FDA Regulations for Stem Cell Therapies in Aesthetics

FDA Regulations for Stem Cell Therapies in Aesthetics

FDA Regulations for Stem Cell Therapies in Aesthetics: Navigating the Frontier of Beauty

For over two decades, I’ve witnessed the healthcare landscape transform, and stem cell therapies have emerged as a captivating frontier in aesthetics. These therapies hold immense promise for cellular rejuvenation and repair, but navigating the world of Stem Cell Therapies in Aesthetics requires a keen understanding of the current regulatory environment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and efficacy of all medical treatments, including those in the realm of aesthetics. Stem cell therapies fall under the FDA’s regulatory framework for Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-based Products (HCT/Ps) [1]. This framework adopts a tiered, risk-based approach, with the level of scrutiny proportionate to the potential risks associated with the therapy [2].

Here’s a breakdown of the key points regarding FDA regulations for stem cell aesthetics:

  • FDA Approval vs. Investigational New Drug (IND): Any stem cell therapy for aesthetic use requires either FDA approval or ongoing investigation under an approved IND [3]. Critically, FDA-approved stem cell therapies for aesthetics are currently non-existent [4]. Clinics offering such treatments are likely operating outside the bounds of FDA regulations, raising significant safety concerns. 
  • Minimal Manipulation vs. Substantial Manipulation: The FDA categorizes HCT/Ps based on the degree of manipulation they undergo during processing. Minimally manipulated stem cells, such as those derived from fat tissue (adipose-derived stem cells) for wrinkle reduction, fall under a less stringent regulatory category. However, most aesthetic applications involve substantial manipulation, requiring a higher level of regulatory oversight through the IND pathway [5]. 
  • Focus on Intended Use: The FDA primarily focuses on the intended use of a stem cell therapy when determining its regulatory pathway. Aesthetic procedures using stem cells for purposes beyond their original derivation, such as fat-derived Stem Cell Therapies in Aesthetics for facial plumping, are considered “homologous use” and require stricter regulation [6]. 

The lack of FDA-approved stem cell therapies in aesthetics underscores the crucial role of ongoing research. Clinical trials conducted under an IND allow for the collection of vital safety and efficacy data, paving the way for potential future FDA approval. However, patients considering such trials should be fully informed about the potential risks and uncertainties involved.

While the promise of stem cell aesthetics is undeniable, ethical considerations also warrant attention. Direct-to-consumer marketing of unproven stem cell therapies preys on the public’s desire for a youthful appearance. Such practices not only undermine patient trust but also hinder legitimate research efforts.

The future of stem cell aesthetics hinges on responsible scientific inquiry and robust regulatory oversight. Collaboration between researchers, clinicians, and the FDA is essential to ensure the development of safe and effective stem cell therapies that deliver on their aesthetic potential.


[1] American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS). Overview on the Regulation of Cellular Therapies in Aesthetic Medicine https://www.aslms.org/docs/default-source/for-professionals/resources/task-force-whitepaper-2019-final-4-9-21.pdf

[2] Cohen Healthcare Law. Stem Cells Therapy Clinic Startups – Legal Compliance Issues https://cohenhealthcarelaw.com/healthcare-compliance-regulatory/integrative-complementary-medicine/

[3] Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA Regulation of Stem Cell Therapies https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/consumers-biologics/important-patient-and-consumer-information-about-regenerative-medicine-therapies

[4] The Aesthetic Guide. FDA stem cell crackdown in cosmetic clinics https://www.aslms.org/docs/default-source/for-professionals/resources/task-force-whitepaper-2019-final-4-9-21.pdf


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