address such issues, stem cells of apples and edelweiss, among others, are increasingly integrated into skincare products (1).
The Apple of Your Eye
The once nearly extinct Uttwiler spatlauber apple tree was the biggest inspiration for using plant stem cell extracts in skincare products. Once picked, the apples from this Swiss tree lasted for months and when the skin was scratched or punctured while still on the tree, it quickly healed. Scientists unearthed the reason: unusually resilient stem cells.

Unlike most human cells, each plant-derived stem cell can generate a whole new plant. Scientists have found a way to tap into this ability by culturing U. spatlauber plant cells. A new technique used by one industry company (1) involves taking viable tissue (called an explant) from a source plant. A small cut is made in the explant and new cells (called the callus) form on the surface of this cut in an attempt to heal the wound.

The apple’s stem cells may help protect human stem cells, nourishing and defending them from UV radiation. The anti-wrinkle efficacy of this apple stem cell ingredient was demonstrated in a clinical trial over four weeks with 20 subjects. A cream containing 2% of the ingredient was applied twice daily to the crow’s feet area and the wrinkle depth was analyzed after two and four weeks. Photos of the skin were taken at the beginning and the end of the study. The cream was found to significantly reduce wrinkle depth after two and after four weeks, by 8% and 15% respectively (2, 3).

Good News: Edelweiss!
The edelweiss plant grows in harsh climatic conditions and produces active substances that can protect against harmful components such as UV rays. The Institute for Biotechnological Research in Italy has studied edelweiss stem cells for its anti-aging benefits. The protective substances of the plant are used to guard the skin, as it is used in the plant itself. The edelweiss cells contain high concentrations of Leontopodic acids A and B, which exhibit strong antioxidant properties. The firm also reports that the anti-aging ingredient helps control the degradation of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin. The ingredient is prepared by cutting a small amount of plant biomass into tiny pieces and placing it in a culture medium. The plant stem cells surround the cut and form a wound healing tissue (the callus), which can be used in skincare products (3).

A Date to Remember
Some skincare products are also being made from date palm stem cells because of the plant’s supreme ability to live and thrive in dry, arid environments. The date palm also has the ability to remain hydrated and conserve water, which is a desirable characterisic for skincare products. Products containing organic date palm stem cells are said to keep the skin very moist (3).     

The Future with Stem Cells
Plant stem cell research is a promising and exciting frontier in skincare. More plants such as Gotu Kola are being investigated for use in skincare products, too. Primarily used in Indian traditional medicine, Gotu Kola stem cells were found to be helpful in firming and restructuring the skin, addressing stretch marks, controlling cellulite, and supporting good blood vessel tone all without the use of toxins. Today, customers benefit from the use of plant stem cell skincare products in various forms such as brightening and calming serums, eye creams etc. (4, 5). As research develops, this promising skincare segment will continue to grow and flourish. WF

1. Mibelle Biochemistry, PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica,, accessed Nov. 17, 2011.
2. D. Schmid, et al., “Plant Stem Cell Extract for Longevity of Skin and Hair,” Int. J. Applied Sci. 134(5), 30-5 (2008).
3. J. Jacknin, “Stems Cells in Skin Care…What Does it Really Mean?”, accessed Oct. 28, 2011.
4. MyChelle Dermaceuticals, “Revolutionary Plant Stem Cell Bioactive Ingredients,”, accessed Oct. 28, 2011.
5. Reviva Labs, “Stem Cell Booster,”, accessed Nov. 17, 2011.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2012