Placenta cosmetics – 60 years on

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It’s 60 years since the first cosmetics formulated with placenta extract were launched. The exaggerated claims made by their inventors landed those early products in trouble, but today placenta-based face creams and treatments can be big business, feted in Hollywood and booming in the Far East.

What are placenta cosmetics?

In 1958 the American cosmetics company Lambert-Hudnut unveiled Elixir Natale and Cream Natale – the first cosmetics formulated with placentine, a highly concentrated placental extract combining the proteins, hormones and vitamins that help promote skin cell growth before birth. Unfortunately, their promises to “enable the skin to remain in the ‘bloom’ of babyhood” and to make women look “incredibly younger” were judged misleading, and the products were seized by the authorities.

This did not prevent an array of cosmetics containing placental material entering the market in the decades to come, ranging from bust creams to lipsticks, soaps to toilet waters. These used human placental tissue in some cases, as well as bovine (from cows), porcine (from pigs) and ovine (from sheep) placenta.

Today pharmaceutical companies extract the placenta’s high levels of proteins and enzymes and turn them into chemical compounds used in products to combat wrinkles and revive tired eyes, to hydrate and heal, and to be added to shampoos and conditioners to strengthen hair.

Do placenta cosmetics work?

Scientific studies have shown that placenta-based creams and capsules do have proven skin-enhancing and anti-ageing benefits. A 2015 Korean study 1 published in the Korean Journal for Food Science of Animal Resources found that ingesting pig placenta extract reduced trans-epidermal water loss and the formation of UV wrinkles. A Japanese study 2 in the Gynecology & Obstetrics Journal in 2013 showed pig placenta stimulated the proliferation of collagen in human fibroblast cells, which play a vital role in wound healing.

It is no coincidence that Asia is leading the way in this scientific research. Japan is a major market for placenta-based cosmetics, as the MindBodyGreen blog recently noted how in Tokyo: “The word "placenta" [was] everywhere: affixed to 1-ounce shot tonic bottles in mini-marts, to high-end department store lotions and creams, and pervasive throughout the supplement section in drugstores … Placenta is the anti-ageing ingredient of the moment.” Blogger Amy Chang reported on the benefits of the placenta tinctures and capsules she tried: “My skin was glowing by the end of our first week. My hair thickened. My skin was visibly smoothed and brightened.”

Hollywood celebrities (actresses January Jones and Alicia Silverstone among them), have been enthusing about placenta facials and placenta skincare, saying that nature’s rich raw material is the secret to smoother, softer and rejuvenated skin.

Anti-ageing and hydration properties

To take an example of how this has become big business, luxury skincare range MZ Skin uses ovine placenta and plant stem cells for their soothing and moisturising properties. Founder Maryam Zamani says of products such as her REST & REVIVE Restorative Placenta & Stem Cell Night Serum: “When absorbed topically, [they] help boost collagen synthesis while increasing hydration, which helps to fight the signs of ageing and rejuvenates skin.” She goes as far as to quantify the benefits mathematically, claiming the serum is “clinically proven to decrease wrinkle depth up to 14.4% after 1 month; 100% of patients reported improved skin smoothness; and clinical studies also show that skin is 20% more hydrated after 30 days.”

Placentrex, a gel using human placenta extract, is sold in the US as an acne treatment, while Japan Bio Products’ Laennec PO Human Placenta Extract is billed as “for those who go through life’s changes and would like to keep their youthfulness.” Plazan Gold Series Anti-Wrinkle Eye cream containing “placenta cell extracts” claims to improve blood micro-circulation, promote the retention of moisture in cells and eliminate puffiness and tiredness around the eyes. Shiseido is another high-end brand that has offered deluxe anti-ageing products containing placenta.

Benefits of placenta encapsulation

Many of those who have tried placenta creams, gels and tinctures believe they have seen remarkable effects. All the more so, of course, when these placenta remedies are made from their own placenta after they have given birth, rather than bought “off the shelf.” These placenta encapsulation products uniquely made for each customer offer personalised healing, nourishing and nurturing properties and it’s not surprising that many new mothers rave about them.


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