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Summary: By its nature, cosmetic surgery is always looking for the next best thing. This is understandable, as patients want better, more youthful looking results with less pain attached. But sometimes, as consumers, it’s tempting to look for that next best thing even when there’s not necessarily a lot of science out there to support it. One example of a recent such trend is something called stem cells, which are often purported to have a profound youthifying effect. A new study, however, urges us to use caution when confronting ads for stem cell procedures.

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A New Fad

Every so often, a new fad comes along in cosmetic procedures. First it was lasers—everything was done with lasers. Then we had injectables, which are now more popular than ever and are used from Los Angeles to New York to Minneapolis cosmetic surgery clinics. These fads, for example, are grounded in good science and do well for certain procedures. Other times, however, the fads can take off before there’s sound scientific or medical evidence of their effects. For example, the fad today seems to be stem cells.

Use Caution

Recently, an article published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery calls attention to “worrying advertisements” for stem cell or stem cell-infused products. Now, the authors of the study aren’t necessarily saying that stem cell therapies and procedures have no value, or that they’re going to cause harm. Rather, that these procedures are supported by little scientific evidence.

And yet, if you put the term “stem cell cosmetic surgery” into a search engine, you’ll find all sorts of results. It’s true that in a field as competitive as plastic and cosmetic surgery, oftentimes the procedures can outpace the science. But in this case, the overwhelming message is that you should be careful when seeking out these procedures. For example, some cosmetic surgery clinics advertise plasma rich platelet protein treatments as stem cell treatments, but this is simply not an accurate depiction of the procedure.

No Standards

Indeed, part of the problem is a lack of standardizations. Not all stem cells are created equal, so it’s quite possible that the stem cells derived from fat are not as useful as, say, the stem cells derived from other sources. It’s important for patients to be aware of these differences.

In fact, overall, patients should be suspicious of grand claims by any cosmetic surgeon. Most plastic surgeons will tell you to keep realistic expectations, and that’s definitely something to keep in mind when approaching new or unverified procedures. If the procedure sounds too good to be true… well, you know how the saying goes.

For the Cutting Edge, Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re looking for cutting edge plastic surgery treatments, you should definitely talk to your plastic surgeon. Ask to know the science behind the procedure, and see if your doctor can articulate what sets this new approach apart. To some degree, we definitely have to trust our cosmetic surgeons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be savvy, intelligent patients.

So talk to your doctor about stem cell treatments, but don’t be afraid to challenge extraordinary claims.

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