This has been a transformative year for me as a beauty editor, when my skin’s changing needs have prompted a drastic shift in my dermatological trajectory. First, I swore off heat-based treatments altogether.
A radiofrequency microneedling device whose company claimed it treated melasma significantly worsened my pigmentation and triggered a long-lasting breakout of milia, a reaction that celebrity aesthetician Celeste Rodrigues says she’s seen in other clients. Months later, when I tested an acne-clearing laser on an assignment, my skin barrier ended up so stripped of its sebum that my skin microbiome fell into dysbiosis and I developed dermatitis for the first time in my life. I was able to rebuild my microbiome and barrier thanks to celebrity dermatologic nurse Natalie Aguilar, but still to this day I cannot use my former go-tos — vitamin C, exfoliant acids, or retinol — without my skin breaking out into stubborn pustules that begin at my nose and spread down to my chin.
The gist is that my over-processed skin has had enough. Heat-based treatments are simply too inflammatory for my sensitive and pigment-prone skin. I have always responded beautifully to non-heat-based, regenerative treatments like the “vampire facial” (microneedling plus platelet-rich plasma) and ProCell microchanneling, so I continued on my journey into the world of regenerative aesthetics, a growing field that uses bio-ingredients like PRP, PRFM, stem-cell-conditioned media, and nanofat, to regenerate the body’s tissues via cell signaling from exosomes, growth factors, and more.
I had gotten my at-home regimen squared away, but I wondered whether I would ever be able to get in-office treatments with results on par with series of lasers like others do. Then I caught wind of DMK StemZyme — first from Aguilar, then celebrity facialists Sarah Ford and Candace Marino. By the time I spotted the before-and-after photos by licensed aesthetician and DMK Specialist Jerry Shipman, I knew I wanted to book this noninvasive, regenerative facial treatment, which claims to proliferate adult stem cells in the skin.
What Is StemZyme?
I already knew that my skin responded well to DMK’s integrative philosophy, which combines evidence-based scientific advancements with holistic modalities like lymphatic drainage, contrast therapy, and even Ayurvedic herbs. The brand is known for its results-driven performance, but when Aguilar told me about StemZyme and showed me before-and-after photos, I still found it hard to believe. As DMK Chief Scientific Officer Jayant Lockhande, PhD, puts it, they set out to create a protocol to “increase the adult stem cell population in the skin, and then differentiate them to form new tissues, reviving the skin’s tissues [from within].”
The reason why is that undifferentiated (or pluripotent) stem cells create “every organ in the body.” Once differentiated, they are assigned specifically to an organ but continue performing regenerative functions. Over time, however, the cumulative burden of exposure to stressors and damage overwhelms their workload, and they become less efficient. But Dr. Lockhande thought that if one could proliferate the adult stem cells in the skin, perhaps the organ could achieve the enhanced functioning of its youth. So in 2014, DMK began researching how to make adult stem cells of the skin divide, and then nourish them through differentiation, to address the skin’s process of biologic aging. After six years of in-house research and working with labs to perform gene expression studies and in-vitro tests, the StemZyme protocol was established.
The pricy treatment series begins at $1,500 but cost up to $3,000 depending on where you go. At this price point, I needed results on par with a series of in-office lasers to be satisfied. The treatment consists of one initial facial and then four subsequent follow-up appointments of the Enzyme Therapy mask, spaced out every 10 to 12 days. You also apply custom topicals and take a twice-daily supplement for the duration of the 50-day program.
My StemZyme Treatment Experience
I got my initial StemZyme facial at the DMK Headquarters but would go to all my follow-ups with Aguilar at N4 Skincare. One of the brand partners commented that I seemed “a little young” to be so interested in StemZyme; after all, the treatment was developed to address skin aging. I joked that I am “old on the inside,” but to be honest, I was more interested in getting my skin to a healthy baseline. The brand makes no medical claims, but I have seen firsthand how powerful stem cell treatments are. If this protocol could really rejuvenate my facial stem cells, a known source of regeneration and healing, I thought it might just help me heal.
First, my face, neck and décolleté were cleansed. The DMK Alkaline Wash was then applied in sections, followed by StemZyme Serum I. This step is designed so that the actives in the next steps can reach their intended sites of action on the various stem cell channels of the skin and hair follicle. Then, StemZyme Serum II was applied, which aims to optimize the keratinocytes for their role in cell signaling. Contrast therapy, or what the brand calls a thermo-cryo cycle (i.e. a heat pack for 60 seconds, ice pack for 30 seconds), was repeated for two cycles. Then the serum was reapplied and the cycle was repeated. This continued for three rounds total.
StemZyme III paste was then gently massaged onto the skin of my face, neck, and décolleté. This paste contains the ingredients to trigger stem cell division, the first step in increasing their number. DMK Enzyme Therapy mask is applied over the paste, which dries, tightens, and stays on the skin for 45 minutes. It promotes oxygenation and lymphatic drainage, creating a vasodilating effect that is temporarily visible in red striations on the surface of the skin. The brand calls this the plasmatic effect as fresh, oxygenated blood rushes to the area it is applied.
