Scientific Skincare - Stem Cell Facelift

Stem Cell Facelifts: A New Anti-Aging Treatment

Stem cells are a controversial subject and often raise ethical debates. However, they hold enormous healing benefits for many medical conditions. ‘Stem cell facelifts’ have recently been developed based on the evidence that stem cell therapy also has cosmetic and anti-aging benefits.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are a type of cell that can change their cell type and divide to create more of the same type of cells [1]. They can become skin cells, muscle cells, brain cells, or other types of cells. Stem cells also help to repair damaged tissue and come from two main sources; embryos or adult tissue [2].

The use of embryonic stem cells is controversial and often raises ethical, legal, and political debates [3]. However, the embryos that the stem cells come from are created for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and donated for research when they are no longer needed for this purpose.

Adult stem cells have much less controversy surrounding them. Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells can be taken from the person to be treated [4]. This causes less of an ethical issue as well as eliminating the risk that the person’s immune system will reject the cells.

Although adult stem cells are present in nearly all bodily tissue, they were originally sourced from bone marrow [1][2]. More recently, stem cells have been extracted from human fat (adipose) tissue [1][2]. These fat stem cells have been successfully used to repair wounds and are now being used to treat wrinkles.

stem cell facelifts

Stem Cells and Anti-Aging

The effect that the stem cells have on their surrounding tissues results in improved skin structure, increased collagen production, and reversed skin aging [5][6].

For example, one case study reported extracting fat from a patient and injecting it back into the patient’s outer eye area. After 2 months the skin on the outer eye area was thicker and ‘crows feet’ wrinkles were improved [5].

Considering the current drive for less invasive non-surgical facelifts, could stem cell facelifts be the next big thing in anti-aging?

Stem Cell Facelifts

To date, there is little research on the effectiveness of stem cell treatment for anti-aging.

One study created wrinkles in hairless mice by exposing them to Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. (A friendly reminder to wear sunscreen on a daily basis). These wrinkles were improved after the injection of stem cells from fat tissue, which was largely due to increased skin thickness and increased collagen. This would suggest that stem cells obtained from fat are able to improve premature wrinkles from UVB exposure [7].

Stem Cell Facelifts Vs Fat Grafting

Fat grafts, or fat transfers, are treatments where fat is removed from one area of a person’s body (i.e. liposuction) and injected into a different body area. Fat grafts are a common anti-aging treatment, where fat is taken from an area where it is unwanted and injected into wrinkled areas to add volume and improve the appearance of wrinkles. Stem cells help fat transfers to succeed [8].

In this case, then, it appears that ‘stem cell facelifts’ are just a different way of advertising a fat transfer surgery. The increased facial volume as a result of transferred fat alone is enough to create an appearance of facial fullness, smoother wrinkles, and an overall more youthful look [3].

So What’s The Verdict?

Overall, the science behind ‘stem cell facelifts’ does appear to show promise. Stem cell treatment can help with a variety of medical conditions and is likely to have anti-aging uses. However, the few studies that have looked into the effectiveness of such treatment have used mice or one single person case study. Therefore, further research is needed to determine whether the treatment works.

Furthermore, it’s hard to tell whether it is the stem cells that are providing the anti-aging benefits or the fact that the injected fat is creating facial volume. Thus, the increased facial volume is providing the anti-aging benefits.


  1. Utsunomiya, T., Shimada, M., Imura, S., Morine, Y., Ikemoto, T., Mori, H., Hanaoka, J., Iwahashi, S., Saito, Y. & Iwaguro, H. (2011). ‘Human adipose-derived stem cells: Potential clinical applications in surgery’. Surgery Today, 41(1), 18-23.
  2. Zuk, P. (2010). ‘The adipose-derived stem cell: looking back and looking ahead’. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 21, 1783-1787.
  3. Atiyeh, B., Ibrahim, A. & Saad, D. (2013). ‘Stem Cell Facelift: Between Reality and Fiction’. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 33(3), 334-338.
  4. Yabut, O. & Bernstein, H. (2011). ‘The promise of human embryonic stem cells in aging-associated diseases’. Aging, 3(5), 494-508.
  5. Park, B., Jang., K., Sung, J., Park, J., Kwon, Y., Kim, K. & Kim, W. (2008). ‘Adipose-derived stem cells and their secretory factors as a promising therapy for skin aging’. Dermatology Surgery, 34(10), 1323-1326.
  6. Hanson, S., Gutowski, K. & Hermatti, P. (2010). ‘Clinical applications of mesenchymal stem cells in soft tissue augmentation’, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 30, 838-842.
  7. Kim, W., Park, B., Park, S., Kim, H. & Sung, J. (2009). ‘Antiwrinkle effect of adipose-derived stem cell: Activation of dermal fibroblast by secretory factors’. Journal of Dermatological Science, 53(2), 96-102.
  8. ASAPS/ASPS. (2011). ‘position statement on stem cells and fat grafting’, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 31, 716-717.
  9. NIH Stem Cell Information Home Page. In Stem Cell Information [World Wide Web site]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016 [cited August 17, 2018] Available at:

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