Many people say that age is just a number, and it’s more about how you feel than how you look. While that is true in many ways, appearance also affects how a person feels. This is why anti-aging is one of the fastest-growing categories in the spa industry. With the right ingredients, topical skincare can help slow down the aging process, prevent premature aging, and even help reverse certain signs of aging. Growth factors, which naturally exist in skin cells, are an example of powerful and highly effective ingredients for healing skin and helping clients on their quest to a younger-looking appearance. According to Robin Carmichael, president and COO of Helix BioMedix, growth factors are regulatory polypeptides, proteins, or hormones that act as signaling agents between cells and are critical to cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Unfortunately, as people age, they experience a decrease in the production of growth factors in their skin, which leads to aging.
Replenishing these factors can have a major impact on the skin.
In 1986, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Stanley Cohen for his discovery of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and Rita Levi-Montalcini for her discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF). Since then, many other growth factors have been discovered, which has led to a better understanding of how cells communicate with each other during cellular growth. There are many types of growth factors found in the body, but some of the most popular that are used in skincare today are EGF, which promotes healing and cellular proliferation of epithelial cells; fibroblast growth factor (FGF), which promotes cellular proliferation; and transforming growth factor (TGF), which promotes skin regeneration and is also known as an anti-inflammatory, according to Janel Luu, CEO of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb.
EGF, valuable for wound healing, is one of the most common growth factors. “EGF forever changed the landscape of skin rejuvenation,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals. “As an essential part of skin regeneration when there is trauma, growth factors work by attracting cells to a wound site to begin the repair process.” When there is damage, according to Luu, the cells in that region produce growth factors that communicate to surrounding cells that the damage needs to be repaired. “The repair message travels to cells deep within the skin via a signaling cascade, where they attract stem cells that proliferate and differentiate into healthy cells, specific to the location on the body,” she says. “When growth factors are applied topically, the stratum corneum stimulates a cascade of information that goes down into the dermis and stimulates fibroblasts to produce collagen. Because of established communication pathways, growth factors do not need to go deep into the dermis.”
Clients seeking solutions to treat their aging skin can benefit from skincare containing growth factors, because they have been found to help skin cells multiply, as well as stimulate fibroblasts and boost hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin, according to Aleks Vranicic, vice president of sales and technical training at Vitelle Derma-tology Laboratories. They also help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as a result of new collagen synthesis; provide an improvement in skin texture, smoothness, and elasticity; and improve the appearance of age spots and tone, according to Janae Muzzy, vice president of research and development at Epicuren Discovery.
In addition to rejuvenating the skin, growth factors help to rebuild the skin and even reverse certain skin damage. “The production of natural growth factors significantly slows when ultraviolet (UV) light is present, hindering the body’s ability to repair,” says Allison. “Because the skin is subject to UV rays during daylight hours, topical growth factors become essential to reversing the harmful effects of these rays.”
EGF can also enhance the effects of any acid, enzyme, or microdermabrasion, as well as treat post-procedure skin caused by peels and laser resurfacing, microneedling, and even surgical procedures. According to Irena James, vice president of product development and cofounder of CelleClé and YG Laboratories, growth factors offer accelerated repair after these aggressive treatments and help renew the skin, improving its resilience by restoring volume and preventing or reversing skin thinning. For example, the Advanced Transformation Facial (starting at $174, 50 minutes) at Kohler Waters Spa (WI), helps resurface damaged skin cells to open pathways for the nourishing benefits of an exclusive SGF-4 (skin growth factor proteins) technology with the use of a glycolic peel from Skin Authority. The treatment helps stimulate collagen and plump fine lines and wrinkles.
Beyond its anti-aging benefits, growth factors also help treat acne. “When skin lesions are treated for bacteria with various active topicals, including benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, salicylic acid, retinol, or resorcinol, the skin is in recovery, and EGF
supports the repair of the wound,” says Allison.
Growth factors are among the most controversial ingredients in skincare today. While, in general, they are safe to use on skin, some studies suggest they can impede the apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which in theory can also support the growth and spread of unhealthy cells and tissues, according to James. Also, some growth factors, like vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), can cause symptoms of rosacea to worsen in some clients.
Therefore, products advertising growth factor activity and upregulation (an increase of a cellular component) should be carefully chosen and considered when treating certain skin conditions and clients suffering from immune deficiencies. Clients going through chemotherapy or other aggressive cancer treatments, for example, should not be offered protocols or products containing growth factors. According to Allison, although EGF is considered extremely safe and offers a multitude of benefits for the skin, caution should be taken when there is a concern about skin cancer. “Even though EGF does not cause skin cancer, if there is a malignancy, the use of growth factors could increase the cellular proliferation,” she says. “It’s important to discuss this with clients and to watch their skin for signs. Also, if someone has had skin cancer and it is no longer active, EGF will not cause it to reoccur. These are two important distinctions.”
