Does The Stem Cell Facelift Work?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I have read a lot recently about stem cells and their potential rejuvenative properties. It seems logical that if our body is full of them that they can be used to treat a lot of problems including the negative effects of aging. I see some plastic surgeons offer a stem cell facelift. Does this really work and, if not, how come some doctors do it?

A: The use of adult stem cells for their potential cosmetic and anti-aging effects is very controversial at present. While our fat is a large reservoir of stem cells (300X to 500X more than bone marrow), that does not necessarily mean that they work as we would like or hope. The popularity of stem cells is largely because of the ability to harvest fat through liposuction as a source for stem cells,. It is fairly easy to ‘recycle’ the liposuctioned fat and put it back into the patient as an injection with the assumption that tissues of the face can be rejuvenated, Numerous anectodal claims are made about such injections as creating youthfulness, adding permanent volume and improving the appearance of the skin. This has led to a number of touted procedures carrying such names as the stem cell facelifts. Despite their appeal, there is no medical evidence by published clinical studies that proves that it actually works.

Most of the time, such stem cell injections are really nothing more than fat injections that unavoidably contain some stem cells. It is the fat that creates any volumetric or lifting effect and not the stem cells that it may contain. While such ‘stem cell’ injections are unlikely to be harmful, they have not been proven to have anti-aging effects. But the hope that they might, and the lack of any adverse effects, provides plenty of motivation for marketing hype.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana