The Science Behind Growth Factors in Skincare: Exploring Sources, Penetration, and Efficacy

24 November 2023

Unveiling the Secrets of Growth Factors: How They Are Obtained and Utilized in Skincare

The quest for youthful and radiant skin has led to a surge in the popularity of growth factors in skincare. These naturally occurring proteins hold the promise of stimulating collagen production, promoting cell regeneration, and improving overall skin health. However, understanding the science behind growth factors is crucial to discern their true potential and efficacy. In this article, we delve into the various sources of growth factors, their penetration-enhancing techniques, and the challenges in determining their effectiveness.

Obtaining Growth Factors: From Newborns’ Foreskins to Donor Tissue

The oldest method of obtaining growth factors involved culturing fibroblasts from newborns’ foreskins. These fibroblasts, derived from fresh circumcision tissue, produce conditioned media containing growth factors, cytokines, and soluble proteins. However, the exact composition of these growth factors can vary from batch to batch. Another source of growth factors is fibroblasts extracted from first-trimester human fetuses. A more recent approach involves obtaining growth factors from the patient’s own tissue, either through punch biopsies or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) derived from the patient’s blood.

Enhancing Penetration: Microneedling and Liposomal Delivery

Topical growth factors face a challenge in penetrating the skin barrier due to their large size. To address this, microneedling techniques have been employed to create tiny punctures in the skin, facilitating better absorption of growth factors. Additionally, some manufacturers have encapsulated growth factors in liposomes, which help transport the molecules through the skin layers, increasing their physiological activity.

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Safety Concerns: Balancing Potential Benefits and Risks

One of the primary concerns surrounding growth factors is their potential to promote the growth of premalignant and malignant cells. However, studies have not shown a significant increase in these lesions among users of growth factor-containing cosmeceuticals. Nevertheless, the safety of growth factors remains an important consideration.

Assessing Efficacy: The Challenge of Differentiating Growth Factors from Vehicle Effects

Determining the true effectiveness of growth factors in skincare can be challenging, as it is difficult to separate the effects of the growth factors from those of the moisturizing vehicle in which they are formulated. The vehicle itself often contains ingredients that provide skin benefits, such as occlusive moisturizers, humectants, and emollients. Expert graders evaluating the efficacy of growth factor cosmeceuticals face the challenge of attributing specific effects to the growth factors alone.


Growth factors have emerged as a promising ingredient in skincare, offering the potential to improve skin health and appearance. Obtaining growth factors from various sources, enhancing their penetration through microneedling and liposomal delivery, and addressing safety concerns are crucial considerations. However, accurately assessing the efficacy of growth factors remains a challenge due to the complex interplay between the growth factors and the vehicle in which they are formulated. As research continues to unravel the intricacies of growth factors, skincare enthusiasts and dermatologists alike eagerly await further advancements in harnessing their potential for youthful and radiant skin.

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