What are the Effects of Growth Factors in Skin Care?

Skin Care
AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum

If there was a skin care ingredient I would stock up on in the next decade, it would be growth factors.

Why? Well, in my opinion, skin cell stimulating growth factors are as close to a drug as it gets. Growth factors in skin care have been shown in peer-reviewed, independent studies to enhance wound healing following dermatological treatments with lasers or dermatologic surgeryreduce wrinkling, and increase skin smoothness.

In a 2007 study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, subjects used a human growth factor-containing cream on half of their face for sixty days. After the 60-day period, 83% of the subjects showed an improved average wrinkle score in the eye area, while 50% showed an improved average wrinkle score in the mouth area.

The results are dramatic from using growth factors. I would be shocked if they are not more regulated (and hence less available in less potent concentrations over-the-counter) in the future.

Though these photos are all from their parent companies, the results are dramatic and appear (at least to me) not to be edited. Before-and-afters of growth factor products are available from AQ Skin Solutions, Regenica, and Skinmedica.

What is the Best Growth Factor Serum?

AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum Growth Factors Growth Factors

Right now, I prefer AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum ($149, FutureDerm.com/Shop).

I like AQ Skin Solutions because I’m all about high concentrations of active ingredients.AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum, for instance, contains a concentrated blend (over 40%) of stem cell derived growth factors, the highest of any brand that I have seen.

This solution contains even more stem cells than water, which is exceptionally rare to find in a skin care product.

Second, AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum also contains vitamin C (as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) and vitamin E. As longtime FutureDerm readers know, these are two of my favorite ingredients, because use of the two ingredients together has been shown to neutralize free radicals and to increase the power of sunscreen (not kidding!) (American Journal of Dermatology2005).

According to the parent company of AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum:

  • Skin looks significantly younger with regular use
  • Diminishes wrinkles and fine lines
  • Gives skin a youthful glow and gradually fades sun/age spots
  • GF (growth factor)-technology restores youthful skin function to repair damage

One final note: Please know that I prefer AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum not because I carry it in the FutureDerm Shop. Rather, I evaluated the serums and their background materials, and I liked AQ Skin Solutions and contacted them to work with them. I carry them in the Shop because they are high-quality and liked them first.

How Do Growth Factors Work in the Skin?


Growth factors are naturally found within the skin. As you age, your body’s natural production and preservation of growth factors slows dramatically.

Growth factors are typically specialized. For instance, the growth factor VEGF lays down fresh blood vessels, whereas the growth factor keratinocyte growth factor stimulates skin care growth.

Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-B) Stimulate collagen secretion
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) Stimulate new blood vessel formation
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) Stimulate new blood vessel formation
Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) Stimulate epithelial cell growth
Interleukins (IL-6, IL-7, IL-8) Reduce inflammation
Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) Promote formation of new blood vessels
Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) Promote cell growth and multiplication
Platelet-derived growth factor AA (PDGF-AA) Regulate cell growth and division
Transforming growth factors (TGF-B2 & B3) Stimulate collagen secretion
Granulocyte monocyte colony stimulating factor Increase number of white blood cells

While there are many different types of growth factors, they all essentially do more or less the same things, exfoliating the skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and improving skin firmness.

Studies also suggest growth factors may increase cellular turnover and regeneration (Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, 2010; Dermatologic Therapy2007).

How Do I Use This as a Part of a Regimen?


I recommend AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum most for skin that is showing significant signs of aging. AQ Skin Solutions (and growth factors in general) work extremely well on skin that has lost some of its firmness and elasticity already.

In the morning, cleanse, tone (optional), then apply AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum, followed by a sunscreen.

In the evening, cleanse, tone (optional), apply a lightweight retinoid or AHA treatment, then AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum, followed by a moisturizer only if your skin is normal/dry or dry. (Current favorites of mine include AminoGenesis, LARA Beauty, and of course my FutureDerm!)

Note that the form of vitamin C in AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum is tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and is not acidic, so you can use it in conjunction with a retinoid.

Bottom Line

If you are serious about using effective skin care treatment products, give skin cell growth factors a try. Growth factors in skin care have been shown in peer-reviewed research studies to have potential against fine lines and wrinkles, sagging and lax skin, and dry and non-luminous skin.

As far as the current brands go, I selected AQ Skin Solutions because of their high concentration of growth factors, as well as the fact that their cells are hand-sorted, purifying the solution.

I’m serious about growth factors and I think you might love the results!

What do you think about them? Have questions? Let me know!

Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop

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  • Jen

    Hi Sally,
    I use a product (serum) that uses a much higher rate of human derived growth factors from stem cells. It is quite unethical and frowned upon these days to harvest them from babies and so they have found a good healthy source that is from adult stem cells. Gone are the days of the controversial harvesting.

  • Sally

    I have just started reading into Growth Factors. What bothers me is that the growth factor derived from human rather than plant based even though i know plant based growth factors aren’t even in the same category as they are so much more milder. But i find that it is such a turn off knowing that skin medica growth factor came from isolated protein from a human foreskin and neo cutis came from a still born baby

    how do i get over that?

  • I’ve been using and recommending SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum for years. And seen incredible results. What’s your opinion on this growth factor?

  • Damgaard

    Hi Nicki

    Love your site!

    I´ve heard about a serum from the company Jeunesse Global and it contains 85% of growth factor complex from human stem cells. Do you have any information or tests you have made on this in particular?


