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What Are Umbilical Cords Doing in Skin Care?

Umbilical cord of baby
November 10, 2016 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments

If you know anyone who is about to go into labor consider the potential value of that umbilical cord. Since umbilical cords contain stem cells, she could be pushing her way to the bank. Indeed, there are umbilical banks where, presumably for a fee, you can save your baby’s umbilical cord and blood until such time as medical science can find a good use for them. Or, if you can’t wait that long, hawk it the cosmetic industry.  

The other day I received a press release for an anti-aging cream with an ingredients list that read like a witch’s brew, featuring snail eggs and, by now you’ve guessed it, umbilical cord. These seemed fit for a cauldron, not a pot of eye cream (going by the name of Biopelle Tensage). I was disappointed in a perverse kind way not to find squirrel and gnome alongside them, just some silicones, botanicals and a decent peptide. Still, my interest was piqued. What was umbilical cord doing in an eye cream?

According to the cosmetic industry body, the CIR, “various proteins, lipids or other extracts” can come from human placenta and can be used in cosmetics. “Human umbilical cord and umbilical cord are unspecified extracts of material from human or other animal umbilical cords,” explains the CIR. This was in 2010 when it was deemed insufficient data to determine whether such ingredients were safe in cosmetics. The CIR cites one study on human umbilical cord in which rats were injected with the extract and showed decreased tumor incidence. Fighting cancer is probably the sort of thing that the umbilical bank has in mind for future use.

Human umbilical cord extract and umbilical extract are recognized by the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CFTA). The Tensage eye cream lists hydrolyzed umbilical extract. Warning: umbilical extract that is not specified as human is likely to be animal sourced — living or killed — and so not suitable for vegans.

The use of umbilical cord in cosmetics is prohibited in the European Union, but is permitted in Japan and in the US. Typically, it is described as a hair-conditioning and miscellaneous skin-conditioning agent, although the umbilical extracts function as biological additives in cosmetics, according to the International Journal of Toxicology. If that sounds vague, then that’s because the uses and benefits of umbilical cord seem to be poorly researched and documented.

As far as I can tell, cords are a source of stem cells, and I also came across one formulator who was testing an amino acid chain derived from Wharton Jelly, a gelatinous substance found in the umbilical cord. There’s a Japanese company that makes what it calls a beauty fluid that has placenta as well as umbilical cord extracts.

What do you think? Would you be willing to put umbilical cord extract on your face, or would you consign this ingredient to the Dept of Daft (or maybe, the Dept of Gross)?

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