They've been sacrificed to the gods since ancient times, outfitted us in warm coats and scarves, fed us with their milk and meat, healed our chapped skin with the wax secreted from their sebaceous glands, and even have the distinction of being the first mammal cloned. Sheep, man — do they ever stop giving?
Apparently not, because now we have the animals to thank for our glowing, plump baby skin, too, by way of their... placenta. Yes, the nutrient- and- hormone-rich organ that connects the foetus to the uterine wall (and that some people, like Kourtney Kardashian, turn into supplements), is the hero ingredient in my favourite serum — part of a newly launched line by oculoplastic surgeon and facial aesthetics doctor Maryam Zamani, MD.
Ovine and plant placenta stem cells are at the heart of MZ Skin's Rest & Revive Night Serum, an ultra-light, moisture-boosting formula that stimulates collagen and elastin and has made my dullish, reddish winter skin look brighter and healthier — like I haven't been boozing harder than ever this month and snacking on sugar gummies as I type this — in a mere two weeks' time. In conjunction with the brand's vitamin C serum, which has significantly reduced the melasma around my eyes after almost three months, I've never felt better about skipping foundation (occasionally).
Do I love the idea of placenta? I do not. I try not to think too hard about the fact that I'm rubbing a sheep's afterbirth onto my skin each night — which isn't easy, given that the products smell like a damp towel that's been sitting in the basement for a little too long — but I’d buy raw-fish cream in bulk if you told me it was the fountain of youth, so here we are. And according to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, "Placenta extracts have be used for centuries in Chinese folk medicine because of their ability to promote wound healing. It is thought that placenta is rich in growth factors and hormones which stimulate cells to act like they do when they are young and healthy."
As a skin-picker prone to attacking the space between my eyebrows with tweezers as soon as it heals from the last time, I specifically look for products with growth hormones because I notice significantly faster healing and cell regeneration. I didn't think anything could come close to touching the magic that is SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum until I discovered this.
But admittedly, it's not for everyone. Growth factors in skin care are controversial — some believe they can cause cells to over-proliferate, which could potentially lead to health problems; others say there just isn't enough research to prove their efficacy — and animal-derived ones certainly don't check the vegan box. Dr. Zamani assures me that her line is entirely cruelty-free and that she sources the placenta ethically from sheep on a wool farm (it should be noted, however, that many animal rights groups take issue with the wool industry). "I scoured the world to make sure no animal was harmed in the process. I do not do animal testing, period. I have a strong stance on that," she says.
Finally, there's the three-figure amount after the dollar sign to account for. Dr. Zeichner believes the jury is still out on whether placenta cream is a better anti-ager than retinol, but says that "the only harm likely to come from using one is to your pocketbook, as these products are quite pricey." All I know is this: I wouldn't fall for a stinky serum I could never afford made with livestock organs if I had a choice in the matter.