TREND Beautifiers that use parts of human or animal placenta to rejuvenate skin are coming out of the closet
HOW IT STARTED Cosmetic companies bought into the organ's healing power decades ago, but few advertise its use
JUDGMENT CALL Gross, but would you rather have your facial muscles paralyzed with Botox?
Cosmetic companies usually love to trumpet their "miracle" ingredients. But placenta--the embryonic tissue formed in pregnant mammals and used for decades as a wrinkle reducer--is one beautifier that has long been kept under wraps. That may be changing: Mila Skin Care's new Amber Cream Placental has become a hot seller by proudly promoting the taboo ingredient. A 59-year-old aesthetician in Beverly Hills, Calif., says she gave up Botox injections a month after she started using the skin smoother. "The lines are just staying away," she says.
Dozens of cosmetic companies have informed the FDA of their use of human placenta, but most have been afraid to advertise it because consumers are squeamish about the substance as well as its source. Mila is supplied by Russian maternity wards, but Shiseido is very secretive about the placental extract in its popular Revitalizing Cream; the Japanese company won't even say what kind of animal it comes from. Progressive Beauty Brands executive David Blum admits his Placenta Plus products sell best overseas and in Hispanic communities, "where there's less resistance to the word placenta."
Skepticism reigns in other quarters. "There's nothing magical about placenta," says N.Y.U. dermatology professor Ronald Brancaccio. Because of the extensive sterilization process, he adds, "if the cream works, it's probably because of the moisturizing base rather than the placenta."
--By Julie Rawe