Kally Papantoniou, M.D., board-certified dermatology specialist at Advanced Dermatology P.C. (Commack and Fresh Meadows, NY), believes the concern with growth factors is theoretical and not grounded on any controlled studies demonstrating a correlation between the use of growth factor products and the development of skin cancer. However, she does not recommend the use of growth factor products in patients with a history of skin cancer, sun-damaged skin,
precancerous lesions, or during pregnancy.
Because of possible concerns, it’s important to choose a brand you trust. In addition to avoiding products with growth factors or combinations of growth factors that have been associated with malignant transformation, Charlene DeHaven, M.D., clinical director for Innovative Skincare, maker of IS Clinical products, suggests discussing each product and the growth factors contained within it with the manufacturer’s sales representative prior to purchasing the product. For example, IS Clinical’s Youth and Advance+ lines contain the growth factor copper tripeptide-1, so it provides potential clients with facts about the growth factor and a reference list of published medical literature, as well as an explanation of how this growth factor works and what the research has shown about its activity and safety.
In addition, you should also take into consideration that different growth factors provide different benefits, so offering a selection of products that contain different growth factors can satisfy more clients. “EGF is better for helping skin heal after treatments that cause trauma to the skin; TGF and FGF are better for anti-aging treatments,” says Luu. “Growth factors can be combined with ingredients that help dermal thickening so they can work with collagen activators. The effectiveness of a product with growth factors in the formula depends on the concentration of growth factors, their stability, their source, and the delivery system.”
Spread the Word
For clients unfamiliar with growth factors, showing results is an effective marketing tool. “Positive clinical test data and images can be used on shelf-talker signage and displayed next to the product to show what the potential end user can expect to see with regular use of the product,” says Romuald Vallée, scientific director at Phytomer.
Skin-rejuvenating treatments, such as lasers, microneedling, radiofrequency, chemical peels, LED, and cryo-electrophoresis, can incorporate growth factors to amplify results. “For example, microneedling treatments use tiny needle pricks to stimulate the skin’s natural healing process in order to enhance texture, improve firmness, and minimize fine lines,” says Luu. “The use of a growth factor serum during the procedure is essential in accelerating skin recovery. Rejuvenating treatments that stress the skin should be followed by soothing and regenerating post-procedure treatments that include serums with growth factors such as EGF and TGF-β.” Clients should also be encouraged to purchase a growth factor product to speed skin healing. “Retailing growth factor and upregulating products can be done strategically to involve pairing up aggressive treatments and modalities with the homecare products that accelerate skin recovery,” says James.
Such healing benefits help explain the growing popularity of growth factors. “Consumers are looking for the latest scientific advances,” says Carmichael. “Like a well-rounded diet, skin needs a symphony of active ingredients including growth factors, peptides, vitamins, antioxidants, and lipids to help nurture cells.”
These growth factor-based products are designed to leave clients with younger-looking and healthier skin.—Darby Radcliff
1. Biopelle Tensage Growth Factor Intensive Serum 50: This growth factor serum with antioxidants, brightening agents, and peptides helps reduce the signs of aging. www.biopelle.com
2. CelleClé MicroLift Shield: Infused with EGF, this moisturizer accelerates the recovery of damaged skin and reduces signs of redness. www.cellecleskincare.com
3. Cosmedix Peptide-Rich Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen: Improve skin’s condition with this sun-protection formula, which relies on a synthetic EGF for added reparative benefits. www.cosmedix.com
4. Epicuren Discovery Skin Rejuvenation Therapy Moisturizing Cream: This skin-firming enzyme emulsion formulated with EGF, proteins, and vitamins increases cell rejuvenation. www.epicuren.com
5. ExPürtise Effective Anti-Aging Face Serum: Provide multi-layered antioxidant protection and stimulate the skin’s collagen matrix with this formula, which includes EGF. www.expurtise.com
6. HydroPeptide Power Serum: Featuring a growth factor-activating plant extract, this serum helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles. www.hydropeptide.com
7. Ilike Organic Skin Care Grape Stem Cell Solutions Gel Mask: Stimulate cell renewal with this antioxidant-rich mask made with a high concentration of EGF and grape stem cells. www.szepelet.com
8. Le Mieux TGF-B Booster Tissue Growth Factor: Boost collagen production with this hyaluronic acid-based serum containing growth factors. www.lemieuxcosmetics.com
9. Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Stemfactor Growth Factor Serum: Containing more than 150 skin growth factors, this formula reduces hyperpigmentation and supports the skin’s natural repair process. www.osmosisskincare.com
10. Pevonia Stem Cells Phyto-Elite Intensive Body Corrector: Formulated with plant-based growth stimulators, this formula accelerates the reversal of the skin’s aging cycle. www.pevoniapro.com
11. Sothys Paris Energizing Booster Serum: Restore skin’s radiance with this formula featuring a Siberian ginseng extract and a vascular endo-thelial growth factor (VEGF). www.sothys-usa.com
12. Vie Collection Time Control Deep Wrinkles EGF Serum: This treatment featuring a specialized EGF complex activates cell division for enhanced skin regeneration. www.viecollection.com