Placenta. On Your Face.

I had my first Beauty U facial last night — whenever we don’t have any regular customers in the spa, the senior students borrow one of us freshman girls to practice on — and it reminded me to tell you about this.

Jezebel is pretty sure that the Daily Mail is over-hyping this placenta facial as the latest Hollywood craze business (you think?) but it’s not the first time afterbirth has made the rounds as the beauty ingredient du jour. Shiseido, Mila Skin Care, Plazan Cosmetics and other high-end brands have all offered luxe anti-aging products in recent years with this so-called miracle ingredient, derived from bovine and human, um, volunteers. (It’s especially popular in Japan.)

The companies claim that placenta, the organ that nourishes a developing baby in the womb, can boost your metabolic processes, accelerate tissue regeneration and rid your body of toxins, all to help you achieve younger-looking skin. Dermatologists dispute whether it really works.

So that means people with medical degrees are actually sitting around saying “Hmmm, can placenta make you look younger or not?” instead of asking these companies more obvious questions like, “Are you high?” and “Where the heck are you getting this stuff?”

Poole Hospital, in Dorset, England, made headlines last year when it received about $10,000 in “donations” in exchange for delivering up to 70 frozen placentas per week to Sigma-Aldrich, a biochemical company that sells raw materials to cosmetic companies. The moms who signed consent forms after giving birth thought their placenta was being donated for medical research. You know, like to help sick people. Mila Skin Care and Plazan Cosmetics say their placenta comes from maternity wards in Russia — it’s not clear whether those moms know they’re donating (or are perhaps being compensated directly) in the name of beauty science or not.

Okay, so there’s the obvious ick factor. We can be grown ups about that, I guess. But what I’m still working on: Is it okay to turn a body part (albeit a rather temporary one) into a commodity? What makes a woman donate or sell her child’s placenta in the name of erasing crow’s feet? Or is it even more creepy that she may not know it’s happening?

[Photo: Daily Mail]

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10 Comments

Filed under Beauty Schooled, Facials, In Class, week 3

10 responses to “Placenta. On Your Face.

  1. Um, wow. I had heard of this before (among all the other crazy things that people do with the placenta) – and still, ick. I think I signed off on the placenta I delivered to go to medical research. I know I didn’t keep it.

  2. I would be so enraged if I bought a beauty product and then discovered that placenta was in it. I don’t care if it’s human or bovine. In fact, as a vegetarian, the latter might bother me more because there’s no consent (misguided or not) involved whatsoever.

    This post just reminds me that the anti-aging arm of the beauty industry is creepy…and maybe so are the consumers?

  3. Chandler

    “What makes a woman donate or sell her child’s placenta in the name of erasing crow’s feet?”

    Not to play devil’s advocate or anything, but don’t they just throw those things out with the rest of the medical waste? It’s not like the placenta is something that appreciates in value post-birth. To me, this is sort of like selling your hair to a wig factory rather than just leaving it on the floor of the salon when you get it cut.

    To me, the moral issues are simply, “Are these women being compensated fairly for their placentas, or at least given an opportunity to opt out of donating?” (i.e., respect for the agency of the producers) and second, “Do peer-reviewed studies show that the use of placentas actually accomplishes what the cosmetic companies claim it does?” (i.e., respect for the agency of consumers).

    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want a face full of baby blood. But if someone else does, I don’t see what’s wrong with it, as long as there’s transparency at every step of the process.

  4. Placenta is also commonly used in hair conditioners marketed to African American women. It’s not only the ick factor, but is also a serious concern for health reasons. Placenta is estrogenic, and higher exposures to estrogen are linked to breast cancer. Here is an important paper by researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute who are concerned that estrogenic personal care products may be contributing to higher rates of breast cancer in young African American women. http://www.devradavis.com/2%20-%20PersonalCareProducts.pdf

    Stacy Malkan, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

  5. great work.

    its always amazing to me the lengths people will go to in order to reach not just goals, but unattainable and unrealistic ones. from pigeon poop to urine to placentas… this unfortunately is something that will continue to happen due to a segment of our population that is very insecure.

    well, we’ll send them a little blessing – hope they gain some self-esteem and some self-love.

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  9. I’ve heard the grossest things people do with placenta, and I think this is one of them. People can be “really” weird sometimes. Ugh.

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