My long term Twitter pal@ asked me about placental protein. It seems to me that there is always somebody somewhere in the world putting something stupid into a cosmetic product. But in fact placental protein isn’t a particularly new idea. It has been around long enough for their to be an official EU monograph for it on its list of cosmetic ingredients. Here is how it is described –
Placenta, ext. Extractives and their physically modified derivatives such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, inorganic ions, etc. obtained from mammalian placenta.
If you are not scientist, all this means is that yes it really is an extract from a mammalian placenta we are talking about. And although I personally find the idea distasteful, there isn’t any obvious reason why such material shouldn’t be applied to the skin. Animal derivatives are not common in cosmetics, but if you are older than 20 then you have almost certainly used soap made from beef tallow at some point in your life. Indeed I gather that it is making a comeback right now. So if we are happy to put animal derivatives on our skin generally, there isn’t any particularly good reason to avoid this particular one. I find the idea yucky, but there is no reason why anybody else should share my feeling.
And in fact there is a very good review of the safety of these kinds of ingredients carried out by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel, which concludes pretty clearly that these materials are safe to use in cosmetics.
But if there is no compelling reason not to, is there anything special about placental protein that makes it a good choice as a skincare active? I’m on stronger ground here. First of all, why add protein at all? And the answer is that protein can have some worthwhile if unspectacular skin benefits. I have talked before about the way egg proteins can shrink on drying to tighten up skin and make it look a bit less wrinkled.
I don’t see any reason to seek out placental protein. Protein sources aren’t all the same, but frankly the differences are not likely to be all that interesting from a skincare point of view. I also find the whole idea rather distasteful, though I suppose that is basically down to personal choice. I wouldn’t spread it on my skin while paying handsomely for the privilege myself. But if that is what you want to spend your money on don’t let me stop you.
Int J Toxicol. 2002;21 Suppl 1:81-91. Final report on the safety assessment of human placental protein, hydrolyzed human placental protein, human placental enzymes, human placental lipids, human umbilical extract, placental protein, hydrolyzed placental protein, placental enzymes, placental lipids, and umbilical extract. Nair B, Elmore AR; Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert panel.