Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beauty Bullshit: Resveratrol and Fruit Stem Cells

Welcome to the first installment of “Beauty Bullshit”, a segment where I explain to you how makeup and skin care companies are trying to manipulate you into buying expensive shit because it sounds vaguely science-y.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream. Note the vast diversity in skin types that this brand caters to. Source: http://www.examiner.com/article/demystifying-cc-cream
 Our first target is Juice Beauty’s brand new CC cream. According to the Juice Beauty website, this ‘Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream’ is a “blend of Vitamin C and Fruit Stem Cells infused into an organic reseveratrol rich grapeseed base [that] radically firms and prevents wrinkles [sic]”. The Birchbox website adds, “It’s part tinted mineral sunscreen—the SPF 30 formula contains 20 percent zinc oxide—and part antioxidant serum, thanks to infusions of grape-derived resveratrol, vitamin C, and fruit stem cells. The [active ingredients] work together to reverse cellular DNA damage”. Wow, that sounds like science! It must be very effective. Where do I send my money?

How could I possibly do yoga without fruit stem cells on my face? Source: the Juice Beauty website.
 There are two methodologically dubious implications in these descriptions. The first implication is that something called “reseveratrol” prevents wrinkles when applied topically to the face. The second implication is that “fruit stem cells” are able to “reverse cellular DNA damage”, again, using a topical application. Those are both really big and really problematic claims and I am going to deal with them separately. (By the way, topical vitamin C has actually been shown to have clinical effects reducing sun damage. And yes, zinc oxide really is sunscreen.)

Resveratrol

First, I want to deal briefly with “reseveratrol”. Juice Beauty spelled the name of their supposed active ingredient incorrectly. What they mean to say is resveratrol, which is a phenylpropanoid that is found in the skins of grapes.

Resveratrol.
 The idea that resveratrol may be a factor in aging began in 2003 with a paper in Nature (the premiere interdisciplinary science journal) by Howitz and Sinclair entitled “Small molecule activators of sirtuins extend Saccharomyces cerevisiae lifespan”. Basically, the authors found that resveratrol stimulated the Sir2 gene, extending the lifespan of a particular species of yeast. Other researchers attempted to repeat these findings in fruitflies and in a nematode species called C. elegans, but did not succeed. Additionally, some clinical studies of resveratrol have been conducted in mammals. Unfortunately, it appears that resveratrol does NOT extend the life of mice. At last, in 2011, an article in Nature concluded that the lifespan effects of resveratrol had been significantly overstated.

If you are a yeast cell, congratulations on your literacy. Maybe check out this resveratrol thing. If you are a human, though, you should know that at the present time, there are NO peer reviewed journal articles that suggest that resveratrol has any effect on people. In addition, all of the previous studies have used resveratrol in the organism’s diet. Juice Beauty’s CC Cream is topical. That’s the difference between eating some kale and rubbing kale on your face. Obviously the latter is not going to do very much. Even more fundamentally, all of this research is being done to examine the effects the organism’s overall lifespan, NOT on visual anti-aging effects. If you are buying this product, it’s because you want your skin to look nice and youthful. But that’s just not what these studies are about.

You would be shocked at the efficacy of a google search for "kale face". Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pocketmonsterd/4719899136/sizes/m/in/photostream/

When you look at the research, you can kind of see Juice Beauty’s train of thought. Something like, “Resveratrol extends the lifespan of yeast... yeast are cells... your skin is made up of cells... If yeast aren’t dying they also are probably not getting little yeasty wrinkles... magic... something... anti-aging! Somehow!”

Fruit Stem Cells

The next concerning claim is that “fruit stem cells” are somehow able to repair damaged skin.

The name of the product is the ‘Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream’, which already does not make a lot of sense. I am pretty sure that they want you to think the product causes cellular repair via stem cells, but the name makes it sound like the product is repairing your stem cells.

Before we move any further, what are stem cells? Stem cells are a real thing and they are, in fact, science-y. Basically, before an animal cell is a muscle cell or a red blood cell or anything like that, it is sort of a generic cell that can differentiate into various other things. Embryonic stem cells, which are taken from the inside of a structure early in development when the embryo is between 50 and 150 cells, are pluripotent, meaning they they can differentiate into any of the three germ layers. Basically, these cells can become anything, as long as they are put in the right environment. This is really exciting for medical research because it unlocks new doors for treating chronic illnesses (although it is highly probable that you have heard overstated claims about the power of stem cell research). There are also adult stem cells in your bone marrow, fat, and blood. These are multipotent, meaning they can’t be any kind of cell, but their cell fate is not determined yet. For instance, a Mesenchymal Stem Cell can become bone, cartilage, or fat. It could not, for example, become a blood cell.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stem_cells_diagram.png
 Like animals, plants have stem cells. Plant stem cells are found in the meristem of the plants. This is where growth happens-- it is at the very tip of the shoot (which will become leaves and flowers) and the root. Juice Beauty is using cells from the apical meristem of some mystery plant (although, if they are on trend with the rest of the internet’s fruit stem cell pseudoscientists, they are using an apple). All they are doing is grinding up the root and the shoot and sticking it in their product. You could easily do this in your backyard.

An apical meristem. Source: http://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/pix/meristem.jpg
 The idea behind stem cell therapy is that the living cells can help repair damage to your organs basically by replacing them with ones that don’t suck. The “stem cells” in this CC cream are very dead, so they aren’t going to be able to do that. Before you go out and start rubbing apple roots on your face, living stem cells aren’t going do anything for you either. We don’t do medical research using apple stem cells because we aren’t apples. A living apple cell is not going to incorporate itself into your skin. AND, even if you DID have human embryonic stem cells sitting in your freezer for some reason, rubbing it on your face would not only be disgusting, it wouldn’t give the cells the appropriate cues to do anything meaningful. Triple failure.

With poorly-researched newspaper articles referring to stem cells as a “fountain of youth”, it is unsurprising that skin care companies would jump on this idea for anti-aging products. However, again, this claim does not hold any water.

Concluding Thoughts

 Overall, both of these claims are based on only tenuous connections to actual research. Juice Beauty is depending on science-illiteracy as a scheme to sell their product.

I have contacted the company to hear their side of the science, but haven’t received a response (to be fair, it is the holidays). If they respond to my emails or phone calls, I will give you an update.

If you have any beauty claims you want researched in future Beauty Bullshit blogs, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

77 comments:

  1. i would like to nominate hydroxatone. i tried a sample of that around my eyes and couldn't get it off my face fast enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check back in the next week or so. I am up to my eyeballs right now but I will look into it.

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    2. Good sharing, you may already know that Resveratrol can improve your heart, your afteries, your weight and your skin. I would like share a good resveratrol supplement which is Vineatrol Mixed Resveratrol, it has six different molecules of Resveratrol for a supplement of unmatched potency. Just 100mg of Vineatrol Mixed Resveratrol offers you more benefits than 100 glasses of red wine and has 20 times the potency of ordinary trans-Resveratrol supplements. Read more at:
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  2. Hi I was wondering if this product which sounds kind of similar "fruit stem cells" work? http://www.acureorganics.com/ Please review it~ it says they are "active" stem cells.

    ReplyDelete
  3. sorry heres the product: http://www.acureorganics.com/NIGHT-CREAM-argan-stem-cell-2-chlorella-growth-p/006.htm

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also this product sounds sciency but I'm not sure if its bullshit or not: http://www.livingproof.com/buy/amp

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can do for both of the above. I am midway through another Beauty Bullshit post, but check back in a week or so.

      Delete
    2. Actually, quick amendment: I don't think I am going to do a whole post on the argan stem cell product because it is so similar to the Juice Beauty claims.

      Argan is a tree that lives in the Mediterranean. Because it is a plant, its stem cells aren't going to do anything meaningful to your skin even though it is "active". Also, because it is applied topically, like Juice Beauty, your body wouldn't be able to give it appropriate cellular cues to make a difference even if it was the same species.

      The stem cell shit is a real trend right now, but it does not have any scientifically valid beauty applications.

      Delete
  5. Okay awesome thank you for the great summary! Makes sense. I didnt know this was a global trend so I guess we'll be seeing a lot more of it eh? Do you think there will eventually be drug store products with "plant stem cells"?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Depends on how effective this is at convincing people to buy these products!

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  8. I think fruit flies have more logic than the marketing dudes at juice beauty - tho the marketing dudes make waaaaay more money than a fruit fly....that's sad! Marketing is like politics - they have a way of creating expectations but deliver nothing... Another fabulous post. You are gifted with your writing skills, technical research, and humour. I love your posts, and will definitely link to them from my blog. I know it takes a lot of work to do these, but they are greatly appreciated :-)

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  9. As a nurse and pursuing graduate studies, this is the kind of stuff I dig.

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  10. The action that over time transpires is the light stimulates collagen that then would be going dormant. It awakens and strengthens the cells that cause your skin to have such luster and elasticity to WAKE UP and be restored. Chestnut spots from sun impairment and soreness at this point have debauched. Your exposure to the environmental elements and how you choose to protect your skin play a key role in how well you respond and sustain the possessions that this procedure can have on your cells. Sunblock and Vitamin C are domineering; you must use daily and conceivably reapply two to three times depending on your situation. And your doctors laser hair removal courses on I discovery glycerin makes the serum very adhesive. I currently use the recipe from magnificently green and her recipe only calls for 1 tsp. of glycerin and I can barely stand the adhesiveness from that
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  12. Thank you for this post - it's the first thing I found that wasn't touting it as a vague mysterious cure-all. I couldn't even find out WHAT these mysterious "plant/fruit stem cells" were - only all these supposed benefits. So thank you for the explanation.

    Small addition/correction to you information on human stem cells - embryonic stem cells do not have as much mystical potential as has been touted. They too often just form tumors...AND they often have the same issues as organ transplants, since they are, in effect, a transplant of cells from another human.

    Adult stem cells; however, HAVE been highly beneficial and there are numerous cures and treatments that have been derived from them without all the tumors or ethical baggage that comes with embryonic stem cells.

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