Scienceploitation? Is the beauty industry borrowing language for stem cell science claims?

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Scienceploitation? Is the beauty industry borrowing language for stem cell science claims?

Related tags: Stem cell, Scientific method

The hype around stem cell science has created a market opportunity for the cosmetic industry; however a new study has suggested that the public need more education on the current limits of stem cell applications in this context.

Cosmetic and anti-ageing products in particular are the ones that have been making more of the claims regarding stem cell technology, but according to a study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal​,​ this is despite there being a lack of evidence for either the safety or efficacy of such products.

The study highlights the need to educate patients and the public on the current limits of stem cell applications in the context of cosmetic and anti-ageing products and treatments, and says that having more evidence on efficacy and risks will help to protect patients who are eagerly seeking out these treatments.

‘Scienceploitation’

In the study, ASAPS member Dr Ivona Percec and her team examined the portrayals of stem cell-based cosmetic and anti-ageing products and treatments online and found that the majority of web pages portrayed stem cell-based products as ready for public use.

It notes that very few substantiated claims with scientific evidence, and even fewer mentioned any risks or limitations associated with stem cell science.

Given the size of the personal care beauty industry, and the high-profile nature of stem cell research, Dr Percec and her team say this is part of a larger trend whereby the language of newer areas of science is leveraged by marketers, in a phenomenon called ‘Scienceploitation.’

Borrowing language

"Some claims were substantiated by clinical studies, celebrities, so-called beauty experts, and medical professionals with phrases like ‘the only crème with an actual study’ and ‘this product has been rigorously tested for maximum efficacy,’ without explaining the science behind the claims,"​ explains Dr Percec.

"Despite the state of stem cell science, where only a relatively small number of therapies have moved to clinical application thus far, the cosmetic and beauty industry continues to borrow language from stem cell science research to market unproven products and treatments as ready-to-go, when such is far from the case.”

It is not to say that every stem cell claim out there is incorrect and that it is not a promising science, but Dr Percec says it should be noted that there are limitations to stem cell applications.

“The public should be wary about products labelled as having beneficial stem cell-related properties unless scientifically proven to work," ​she adds.

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