    • Nicki Zevola

      It might contain a lot of growth factor from human stem cells, but keep in mind that the key word here is “COMPLEX.” A product could be 1% growth factor packaged in 99% humectants, conditioning agents, and other hydrators, and still called a “growth factor complex.” Put that 1%+99% into a solution at 85%, and you market it as “85% growth factor complex.”

      I get turned off by this.

      That said, it may be a solid product. But it does not contain 85% growth factors.

  • Hanne

    Thanks for your reply Nicki! And my compliments to your website, it’s amazing!

    Well, I have indeed enjoyed my time in the sun in my early twenties and I used to smoke… My skin doesn’t look that bad but I do have noticeable lines on my forehead, under my eyes, in my cheecks when I smile, and I’m noticing some enlaged pores lately. So I could definately use something to reduce those signs of aging.

    Do you think this serum might work for me? I’m planning on starting to use a retinoid as well.

    • Nicki Zevola

      @Hanne — With any treatment, I look at the science first. Which ingredients are proven? If there aren’t any proven ingredients, I’m not that interested. What do the studies say about those ingredients? If there aren’t many studies, I’m more skeptical. In what concentrations are the ingredients used in the studies? If they’re not realistic, it doesn’t mean anything.

      Once we get past that point, I then start my experimental phase. I try any treatment that passes the above questions for 4-6 weeks, because that’s how long it takes for cell turnover within the skin. I make sure that I use it at least once per day during that period. If there’s redness or irritation, it’s got to go. But if there’s an improvement, I keep it on board.

      I really like the AQ Skin Solutions, so I would say it is worth a shot. They also have a 30-day return policy.

      Retinoids are awesome. I’m not saying that just because I sell one. Retinoids are fantastic, but start slow.

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Hanne – What is your skin like?

    30-year-old skin is interesting. 30 is an age where you have some people with skin like their twenties, and others who look like they are pushing their forties.

    I personally am 30 years old too. While genetics is always a factor, I think that lifestyle plays a huge role. Are you healthy? Skin is the body’s largest organ, and it can tell the story of your health. Pregnancies, hormonal changes, repeated gain-and-loss of weight, autoimmune disease/chronic disorders, and underlying health issues can make the difference between whether or not your 30-year-old skin looks 25 or 35.

    Location is another one: I have friends who are the same age in sunnier places (I’m in Pittsburgh), and their skin is aging faster, in general. If you don’t wear sunscreen year-round, now is the time to start.

    Your habits are a third: I have friends who drink more alcohol, smoke, and consume more salt and fried foods, and their skin is also aging faster, in general.

    Stress is the fourth biggest factor.

    In general, 30-year-olds don’t need growth factors, but if you have enjoyed time in the sun and partied a little more than you wish you had in your twenties (no judgment! :)), it doesn’t seem like it would do anything but benefit.

    Does that help?

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Gale – You’re welcome! Happy to help anytime!

    Sometimes my emails get lost (partially my fault, partially that of my filter), so please write to me in Comments! I respond here several days per week.

  • Hanne

    Hi Nicki,

    Is this serum suitable for the skin of a 30 year old?

  • Gale Norby

    Thanks for your reply Nicki!

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Zsofia – That’s a good point. For most persons, I would imagine that it would not present an issue. But if you have a family history of skin cancer or have had skin cancer yourself, I would be careful and take caution. That said, there are no studies as of yet demonstrating growth factors are not safe.

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Gale – I do not think that growth factors increase hair growth on the face for most persons. I suppose it is possible — growth factors are sold in eyelash stimulating products — but a hair can only grow so long and thick, and facial hair is of a different type than, say, the hair on your head or an eyelash.

    Growth factors do stimulate hair growth somewhat, but keep in mind the ingredient minoxidil is used to stimulate hair follicles in hair growth products, rather than growth factors. If growth factors were able to stimulate any hair growth that much — much less peach fuzz on the face — it would be sold for that purpose more often.

    Hope this helps.

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Debra – You might want to be careful if you have a previous history of skin cancer. I would probably not use anything with growth factors personally if I had skin cancer in the past, because you have a history of your cells uncontrollably dividing and replicating. I would not want to risk speeding up that process again.

    I hope that this helps.

  • Gale Norby

    Hi Nicki, i have a question. Do you think using products with growth factors increases hair growth, even very fine growth, on the face? Thanks.

    • Zsófia Kovács

      What about skin cancer? The balance of cell growth and apoptosis is very important, and however, the function of aging is not cleat yet, some say it is a tumous supressing mechanism, so I am concerned about this.

  • Debra

    Would this be wise to use with a history of basal skin cancer?

  • Nicki Zevola

    Hi @Maggie –

    I’ve used retinol for years, and I think that growth factors did have an effect on me personally. I just felt like my skin got a little firmer and tighter (though I also started running around the same time, honestly).

    I think they do enhance skin in general that is already using other treatments, because growth factors work via a different mechanism than retinoids and AHAs (preserving collagen in two ways, exfoliating). You’re boosting something that was in the skin previously at higher levels when you were younger, and the supplementation should help the skin look and feel better.

    There aren’t as many studies on growth factors in skin care, unfortunately. I also don’t know of many products that aren’t above $100 in this category, though if the science on these substantiates the technology, I have a feeling they will be everywhere!

    I hope this helps. Sorry I didn’t have a less expensive product to recommend.

    Thank you for commenting!

  • Maggie

    Hi Nicki. – is there another product that’s less costly? Do you think they enhance skin that’s already on Retinols, meaning additional benefit ? Thanks!

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