Do “Stem Cell” Facelifts Actually Work?

Stem cell facelift

Many cosmetic surgeons nowadays are advertising “stem cell facelifts,” which are often described as a new facial rejuvenation procedure. However, the stem cell facelift is actually a variant on something that surgeons have been doing for a long time – facial fat grafting. For the time being, it seems that this technique is more marketing magic than anything else.

It’s important to understand that a stem cell facelift is not the same thing as facelift surgery. During a facelift, excess skin is removed and tightened to provide long-lasting facial rejuvenation. In recent years, surgeons have begun to advertise “non-surgical” facelifts – procedures that can sometimes offer restorative results similar to facelift. Dermal fillers such as Juvederm are a great example of this.

Facial fat grafting involves removing unwanted fat from one part of the body, and moving it to the face. By adding volume and contour to the face, facial fat grafting corrects one of the most common signs of aging – the loss of facial volume.

How do stem cells come into the picture? There are many stem cells in your body fat. Transferring the fat to the face has a rejuvenative effect on the skin – since the stem cells help the fat integrate into its new position. Some surgeons isolate stem cells from one sample of fat, and then add them to another sample, to create “supercharged” fat.

There is not been enough research into facial fat grafting to show that stem cells make much of a difference. However, this is not prevented many cosmetic surgeons from advertising a “stem cell facelift.” Stem cells are widely recognized in the media for their rejuvenative powers, so that a stem cell facelift sounds more appealing than facial fat grafting. As Arthur Perry recently quipped on the Dr. Oz blog, “the words ‘stem cells’ seem to sell [cosmetic procedures] like the word ‘sex’ sells magazines.”

It’s important to take claims about the stem cell facelift with a grain of salt. While they may be effective, as many of their proponents claim, it’s simply too early to tell right now.