Is placenta an effective anti-aging ingredient, or just the latest Hollywood trend.

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While it may seem like an unlikely ingredient in Western culture, the medicinal use of placenta roots itself in history on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, placenta has been used as a restorative elixir to treat wasting diseases, infertility and impotence, as well as increasing lactation in nursing mothers. In Chinese and Vietnamese cultures consuming the placenta is seen as healthy, and is commonly practiced. Sometimes prepared as a dish, and sometimes encapsulated, studies have argued the wealth of health benefits to ingesting the organ—particularly that it is high in iron and vitamin B6, both of which are depleted during pregnancy, and can aid in fighting postpartum depression.

While it may work wonders internally, what happens when this ingredient is applied topically? Celebrities have been raving about placenta facials and placenta skincare, crediting the beauty buzz ingredient for softer, smoother, rejuvenated skin. Dr. Stacey Shillington, ND, from Naturopathic Beauty in Toronto, helps to shed some light on the controversial ingredient.

The Controversy behind the Placenta’s Efficacy

“Placenta is a very nutrient dense tissue—it contains growth factors, nutrients, amino acids, estrogens and stem cells. Stem cells are the key ingredient in placenta, and they are unique because they have the ability to repair all the different types of cells in the body,” explains Dr. Shillington. This is important because all types of cells have coded functions in their DNA—they are programmed to do a specific task. Because stem cells are so multifunctional, they can repair structures like collagen and elastin, as well as skin cells, all critical to the anti-aging process. The catch lies in where more research is needed: “Usually only live stem cells have the ability to repair other cells, and it’s debatable whether or not these cells in the placenta are actually [still] live,” continues Dr. Shillington. Besides stem cells, the placenta can also work effectively in menopausal women because it is rich in estrogen: “Often sagging skin post-menopause is due to reduced estrogen in the body,” says Dr. Shillington.

Are Cosmeceutical Companies using Human Placenta?

Sheep, or ovine placenta is the most common type in cosmetic ingredients on the market. “The ingredient is extracted from sheep placenta which is particularly rich in nutrients, more so than most mammals, including humans due to their very strong and vital immune systems,” explains Maria Hatzistefanis, founder of global skincare brand Rodial. It’s no coincidence then that many companies are manufacturing their products in New Zealand, since that’s where all of the sheep are found! This can also attribute to the costly prices ascribed to these products.

The Verdict

Stem cell effectiveness aside, the placenta is laden with nutrients that have a dramatic impact on the skin’s anti-aging process. While Australian, New Zealand and Asian markets have openly embraced the use of placenta in skin care products, North Americans are lagging a bit behind. Hopefully, with more research and development, we will be able to reap the benefits of an ingredient in modern skin care that has

The Goods

Lanopearl All Day Protective Complex ($52, Alive Health Centre): This intensive formula combines the power of placenta with 48 herbal extracts to deliver fast acting wrinkle reduction and a whole ton of hydration and skin benefits. Jojoba and avocado soothe skin and boost essential oils, while algae and chamomile extracts soothe redness and irritation.

The Merino Placenta Eye Cream ($22.95, this cream helps to revive the delicate skin around the eyes with vitamins C, E and B5, while antioxidants fight off free-radical damage. Merino couples the effects of placenta with Lanolin oil extracted from the sheep’s wool for a truly natural cocktail of nourishment.

Rodial Bee Venom & Placenta 24 Carat Ultimate Cream ($850, Murale): This is the moisturizer of all moisturizers. The decadent ingredients make for one of Rodial’s most lavish products yet: “We have been working with our exclusive laboratory on the 24 carat gold range for 5 years, we then continued development for a further two years to create our most advanced and complex anti-aging cream. We really wanted this to be a breakthrough range so we took our time with getting the product just right!” explains Hatzistefanis. The bee venom plumps the skin (mimicking the reaction to being stung, minus the pain!) while the placenta and 24-carat gold increase cell turnover and rebuild collagen and elastin in the skin.

Rebirth Advanced Placenta Concentrate Serum ($47 for 25 ml, Alive Health Centre): Using 45 per cent placenta extract, this serum works to reduce fine lines and wrinkles while banishing dark spots. The molecular structure is tiny enough to sink into the skin’s pores completely. Lightweight and hydrating, this serum is most effective when used twice daily.

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