Have a Cow


POSTED: Sunday, October 25, 2009

MOOve over Botox and microdermabrasion, a new beauty procedure using bovine stem cells has made its way to Honolulu.

With so many skin salons in Hawaii, it is hard to stand out. But Helen Rapoza, the owner of Helen's Haven, has made her business unique by offering bovine stem cell topical applications to help her clients repair damaged skin. While frozen stem cell facials have appeared in the most exclusive beauty spas and clinics in major cities like New York and Los Angeles for several years, they are still relatively rare among aesthetic offerings.

The procedure might be new, but Lisa Buen, better known as Honolulu radio personality Lisa D., already swears by it.

“;Of course it freaked me out at first, but I wanted to look younger for job interviews,”; said Buen, who has passed the age women commonly refer to as the “;new 30.”;

The noninvasive stem cell facial only took minutes, but Buen said she felt like it reversed at least a decade of aging without needles or surgery.

“;I can feel my skin stretching,”; Buen said. “;It's cold and refreshing.”;

        » Name: Helen's Haven
        » Address: 4819 Kilauea Ave. #6
        » Phone: 739-0400
        » Web site: www.helenshaven.com

Clinical studies of the DNA CryoStem treatment reveal that 71 percent of old skin cells are reprogrammed with the biologically flawless DNA from the organically raised cows who live in the South of France at the base of the Alps, Rapoza said.

“;It might not take someone from 50 to 30, but it can shave years off the appearance,”; she said.

The treatment, which Rapoza touts as a miracle of modern science, takes about 30 minutes and can be completed during clients' lunch hours. During the treatment, frozen stem cells are tapped into the skin to stimulate the production of new cells.

But, there's no such thing as a free lunch—results don't come cheap. One session costs anywhere from $100 to $150, and a series of six treatments runs $750, although Rapoza is currently running a $600 special. Best results are obtained with one session a week for three weeks and one treatment bimonthly over a nine-week period, she said.

One treatment will last two weeks, but a series will last several months, Rapoza said.

“;You can't expect to reverse 50 years of aging and damage in one month,”; she said.

Originally in the makeup business, Rapoza transitioned into skin care after realizing the importance of having a smooth canvas.

“;Americans typically cover up and put makeup on; in other countries it's more about the skin care,”; Rapoza said.

A baby boomer herself, the 47-year-old Rapoza sees herself as something of a crusader for youth, arming herself with the latest nonsurgical methods to fight the aging battle. It also makes good business sense, she said.

“;When I first started, skin care and body took up half a column in the yellow pages; now (they take up) two pages,”; Rapoza said. “;You need to change as a business. If you remain stagnant, you'll go out of business,”;

Bovine beauty treatments aren't the only cutting-edge treatments that Rapoza has brought to Honolulu. She also credits Helen's Haven as the first Hawaii clinic to have Certified MediEsthetic Specialists and to offer microdermabrasion and light-emitting diode technology, which is based on NASA research showing that certain frequencies of light significantly increase new tissue growth.

This kind of innovation has helped Rapoza, who opened Helen's Haven 15 years ago in Kahala, expand from a 444-square-foot shop with three employees to a 1,123-square-foot business with 10 employees.

She survived a fire that destroyed her shop before its debut in Hawaii and an economic slump after Sept. 11, 2001, that pulled revenue down by 50 percent. Lately as the recession has unfurled, Rapoza's business traffic has dropped 15 to 20 percent; however, revenues are up due to the breadth of new treatments available as well as Rapoza's decision to rent space in her clinic to other, complementary businesses.

Although the use of stem cells, even from cows, remains controversial in the medical and cosmetic industries, Rapoza said she believes that stem cells will take the place of more surgical and skin care beauty procedures in the future.

“;Of course, there are moral responsibilities,”; she said. “;The cows are not harmed when their stem cells are extracted.”;

Despite Rapoza's assurances, there are opponents of the procedure.

Other beauty providers such as Lynn M. Cowie, a licensed clinical esthetician and founder of the Eastbay Acne & Skin Care Clinic in Concord, Calif., have called stem cell facials a waste of money.

“;If anyone offers you a 'CryoStem,' 'Bovine Stem Cell' or 'DNA Therapy' treatment, don't walk, run for the nearest exit,”; Cowie said. “;We consider this to be the esthetic equivalent of snake oil. No reputable skin care clinic will sell you this treatment, nor will Eastbay Acne & Skin Care Clinic.”;

Cowie said she tried the product at her business in 1991 when it first became trendy; however, she was not impressed with the results and could not find enough research to support product claims. Since the cells are bovine and freezer stored, Eastbay said that they contribute nothing to the DNA makeup of client skin.

“;The skin looks very nice and hydrated, but you have to ask yourself if bovine cells can actually talk to human cells,”; she said.

While the product is not harmful, Cowie said it's not worth the money, and if it were effective, would have garnered greater traction in the industry.

“;Any real benefit of the treatment comes from the topical skin care products used in the treatment, not from the bovine stem cells,”; she said. “; In other words, more than half of the cost of the treatment goes to pay for the bovine stem cells which contribute nothing to your skin, anyway!”;

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which advocates the use of nonanimal ingredients in everything from food to detergents, cosmetics and medical devices, certainly does not want to promote bovine stem cell facials, said Kathy Guillermo, PETA's vice president of laboratory investigations.

“;No matter how kindly they say that they are raising the cows, the fact is that they are confining the cows and keeping them pregnant to benefit an industry that is set up to make people feel better about the way that they look,”; Guillermo said.

Guillermo said that she has seen other animal-based treatments over the years such as collagen (the main protein in an animal's connective tissue), sheep's placenta and Premarin, a drug used to treat menopause symptoms, come in and out of vogue.

“;It's the same kind of idea that somehow these bits of body that come from animals are going to help us look better,”; she said. “;It's astonishing the lengths that people will go to keep from looking like what is happening to them (aging) isn't happening.”;

However, Buen defends her choice and the procedure.

“;I'm deathly afraid of needles so Botox is out. And, the cows didn't die or anything,”; said Buen, who, as a former entertainer and now a sales representative, has always worked in industries where looking good was required.

Although Buen has left radio, she said she still feels the pressure to better her appearance.

“;There's so much competition for every woman,”; she said. “;Honestly, I think I got my latest job in part because I'm cute.”;