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Should Michelle Obama keep using 3Lab

Is a Solution for:
Dull Skin, Oily Skin
December 13, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 6 Comments
In an interview with Vogue magazine, Michelle Obama let it slip that her skincare brand of choice is 3Lab. As one on the key ingredients is a stem cell cultivated from apples (Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract), there has been a flurry of press attention about this ingredient. It isn't confined to 3Lab, you'll find it in Hydropeptide's lash and eyebrow growth product, Raw Minerals night treatment, and Strivectin.

This apple extract is probably a perfectly good ingredient. But it has to be said that it comes with an implausible origination myth. These stem cells come from a very rare Swiss apple tree that we are told was cultivated over 300 hundred years ago for the long storage life of the fruit. So rare is it, that it was practically extinct. One day, a few trees were spotted somewhere in an isolated corner of the Alps. Scientists were all of a dither, seeing the possibilities immediately: stem cells could be extracted from this long living apple and be used to make other things live long – like my aging skin cells.

Anyhow, back to 3Lab. Although 3Lab's products are on some levels very much worthy of the First Lady, they come at a price. For example, Mark enjoyed reviewing the 3Lab cleanser (complete with seasonal mistletoe) recently, but balked at the $40 price tag. For the 3Lab WW Cream you can add a zero. Yep, it costs $400. Is this justified by what's in it?

The apple stem cells are number 12 in the ingredients list and, apart from shea butter, the ingredients that precede it are mostly waxy viscosity agents and emulsifiers. A notable exception is the beta hydroxy acid (an exfoliant), isodecyl salicylate, that is made from willow. Then we are back to a few more fillers until we come to alpha-arbutin, a gentle and effective skin lightener. Then this layer-cake of a cream goes back to the mundane for another six ingredients until we come to two peptides, oligopeptides 4 and 5.

There are two good antioxidant botanical extracts, green tea and gingko biloba. Much more interesting is bellis perennis, daisy extract. This is used topically to reduce hyperpigmentation. It influences biochemical pathways involved in melanin synthesis by inhibiting tyrosinase production. Come to think of it, oligopeptide-4 is used as a skin whitener, as well as alpha arbutin. Hmm, perhaps WW is Sammy Sosa's secret potion.

We have not been told which of 3Lab products that Michelle particularly favors. Less just hope it isn't this one.


Water, Glycerin, Pentaerythrityl Tetraoctanoate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), C12-20 Acid PEG-8 Ester, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Cetearyl Alcohol, C10-18 Triglycerides, Isodecyl Salicylate, Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Alpha-Arbutin, Polymethylmethacrylate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Coco Glucoside, Sodium Levulinate, Squalane, Sodium Anisate, Oligopeptide-4, Oligopeptide-5, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, CAprylic/ CApric Triglyceride, Licorice Extract, Diacetyl Boldine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Bellis Perennis (Daisy) Flower Extract, Disodium EDTA, Propyl Gallate, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Triethanolamine.
  • February 7, 2010

    by laura

    I recently received samples of a skin lightener from fair and flawless that contained said stem cell extract. It's working very well for me,seem this stem cell is going to be great for women of color.

  • January 5, 2010

    by Conny

    Ladies, does one of you have the chance to mail me the article written in the Vogue?! I just can't find it and would love to read the whole story.

  • December 16, 2009

    by marta

    Oh dear. I must be addled by the festivities of the season. Thank you Susan and Lauren. In fact, I first saw this story written up in a trade magazine and although I did try to get the original Vogue piece online, I didn't find it (probably because I was searching for Vogue's Michelle Obama interview). The slip about Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract is all mine. You are right it is an Indian gooseberry.

    All in all, cringeworthy.

  • December 16, 2009

    by Susan

    The Vogue piece isn't an interview with Michelle Obama, its a beauty feature about apple stem cells. It doesn't say Michelle uses 3LAB. There is a quote from Francesco Clark, founder of Clark's Botanicals who states "She wrote me a letter!" referring to Michelle Obama.

    And 3LAB's WW cream does not contain apple all. The 12th ingredient you refer to is Emblica (Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract), it is a medicinal plant grown only in India used since ancient times as a defense against disease.

    Its Super H serum and M cream that have the apple stem cells...and that's the honest truth.

  • December 14, 2009

    by Niall

    3Lab has one really great product, their Super H serum. And it's $100 cheaper than the cream. But it really does make a difference in my skin. Highly recommended.

  • December 14, 2009

    by Lauren

    I read the Vogue article too and it does not say that Mrs. Obama uses 3LAB products. It says that 3LAB was the first to launch products with plant stem cells and that this is really popular now especially since the Obama administration signed off on the new stem cell bill. I wish I knew which products she does use because her skin is gorgeous!

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