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LAB RAT:

ARE SWISS
STEM CELLS THE
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH?

If VIOLET GREY Beauty Director’s newfangled glowy plumpness is any indication, then yes.


Written ByMAUREEN CHOI

I’ve been in a committed relationship with my skin for 38 years, and while sometimes she can be a real p-in-the-a, we get each other. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs—a few rebellious breakouts (and breakdowns) along the way—but there has always been love. But the newly-emerged crepiness around my eyes and wily little wrinkles sprinkled on top? Nope, we are not compatible. In fact, we are full-on foes.

To beat them back into submission, I started upping the ante: microneedling every morning, sipping on collagen, and ZIIPing to the moon and back. I was beginning to see improvement, when I get a call to try an exclusive (and very intensive) skin-reviving treatment in Switzerland—aka the land of eternal youth—featuring precious plant stem cells, which Santa Monica, CA-based dermatologist and co-host of The Doctors Sonia Batra, MD, says are “rich in antioxidants and help hydrate and repair skin, resulting in fewer lines and wrinkles and improved skin texture and tone.” When I asked dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, MD, of Hollywood, Florida about their regenerative power, he agreed: “Although science has not been able to substantiate that plant-based stem cells have an effect on the reproduction of human skin cells, there are studies that show their proven ability to protect and preserve the youthful look and vitality of the skin in ways never before possible.” Consider me a convert.

After a 36-hour journey, I found myself tucked into a deliciously-tufted bed at Maison de Beaute Bellefontaine, a skin clinic blending high-tech science with natural wonders (think plant extracts with radio-frequency treatments and mineral-rich glacier water massaged in with 24-karat gold sonic vibrations) nestled in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town. The spa’s peaceful interior, minimally furnished with modern Italian designs by Porada, includes a Zen-inducing relaxation area, sprawling body therapy loft complete with skylight (fresh Alpine air is also on the menu), and a secret entrance with direct access to a VIP treatment room for total anonymity. But I’m not here for the ambiance. The main attraction? Edelweiss, a long-revered, mountain flower with mystical qualities.

My holistic esthetician Katherine Tonkinson explains the potency and resiliency of the wooly white botanical as she embarks on a nearly 40-minute double-cleansing and exfoliating session: “[Edelweiss plants] thrive in the harshest environment in the Swiss Alps, where there is no contamination or pollution, adapting to extreme conditions like high altitude, low humidity, strong winds, and the blazing sun.” Plus, she adds, “these particular stem cells, hand-harvested from the heart of the plant, have been found to pack regenerative proteins and amino acids that trigger cell rejuvenation and increase fibroblasts responsible for building collagen and elastin.”

An hour in, my face is properly prepped and palpated to receive the good stuff: Tonkinson lays down a dry paper sheet mask over my face, lids and neck, then gingerly and systematically brushes on something called the Cellstemine Activator, a potent, serum-like infusion of skin-identical collagen fibers, barrier-strengthening peptides, and of course, Bellefontaine’s proprietary edelweiss stem cells. Over the next 30 minutes, all manner of mind and body relaxation transpire: my heart rate lowers, an exceptionally tenacious knot in my back spontaneously releases, and I fall into the deepest sleep I’ve had all year. I float my eyes open with a gentle nudge from Tonkinson, who is holding a hand mirror out in front of me. I peer in and am astonished by the almost criminal amount of plumped up, extra-juicy glow staring back. The improvements in my complexion are subtle, yet significant. Because while I may not go as far as hopping on a plane every month for regular treatments, I am unequivocally renewed with a boost of confidence—and a tiny bit more collagen.