Dr. Miguel Delgado Discusses the Controversy of the Stem Cell Facelift

Miguel Delgado

“Stem cell facelift” is a catchphrase that is considered a pure marketing gimmick and not medicine. There is an abundance of advertising for the “stem cell facelift,” but it is actually a misnomer; it is a nonsurgical procedure involving fat injections to plump up the face, not a surgical procedure like a conventional that requires cutting, lifting and sewing.

Most physicians who advertise the procedure are taking advantage of this latest marketing ploy. They are using fat that already contains stem cells for their “stem cell facelift procedure.” There are a few doctors who are adding stem cells to the fat claiming the “enriched fat” is what gives superior results. It is not proven that fat grafting with added stem cells gets any better results than fat grafting without the added stem cells, and fat injections or fat grafting, is a well-established procedure that has been around for two decades and is an excellent procedure for facial volume replacement.

has been using the fat injection or fat grafting procedure for years with excellent results. The patient below is pictured before facelift surgery with fat injections, six months after surgery, and then five years after surgery.

Patient before undergoing facelift with added stem cell fat injections Patient 6 months after undergoing facelift with added stem cell fat injections Patient 5 years after undergoing facelift with added stem cell fat injections

An abstract published in  states that the future is promising for various applications using adult stem cells, but at this time it is unethical to promote it as a facial rejuvenation procedure as the clinical evidence does not support the marketing and promotional claims being made.

Stem cell technology for aesthetic purposes is exciting and perhaps very promising. However, the jury is still out, as scientific evidence does not support the safety and efficacy at this time.

The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) created a committed to patient safety and bringing innovative treatments based on the best scientific evidence available. The task force has several concerns including:

  • Using the term “stem cell facelift,” implying improved results
  • Improvement of skin quality
  • Inconsistency in how the procedures are performed
  • For profit courses teaching stem cell methods of extraction
  • Practitioners that are not Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, advertising procedures that they are not trained in
  • The marketing of machines for the purpose of separating fat stem cells from fat tissues, since the FDA has not approved any such devices in the United States for human use

The task force requests its Board Certified Plastic Surgeon members only use this procedure in clinical studies under institutional review board approval, and to report their findings.

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