StemZyme IV lotion is applied immediately after, formulated to aid with cell division regulation, stabilize the “daughter” stem cells, and prepare and prime the skin environment for their future differentiation. This Skin Stabilizing Emulsion is also applied to the skin at home every eight hours for the first three days. After two minutes, StemZyme V Skin Defining Emulsion, is applied, containing ingredients to aid with the stem cells’ differentiation pathways. This is also applied every eight hours for the next three days. The StemZyme VIII Supplement is taken every 12 hours for 50 days. It ontains botanical ingredients with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other effects.
For the first three days, Dr. Lockhande told me to rest a lot and try to take it easy, eating whole, anti-inflammatory foods if I could. I got started applying the two StemZyme emulsions every eight hours, which smelled terribly like potent herbal tinctures, followed by DMK Satin Screen Sunscreen during the day. I also began the supplement, which contained a medley of anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating herbs.
Dr. Lockhande warned me that I might experience a flare of my skin symptoms during this initial period, but that it would heal. (I did, in fact, experience a flare of dermatitis, which then quickly went away.) But he also told me something that surprised me: I might experience heightened emotions or anxiety in those three days, but I should allow them to pass and pay them no mind. I did experience atypical anxiety those three days, which felt like “emotional clearing” — the release of stored psychosomatic emotion I associate with therapy or inner work.
Some do believe that memory is stored in soft tissues, and Dr. Lockhande says the skin is also encoded with our biochemical state (like stress and emotional states) in this way. Aguilar had been telling me for months that my emotionally devastating year was impacting my skin’s decline — months fighting with a shady contractor (and ultimately deciding to move and sell my house from the trauma); leaving an eight-year relationship; and, worst of all, euthanizing my beloved schnauzer after a long-term battle with a brain tumor. Epigenetics teaches that stress alters gene expression, so if I was clearing out the impact of all this stress from my skin, I was for it.
The anxiety dissipated, the flare abated, and my regimen changed. Twice per day, I cleansed using the microbiome-building DMK Embioment Cleanser, began applying StemZyme #6 Age Management Skin Lotion and StemZyme #7 Skin Refining Lotion, and incorporated the BetaGen moisturizer at night and sunscreen during the day. I started wearing makeup again and went on with my life but continued with the supplement and went to Aguilar’s office for Enzyme Mask treatments every 10 to 12 days.
From that point on, I noticed a regular improvement in the quality of my skin that peaked in a state that I was thrilled with: its clarity, texture, radiance, and tone were steadily improving. I also saw it begin to exhibit hints of volume, yet a sculpted and contoured shape that I attribute to the regular lymphatic drainage via the Enzyme Masks. By the end of my 50-day treatment, my skin felt healthier than it ever had before.
When I first met Dr. Lockhande, my skin was in one of the most troubled states of my entire life. He told me this would be a turning point in my skin trajectory, and he was right: my skin did not just transform, it surpassed its former baseline. Even at my skin’s best, there was puffiness, which I suspect had to do with lymphatic obstruction. During my StemZyme treatment, my skin’s inflamed state was calmed, its texture and tone improved, eruptions of any kind (whether clogged pores, dermatitis, or breakouts) stopped, and so did its contour, thanks to properly functioning lymphatics. But the best part was that after struggling for so many months, my skin felt healthy.
This brings up an important point, which is that my baseline is not the typical one for StemZyme, which was developed for antiaging and yields reductions in fine lines, improvements in tone, and visible lift and improved elasticity. The founder himself was perplexed by my enthusiasm for the treatment, unaware that I am not simply trying to “reverse age” — I am a regenerative-medicine fanatic. Though StemZyme makes no medical claims, I knew that stem cells had been used in medicine and subject to research for decades. (One of my favorite board-certified plastic surgeons, Steven Cohen, used to inject stem cells into coronary arteries to prevent heart failure!) I was really just doing what I do best: following an instinct, and guinea-pigging my way to what I hoped would be a positive outcome for my inflamed skin. It worked.
There are two points that I think are worth addressing in this expanding field. The first is how such a robust outcome could be achieved so quickly — 50 days — and continued results at the time of writing this, several months later. As regenerative dermatologist Julie Russak explains, regenerative aesthetics can work quickly because of how fast the skin’s renewal cycle is. Secondly, DMK is targeting adult stem cells that are already differentiated in the skin. However, most experts note that the younger the stem cell source, the better, with double board-certified plastic surgeon Ben Talei, MD, once referencing umbilical stem cells as being “almost magical” in their rejuvenating effects. But Dr. Talei, board-certified plastic surgeon Marc Mani, MD, and Dr. Cohen have also told me that the stem cells remain remarkably regenerative across the entire life course, even in their oldest patients.
So have DMK truly found a way to get the skin stem cells to undergo mitosis? I cannot speak to what was actually happening in my skin, but whatever it was doing worked. The StemZyme protocol restored my skin and self-esteem after my “dark night” of my skin health and flourished like never before during those 50 days. I raved to my friends throughout the treatment, telling them that it was the most effective thing I have ever done for my skin. Best of all? It’s noninvasive with no downtime, no rebound melasma, and long-lasting results.