It is so frustrating that the media seems to ignore science fairly frequently when it comes to sources of consumer knowledge. Articles about cosmetic procedures appear in popular magazines on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, much of what is published is incomplete or untrue. One of the latest hot topics is “stem cell facelifts.” Those in Hollywood are somewhat fascinated with them at present. Unfortunately, there is currently no adequate science to suggest that such a procedure offers any advantages whatsoever over standard techniques.

So what is a “stem cell facelift?” Stem cells are immature cells that when placed in certain environments or are stimulated appropriately can develop into almost any type of cell desired. Stem cells are abundant in fat, so harvesting fat cells via liposuction can provide a large volume of stem cells. To increase the concentration of stem cells in a sample, the fat has to be processed. Currently, the processing systems are not FDA approved, so anyone providing this procedure in the US is doing so without FDA approval. Once the stem cells are obtained, they are injected into the face with fat in an effort to provide a rejuvenative effect.

The American Society of Plastic Surgery and The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons have commissioned a task force to review and evaluate currently available data on this technique, and the use of stem cells in plastic surgery in general. They have reviewed 9,000 papers. Their current stance is that the available data is completely inadequate to suggest that this technique is beneficial. Most of the data is anecdotal instead of from controlled studies where results can be validated. The task force has suggested that controlled studies be conducted, and until that can be accomplished, they do not recommend this alternative facelift procedure.

While all of us would love to find the fountain of youth, this technology is not yet at the point that it should be provided by surgeons who are not conducting clinical trials. I hope potential patients will be smart and either pursue traditional, effective means of facial rejuvenation or wait until this procedure is more thoroughly studied.

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