The other day, I received an email from a reader asking me what I thought of Natura Bisse’s products that feature growth factors - she added that she had used one of them and that it had made “not one little bit of difference”. I took a look and am not surprised she didn’t have much luck - despite what Natura Bisse says, its Cytokines range doesn’t actually contain growth factors.

Natura Bisse says that its “Cytokines Line is formulated with an anti-aging epidermal growth factor that helps restore a youthful and supple appearance.” I went to verify this by searching for the ingredients for the flagship of the line, Top Ten Complex ($160). The key active appears to be glycoproteins. This is a potentially useful ingredient, but it is not, as far as I understand it, an epidermal growth factor.

Glycoproteins are protein (peptides) with a covalent bonding of a sugar (carbohydrate) molecule. They are large in size and I have been told that they cannot pass through the stratum corneum. They do enter into cell to cell communication so can be considered signaling proteins. There are also structural glycoproteins that are found in connective tissue, such as collagen, and some of them are hormones.

Epidermal growth factor or EGF is somewhat different. Whereas glycoproteins have a number of different roles including making eggs attractive for sperm, EGF specifically plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and differentiation by binding to its receptor. EGFs have a low molecular weight. Growth factors are found in serums by E’shee, ReLuma and BioEffect.

Natura Bisse Top Ten Complex has a glycerin base and the next most dominant ingredient is hydrolized elastin. Typically this is a protein of either bovine or plant extraction. Most often it is described as an emollient, or something that provides a protective barrier for the skin. I haven’t found anything that confirms that hydrolyzed elastin helps produce elastin in the skin.

There are a disturbing number of harsh preservatives in Top Ten Complex including triethanolamine, a human skin, immune system and respiratory toxicant; the possible neurotoxins phenoxyethanol and chlorephenesin; as well as umpteen controversial parabens and the potentially irritating fragrance benzyl benzoate.

Ingredients: Glycerin, hydrolyzed elastin, PEG-60, glycoproteins, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, retinyl palmitate, triethanolamine, tocopheryl acetate, ascorbic acid, phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin, butylene glycol, methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylperaben, sodium methylparaben, fragrance, limonene, hydroxycitronellal, citronellol, cinnamyl alcohol, citral, benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate.