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Diane Maler searched for the perfect way to care for her sun-damaged skin for 20 years. The Los Angeles resident had scores of facials and tried practically every product on the market, but nothing really worked.
That is, until her dermatologist, Dr. Harold Lancer, recommended a facial treatment that contains human placenta.
"I get more compliments now than at any time of my life," says Maler, a 47-year-old industrial designer, of her improved complexion. "(The facial) smells good, it feels good. I don't have any problems with it. I think of it as a very nourishing treatment."
The placenta is obtained from Russian maternity wards and is treated to prevent biological contamination and disease transmission.
Applying afterbirth to your face may sound extreme, but it's not the only offbeat treatment being touted by some spas and dermatologists. There's gemstone therapy, skin treatments that contain nightingale droppings or 24 karat gold leaf and even facials for your fanny. When it comes to the timeless quest to stave off aging, it seems, some people will try just about anything. What's not clear is how effective these treatments are and whether their benefits are more psychological than medical.
Louise Deschamps, a licensed medical aesthetician (skin-care specialist) who works with Lancer in his Beverly Hills, California, practice, says she performs 20 to 25 placenta facials a week -- some combined with LED (light emitting diode) therapy as an added anti-aging treatment -- and counts among her clients such red-carpet regulars as Denise Richards and Megan Fox. It's not cheap: Facials run $350 to $500, depending on products used.
"They're not doing it because it's hip. They're doing it because they're concerned about their skin," says Deschamps, who adds that the placenta facials are good for people with acne-prone skin that has been dried out from over-exfoliation.
But Dr. Robin Ashinoff, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University's Langone Medical Center, says she doesn't know of any studies on the dermatological benefits of placenta. Of anecdotal evidence that placenta facials work, she says, "it's probably the LED that's doing it." LED treatments stimulate the skin to produce collagen, Ashinoff says, giving it a more youthful appearance.