Free shipping on all domestic orders over $39

The Truth About Human Growth Factors

February 1, 2018 Reviewed by Marta 2 Comments

With growth factors and human stem cells we are on the brink of a tremendous beauty breakthrough. There is a steadily growing number of skincare products with these complex and powerful actives - take your pick from growth factors, stem cells, conditioned media and peptides. They are not interchangeable and so it is worth getting to know how they work and how they differ.

This article focuses on human proteins, not plant stem cells. There are many different proteins and, although they all send signals to cells, their roles differ. Mostly, these proteins are repairers and much of the research on them has been on wounds. Extracts of stem cells contain peptides, amino acids, and enzymes.

Stem cells

The progenitor cells of the human fibroblast can be taken from newborn baby foreskins or human fat (adipose) cells. Embryonic stem cells are not used in cosmetics. From the progenitor cell, many thousands of new cells will be grown in the lab. Understanding this may help dispel myths (and fears) that new human cells are extracted for each batch of cosmetics and that they may be diseased or cancerous. The progenitor cell is supposedly pristine and is cloned in a laboratory.

Some manufacturers claim that adult stem cells are not as potent as those taken from young humans and they use stem cells from unfertilized eggs.

Human conditioned media

Conditioned media (sometimes called human fibroblast conditioned media) is, in fact, the solution (sugars, amino acids and such) that is put in the petri dish in which skin cells are grown. Examples of anti-aging brands that use human conditioned media are ReLuma and AQ Skin Solutions. Both claim to use complexes that contain many different growth factors. The source of these growth factors is often human adipose fat. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found adult stem cells collected from human fat have a potential use to treat aging.

Another formulator of skincare, KERACELL, uses stem cells from human stromal cell derived conditioned media. Specifically, stromal cells in the dermis release growth factors that promote cell division to regenerate the skin.

Epidermal growth factors

Epidermal growth factors are made up of 53 amino acids and they stimulate cell growth, differentiation and proliferation. Research has shown that isolated EPGs can stimulate wound healing and skin regeneration. There are many different EPGs and they do different things. TGF-b, for example, stimulates collagen production, promotes the synthesis of extracellular matrix proteins and inhibits matrix degradation (or the thinning of your skin).

Pet owners will love this factoid: Dr. Mike Longaker in the Department of Surgery at Stanford points out that animals lick their wounds because their saliva includes a high concentration of EGF. There are numerous clinical trials demonstrating that EGF accelerates wound healing, such as this 2006 study on rats. What is less clear, however, is the mechanism.

For example, I spent some time looking at the impact of EGF on collagen production and found the research to be contradictory. There is research that concludes that EGF has a positive effect: EGF “stimulates fibroblasts to secrete collagenase” and “continuous topical application of epidermal growth factor [EGF] to granulation tissue increases the rate of collagen accumulation.”

E’shee has chosen to focus its skincare range on the FGF-1 family of growth factors involved in angiogenesis and wound healing. 


Recently, specific growth factors have been isolated and the most common are oligopeptides. These are proteins with up to 10 amino acids and have become a popular ingredient in skin care. Usually these are synthetic — that is to say, manufactured in a lab to mimic the signaling qualities of human proteins. It is usually listed as Sh-Oligopeptide-1. This is the key ingredient in Stemulation Hi-Impact. Or you will see it with the pre-fix Rh (recombinant); this version is in GloTherapeutics Super Serum. 

Browse our selection of community-tested serums with growth factors


  • February 7, 2018

    by James

    Interesting discussion on growth factors. Recently I was reading that Stem Cell extract from Swiss Apples (I forget the Latin name) have similar growth stimulating effects.

    Do you have any research on such plant based growth factors?

  • November 17, 2016

    by Amelia

    Hello Marta,
    I really enjoy reading your articles and think you are a real talent which brings me to the reasons I LOVE coming to and doing business with your company as much as I do! Who else puts forth the kind of effort and achieves the results you do? Or should I say helps us to achieve the kind of results we do? I know there's only one other out there who is a doctor and is far more conservative but she competes in a very different arena. I've always got my eye on what you're using simply because we are close in age and I feel as though we are fighting the same fight! It truly does become more difficult with age but I've come a long way in the past few years with you and your magnificent team and I am very appreciative to both you and Preska in particular! She works wonders behind the scenes and does the impossible at times! I was so impressed with what she was able to accomplish with my Eshee shipments recently! I have really come to love the line and completely understand why you feel the way you do about their exceptionable products! As for stem cells, I'm most definitely in! I say its wonderfully exciting and its about time! I Thank you and your fantastically knowledgeable staff for doing such a magnificent job! My skin has never looked better Marta!!

Join the discussion! Leave a comment below.

My Comment

Add a comment...

-or- Cancel Comment
* Required Fields
truth in aging's five best

Truth In Aging's Five Best

The very best to choose from for your skin concerns.

Read More

truth in aging videos

Truth In Aging Videos

Helpful how-tos and reviews from Marta and friends.

Watch Now

meet our contributors

Meet Our Contributors

The TIA community consists of our trusted reviewers.

Meet Them

be inspired

Be Inspired

Inspiring thoughts and women who are aging gracefully.

Read More