The Stem-Cell Facelift Debate

Is there anything to it? Or is it just a marketing gimmick?

Where you find stem cells, controversy is bound to follow. While you’re probably familiar with the debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research, you might be surprised to learn that even the cosmetic surgery industry is not immune to scrutiny surrounding the use of stem cells.

Embryos aren’t the only only source of stem cells; there’s some inside you right now, and one of the best places to find them is among adipose, or fat cells. Being ‘blank’ cells that can form into specialized cells around them, stem cells could be extremely useful in cosmetic procedures, encouraging growth of collagen, muscles, or other tissue wherever such tissue is needed.

This is the philosophy behind the so-called “Stem-Cell Facelift,” a procedure touted by some as having that extra special ingredient, which is supposed to enhance the appearance of the skin by promoting new tissue growth.

Although, the procedure’s not really a “facelift.” Facelifts are a surgical procedure, whereas Stem-Cell Facelifts are typically nonsurgical, and work instead by injecting liposuctioned fat into the facial features, filling them out. Critics of the procedure doubt there’s much difference between this procedure and fat grafting.

The problem with Stem-Cell Facelifts is a lack of clinical study to confirm the results of the procedure, or even the amount of stem cells, if any, the procedure involves. “We need studies that look at exactly how the skin tissue responds and whether more volume is retained if you use more stem cells,” said Dr. Karol Gutowski, a surgeon in Northbrook, Ill, in an interview with The New York Times. “We’re not seeing that research yet.”

That’s not to say Stem-Cell Facelifts or some similar procedure won’t be viable someday, but until further studies are conducted, it’s best to treat such procedures with a healthy dose of consumer skepticism. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for younger-looking facial features, consider some tried-and-true methods, such as facelifts (the surgical variety), Botox, or another injectable filler. To find out what the best option is for you, book a consultation with your cosmetic surgeon.