Our readers request, we respond with alacrity. Here is an egregious example of what we have been talking about around here … the use of science buzz words to sell products that are devoid of any real scientific basis for their existence.
3LAB WW Cream (2 oz.) $425
The Gold Standard of Anti-Aging skin care. This luxurious treatment effectively brightens the skin, combats facial lines, wrinkles, sagging, uneven skin tone, and dryness that leads to dullness: using rare natural ingredients expertly blended in our lab to achieve in-office like results with a touch of gold.
SYNERGISTIC BLEND OF STEM CELL ACTIVATORS – Unique blend of revolutionary anti-aging actives based on plant stem cells and bio-engineered growth hormone-like protein: effectively rejuvenates skin by regenerating skin cells, protecting skin from UV-radiation and repairing the aged skin
They claim “stem cell activators…based on plant stem cells”. How would stem cells know how to signal human stem cells? I work in stem cell science, and I have never heard of that. Mainly because it doesn’t exist. See Dr. George’s excellent expose on plant stem cells.
Let’s look more closely.
• PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica – derived from stem cell of a rare Swiss apple, it protects and stimulates skin stem cells and prevents chronic skin aging
• PhytoCellTec Solar Vitis – derived from stem cell of a rare red-flesh grape, it protects the most outer layer of skin, the epidermal stem cells, against UV damage
• Plant Stem Cell Extract — chrysanthemum flower stem cell culture medium
• E-Mortal – this nano-sized, liposomized peptides extracted from wheat effectively fights the aging of the skin, such as fine lines and wrinkle by activating/promoting stem cell, increasing collagen production by increasing fibroblasts(skin cell that increases collagen production) and inhibiting an enzyme that prohibits collagen production
• NanoClair GY – a bio-engineered growth hormone-like protein, encapsulated in nano-liposomes, that works as a “hormone replacement therapy” for the skin.”
Ok, this is truly a grab bag of nonsense ingredients with specious claims. Let’s start with the PhytoCellTec conspiracy to cell plant parts as though they are as valuable as human parts. Hey, stem cells are stem cells, right?
PhytoCellTec is a trademarked line from Mirabelle, a Swiss manufacturer of a panoply of cosmetic ingredients. Let me remind you how the industry works. Ingredients manufacturers create new ingredients and market them to cosmetic product manufacturers, who then mix them together and market them to you. Most of the nonsense comes from the ingredients manufacturers who specialize in making their products sound exotic and rare and based on leading edge science. I do wish the Swiss would stick to chocolate and watches.
What they do to impress cosmetic manufacturers (so they will buy their ingredients in bulk) is to produce data sheets for each product with “scientific proof” that it works. The problem is that the science is total nonsense. They favor doing nonsensical little in vitro experiments to come up with “scientific proof”. Is this proof real science? The fact that it rarely if ever is submitted to a real peer reviewed science journal is telling. They would be laughed off the planet for most of what I see trying to pass as legitimate science.
I’m going to share with you the “testing” for PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica as an example. The others are much the same. This is directly from the glossy brochure literature they use to impress companies like 3Lab.
PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica
Maintenance of Stem Cell Growth
An in vitro test was conducted on umbilical cord blood stem cells with Malus Domestica stem cell extract which is the active component of PhytoCellTec™ Malus Domestica. Umbilical cord blood stem cells (UCBSC) are the “youngest” safely available stem cells for research. The influence of Malus Domestica stem cell extract on UCBSC artificial growth was evaluated by counting the cell number after incubation. Results showed that Malus Domestica stem cell extract has a positive effect on UCBSC’s artificial growth thus maintaining the growth and the proliferative activity of UCBSC.
How do they get this extract? They grow some “plant stem cells” in culture and then lyse them (break them open). Folks, if you are digging the guts out of stem cells, they will look like the guts of any other plant cell. Back to the old you may as well smear hamburger on your face aphorism. The reason stem cells are special has to do with what genes are turned on or off, and the proteins they make when they are alive. Breaking them apart, spill their guts, is not the way to harvest their valuable proteins (peptides).
OK so you take some plant extract and apply it to a colony of stem cells growing in a flask in an incubator. Then you count the number of cells. The cells divide and create more cells “faster” when you add this stuff.
So, what does this experiment demonstrate? That stem cells in culture love to grow and divide (it’s what they do). You add some nutrients, they grow faster. Actually, you can add any of thousands of different chemicals to the culture and they grow faster. Including toxins, mitogens, and cancer causing agents. UV light does it. Lowering the oxygen concentration does it. You can even put human saliva (that’s right, spit) in the culture and it grows faster. So what have you proven? Absolutely nothing, other than what we already know – that stem cells in a flask want to divide and grow until they fill up the floor of that flask (they slow down and stop when they start touching one another). They need nutrients to do that. The rate of growth tells you nothing.
You know what we do to speed up growth routinely? We remove half the cells. What? That’s right, the most powerful stimulant to stem cell proliferation is the space available to grow into before they bump up against one another. The fewer there are, the faster they grow. We call it “passaging”.
Back to the question – what does the Mirabelle experiment prove about malus Domestica pulp/stem cell guts? Absolutely nothing. Total waste of time. It was the wrong experiment to prove anything. If there had been a real stem cell biologist in sight, he/she would have done an entirely different experiment. Of course a real biologist would have also started with a literature review (in which case they would note that plant stem cells don;t make the same proteins as human stem cells). They might also have look in any common textbook on cell culture to learn the myriad of substances that affect growth of stem cells in vitro (in culture flasks).
In vivo (on your skin, making the leap of faith that this cream gets absorbed) what does this stuff do?? Absolutely nothing, beyond perhaps what many plants can offer- some antioxidant activity. Stem cell stimulation? Likely not – they didn’t test that hypothesis in in actual humans. The point is that their “proof” is phony. Tells you nothing about what it actually does inside skin. Skin is not a culture flask. Not a lot of empty space down there in the basal layer of the dermis. Hard to “passage” stem cells in vivo (not that you would want to).
Let’s take another star ingredient. How about NanoClair GY? This from one of the south Korean ingredients companies that don’t really bother much with experiments. They just do press releases. Here is what they say about NanoClair GY: “The world-first developer of cosmetic hGH (human growth hormone) and discoverer of its authentic cosmetic and pharmaceutical efficacies.” I think they need a better translator. But let’s just take this literally. They invented cosmetic hGH? But wait … the only way to get hGH through skin is with injections or microneedles, or RF microchannels. It’s just too big a molecule. I wonder how they got around that (and the landmark paper isn’t published in any journal??). That would be newsworthy indeed, for all those children with growth issues who need to be injected with hGH. Would be worth a fortune, too (if it were real).
Now another thing. Why would you want growth hormone in your skin? Let’s assume you are not growth hormone deficient, so you will be giving your precious skin more than your body already produces. So, what are the cutaneous signs of growth hormone excess? They are skin overgrowth, a coarse thickening of the skin, big pores, skin tags, thick hairy skin (watch out ladies), enlarged glands in the skin (sebaceous glands –> acne), excessive sweating, big hands and feet, big face, prominent jaw, limited joint movement.
Ever see the skin of a person with acromegaly (growth hormone excess)? See picture.
Does this sound like or look like the cosmetic discovery of the century?
The total cost for the ingredients for this product which sells for $425 per 2 oz. is about $6-8. That’s quite a markup.
Conclusion: This is why Dr George and I get upset. This is why we started this blog. We love science, and hate it when science is distorted and used for nefarious schemes like this one. How many of these are we going to end up reviewing? I think the whole industry needs to implode on itself. Maybe something more rational will arise from the ashes. Of course the only way that will happen is if we stop buying this junk science, and the junk -products derived from it.
Thanks for such an entertaining and informative review, and so fast too! Have cross posted the link to Makeuptalk.
Keep it coming DrJ.
Wait till you read the Botaderm BS for science, clinical study of ONE….BAH!
Thanks for a great site. What about this line… there is some conversation about it on EDS forum: http://www.lifelineskincare.com/
Coming soon. Like tomorrow!
I think the tricky part here is that you haven’t proven that the product doesn’t do what the manufacturer is claiming (…effectively brightens the skin, combats facial lines, wrinkles, sagging, uneven skin tone, and dryness that leads to dullness). What you have proven is that the tests they have chosen are not valid. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t buy this product under any circumstances, but it seems to me that there is a segment of the population that is searching for the fountain of youth and they will try anything – for pretty much any price. And, they will defend their choices to the end. So it is nice to see a site that presents valuable information, but I would discourage you guys from getting too excited about changing the industry just yet, because the consumer mindset is totally willing to believe in miracles.
Indya, you make some good points. i would argue that IF the product does what they claim, it truly would be a miracle, because it would defy all known science. In which case I would say give thanks where it is due. Praise the Lord!
How about this one: http://www.easyeyesolutions.com/instant-eye-tuck/
There is no price on the site until you add it to your cart and then open your cart where you find a price tag of $75.00 + shipping. The ingredients don’t seem special and I don’t see how they could achieve and instant “eye tuck”.
This was a very informative and helpful article diferentiating plant stem cells from human stem cells and the lack of credible scientific evidence to support the bold claims of so many of the anti aging cream maufacturers.
Im curious about the claims made by Life Line Skincare and their use of actual human stem cells. They seem to extract something from the stem cels and claims direct rejuventating effects on the skin in the form of increased collagen production and increased skin density, fibroblast activity etc. Have you or could you possibly review this product as well ?
Hi Carol, We already did – you find the review HERE and some recent comments on it HERE (you may have to scroll down a ways, see reply to questions by rileygirl).
I used to buy 3Lab “M” cream but had to stop using it ten years ago when it was no longer available in Canada. When I stopped my skin looked older. I was recently able to buy it and within a week my skin was radiant and beautiful again. It’s a very expensive skincare brand but the “M” cream seems worth it. If you think it’s not exceptional than please make a knockoff that’s cheaper. I would stand in line to buy it.
We did a review of 3Lab “WW” cream when barefacedtruth.com was just starting (2011) and found the marketing hype clearly off the mark and the concept of plant-based stem cell activators flimsy wishful thinking with no rational scientific basis. At $425, it was pretty pricey stuff with probably no more than $6-8 dollars of ingredients in it. You can read that post at:
The 3Lab “M” cream seems like a similar product. With the improvements you describe occurring within a week, we suspect the few skincare actives (vits C & E, and botanical antioxidants) had nothing to do with your improved skin feel and appearance. It is much more likely the result of the several silicone-based ingredient that are, based on their being among the first few ingredients, present in significant amounts. These include: Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Caprylyl Methicone, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Stearyl Dimethicone. These compounds provide temporary improvements in feel and appearance but we doubt there is any long-lasting benefit. An interesting test would be to wash your skin thoroughly, not use the product for a few days and see what residual improvements you see. We would expect little to none.