We hear the term “stem cells” in skincare a lot. But what’s not so well-known is that the term was first coined by German biologist Ernst Haeckel back in 1868.  He was a major supporter of Darwin’s theory of evolution and drew tree diagrams (like the one on this page), which he called stammbaume (German for “stem” or family tree) to represent how organisms evolved from common ancestors. From there, came stammzelle – stem cell. 

Fast forward to modern times. We now understand stem cells to be “blank” cells. Read: cells that can develop into all sorts of cells to serve different functions in the body

There are two main classes of stem cells: embryonic, and non-embryonic (or adult). The former comes from human embryos that are three to five days old and can become virtually any type of cell in the body. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are tissue-specific – they can only generate new cells for the tissue or organ in which they’re found. So for instance, liver stem cells can only create liver cells – they can’t create bone marrow or heart cells. 

Similarly, skin stem cells are factories that churn out new skin cells to regenerate skin – and they do so all your life.

But there’s a catch. They are extremely rare – only 0.2 per cent of all our skin cells are adult skin stem cells, based on a collaborative study done by the LVMH Recherche, on behalf of Dior Science, and the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University.

“A stem cell has the power to generate millions of new cells, by dividing itself to create other cells. Skin stem cells are the key to skin renewal – in fact, one skin stem cell alone can rebuild the skin surface of an entire adult body,” says Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis, scientific communication and environmental director of Dior Science. 

Dior Science’s latest breakthrough in its 30-plus years of research in skin stem cells found two things: First, unlike regular cells that die in three to four weeks, skin stem cells (or stem cells in general) never decrease in number over your lifetime. The second thing: While the number remains the same, skin stem cells lose energy – by at least 50 per cent by the time you’re 40. 

“This decrease goes hand in hand with the decline in all cellular functions, and the overall vitality of the face,” Mauvais-Jarvis says. “It includes skin cell renewal, self-repair, healing, and strengthening of the skin. It’s like exhaustion.”

The new Dior Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy line – a reformulation of the 2008 range – represents the brand’s latest solution to this problem. 

skin stem cells

What C.E.L.L. Energy does: It revives the energy potential and restores the regenerative power of skin stem cells. Based on in vitro tests, 40-year-old skin stem cells will start working like 20-year-old skin stem cells, says associate professor of CiRA, Knut Woltjen.

“The 20-year-old skin stem cells are at their peak energy level – they’re working best to produce more skin cells, and that cell renewal keeps your skin supple and glowing,” he says. “That doesn’t mean you’ll go back to looking like a 20-year-old. But it does mean your skin will look healthy and radiant, even when you’re in your 50s, 60s and beyond.”

The key to C.E.L.L. Energy’s effectiveness is floral science. Dior ethnobotanists screened 1,667 botanical ingredients before narrowing their selection down to four flowers: Madagascan longoza, Chinese peony and jasmine, and white lily, chosen for their exceptional revitalising powers. 

The four flowers form a complex that “reawakens” slower-performing skin stem cells and is found in all five products in the upgraded range: the Gentle Cleanser, Serum-Lotion, Super Potent Serum, Creme and Eye Creme. 

“C.E.L.L. Energy is made with 91 per cent natural-origin ingredients, says Bruno Bavouzet, president of LVMH Recherche. He adds that hundreds of trials were necessary to combine a high concentration of natural-origin ingredients, without comprising on efficacy, in one skincare formula. “Just the Super Potent Serum (the star product) took at least nine months, and over 300 attempts, to perfect. 

This story was first published on Her World’s January 2020 issue.