Stem cells in Dermatology and Anti-aging skin care

By Ellie Teng ‘21

Figure 1. This is an example of an advertisement for a product used to replenish the skin and preserve its youth.

Aging is a biological process that every organism must experience. It’s evident, however, that humans are especially concerned about the physical features associated with aging, which include fine lines and wrinkles on the face and skin. Many anti-aging skin treatments contain ingredients such as stem cells, which are advertised to prevent or reverse the effects of aging. Stem cells are activated by tissue dysfunction and work to facilitate development of new cells and maintain homeostasis of normal cells. Aging occurs when DNA has accumulated damage that impairs protein homeostasis, cell function, and communication. It is also the result of dysregulation of the endogenous stem cell population, which serves to maintain and repair tissues.

A group of stem cells involved in the repair of skin wounds is the hair follicle stem cells, three of which are Lrig1+ stem cells, Gli1+ stem cells, and Lgr6+ stem cells (also known as the skin’s master stem cells). Hair follicle stem cells have a specified regenerative function including hair cycling, or sebaceous gland maintenance, that does not normally contribute to the skin’s homeostasis until disturbed. Because these types of cells are dormant until they are distressed and activated by tissue dysfunction, they are beneficial to the epidermis since they are not as prone to damage caused by aging.

The skin’s master stem cells, Lgr6+ stem cells, are found to be embryonic, giving rise to structures such as hair follicles and teeth, and are expressed throughout hair development. The cells aid in long term wound healing by migrating to the wound to aid in reepithelialization, and are classified as primitive epidermal stem cells, confirming their multipotency in adult skin.



  1. K. Pham, et. al., Stem cells in dermatology and anti-aging care of skin. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America 26 (2018). doi:  
  2. Image retrieved from:

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