Does the thought of putting placenta on your face make you want to heave? Then you may want to look away. Because thanks to it being rich in rejuvenating stem cells, afterbirth is becoming an increasingly popular cure-all ingredient.
Hollywood stars January Jones and Alicia Silverstone hit the headlines in 2011 for taking placenta pills to get their energy back post-childbirth, but now the focus has turned to anti-ageing.
In LA, A-listers’ doctor Harold Lancer is known as the man behind the placenta facial, loved by Victoria Beckham. It involves a serum made from sheep’s placenta being applied to the skin. And you’ll find placenta popping up in more and more high-end anti-wrinkle creams, too.
Typically sourced from sheep, pigs, cows or deer, placenta is used in Asia for its speedy skin-healing powers, and it’s being studied in the medical world to aid the slow-healing wounds of diabetics.
Victoria Woodhall gives verdict on a selection of placenta products available to purchase in the UK, as the ingredient is dubbed the new elixir of youth (file image)
‘The placenta is rich in proteins, enzymes and growth factors from stem cells. If processed properly, they can have skin-enhancing benefits,’ says Dr Sophie Shotter, who has seen great results using Calecim Professional placenta serum in reducing downtime after clinical facials. ‘Studies show placental proteins have anti-ageing benefits,’ she adds.
It’s vital to check how the placenta in your cream has been sourced and processed. Dr Maryam Zamani, whose clients include Elle Macpherson, clearly lists ovine (sheep) placenta in two of her anti-ageing creams, although it was only when I emailed that she told me that the placenta was ethically sourced from a rural New Zealand sheep farm, which collects the placenta after the animals have given birth.
You may baulk at the idea of putting afterbirth on your face, but no live placenta cells make it into the final creams. The cells are frozen, heat-treated or cultured to release a rich cocktail of proteins, growth factors and amino acids called ‘placental protein’.
‘Placental protein contains active enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants that stimulate the renewal of skin cells, slowing down the ageing process,’ says Dr Zamani. Rigorous safety and ethical checks do mean a good placenta cream will have a high price tag, says Dr Shotter.
Still not sure? We’ve tested six placenta products, so you don’t have to. . .
EYE GEL FROM NEW ZEALAND SHEEP
Nature’s Beauty Ovine Placenta Eye Gel, £12.95, kiwisheepskins.com
Victoria said Nature’s Beauty Ovine Placenta Eye Gel (pictured) was not worth the £11 cost of shipping from New Zealand
What is it? A cooling cucumber and Manuka honey gel with placental protein from sheep.
What’s it like? It may seem cheap, but I had to spend £11 on top of my order to get this shipped from New Zealand. The country has high animal welfare standards and the placenta is organic, but I wasn’t convinced enough to finish the pot.
Verdict: Not worth the cost of shipping. 2/5
EGGY-SCENTED WRINKLE BUSTER
MZ Skin by Dr Maryam Zamani Replenish and Restore, £255, mzskin.com
Victoria said MZ Skin by Dr Maryam Zamani Replenish and Restore (pictured) is a tried and tested proven doctor’s formula
What is it? An overnight recovery mask with five per cent placental protein solution (from sheep) and two per cent plant placenta from asparagus stem cells, as well as peptides and hyaluronic acid.
What’s it like? This silky-smooth mask made my dehydrated skin feel plumped overnight.
Because Dr Zamani likes to minimise added fragrance, there’s a slight eggy smell from the active ingredients. I like that the product itself has been trialled to show a decrease in wrinkle depth of up to 14.4 per cent after one month of nightly use.
Verdict: A tried and tested proven doctor’s formula.4/5
NOURISHING LAB AFTERBIRTH POTION
Sarah Chapman London Skinesis Comfort Cream D-Stress, £66, sarah chapman.com
Victoria said Sarah Chapman London Skinesis Comfort Cream D-Stress (pictured) is a soothing cream for modern stress
What is it? A nourishing recovery cream with bio-placenta, a mixture of synthetic growth factors made in a lab to soothe sensitive skin and increase elasticity.
What’s it like? It soothes and plumps misbehaving menopausal skin, and also acts as a pollution shield, with ceramides to keep moisture in. It uses ‘bio-placenta’, i.e. placenta made in a lab.
While it doesn’t have the proteins of animal placenta, it is a complex of similar growth factors with anti-wrinkle properties.
Verdict: A soothing cream for modern stress.4/5
THE DEAR DEER UMBILICAL CREAM
Calecim Professional Multi-Action Cream, £61 for 20g, calecim professional.com
Victoria said Calecim Professional Multi-Action Cream (pictured) provided noticeable results in improving skin tone
What is it? A high-grade anti-ageing lifting cream made using the umbilical cord lining of red deer, which is even richer in stem cells than placenta. It’s usually available only in clinics, but you can buy direct from the supplier.
What’s it like? Targeting skin laxity and showing noticeable results in improving tone, eye bags and jowls after four weeks in an independent trial, this cream is one of the most rigorously safety and efficacy-tested serums.
Verdict: This works. 4/5
BEAUTY BOOST CLAIM THAT’S A BIT FISHY
Skin Inc Beauty Jelly Dose, £21.60, feelunique.com
Victoria only managed a tiny mouthful of Skin Inc Beauty Jelly Dose (pictured) before pouring it down the sink
What is it? Suckable sachets of jelly infused with marine placenta for ‘detox, glow and lift’.
What’s it like? I managed only a tiny mouthful of this sickly peach goo before I poured it down the sink. No doctors I spoke to mentioned fish placenta as a source of anti-ageing proteins, and there’s no evidence that eating fish placenta will give you a detox glow.
It does contain a tiny amount of marine collagen from fish scales, plus apple cider vinegar (for metabolism), vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, which helps to support skin hydration and collagen production.
Verdict: Stomach-churning. 0/5
ANTI-AGER WITH A HIGH PRICE TAG
Skin Chemists London Placenta Moisturiser, £110, skinchemists.com
Victoria said Skin Chemists London Placenta Moisturiser (pictured) is overpriced, with uninformative packaging
What is it? A hydrating cream for mature skin, containing placental protein to ‘reduce the visible signs of ageing’.
What’s it like? The first ingredients are water and glycerin, closely followed by coconut oil — cheap substances that don’t seem to justify the huge price tag.
Could it be the placental protein that’s special? With no details on how much it contains, or where it’s from, on the packaging or website, this artificially fragranced cream did not inspire confidence.
Verdict: Overpriced, with uninformative packaging. 1/5