When it comes to our skincare routines, it’s important to manage our expectations. We know that there’s no such thing as a magic potion for wrinkles and fine lines. That said, there are many products that do contain beneficial ingredients to help us improve and maintain our skin’s health and appearance over time. The key: They take time and patience.
There are so many products and ingredients out there that promise soft, radiant, and youthful-looking skin. And many of them may actually help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, boost collagen production, and help our skin look and feel younger and healthier.
That may include a special substance called “Epidermal Growth Factor” (EGF). But how well does EGF actually work to repair our skin and prevent wrinkles and fine lines from forming? Here’s the rundown on EGF in skincare, what it can and can’t do, and how you can use it to help you reach your skincare goals.
Our bodies produce a few different substances that can be classified as ‘growth factors.’ Different growth factors can work in different ways, but they’re all required for our body’s health on a cellular level. In the simplest terms, a growth factor is a type of protein called a polypeptide that regulates specific processes—in EGF’s case, that includes cellular repair and renewal.¹
EGF, along with Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF), regulates those cellular processes in the skin by stimulating fibroblasts, which are in turn responsible for production of collagen and elastin which maintain skin elasticity and resistance.² Both EGF and FGF occur naturally in our skin from birth. As we grow older, EGF and FGF production slows down, causing our skin to get looser and leading to wrinkles and fine lines.³
Naturally occurring EGF was first isolated in mice in the 1950s-60s and later in humans. That discovery quickly led to some amazing advances in skin regeneration therapy. Researchers found that EGF is quite effective in helping speed up the healing process in wound recovery. In fact, it’s so effective that the scientists whose work led to its discovery, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen, were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986.⁴
Although there’s not a ton of research available on the anti-aging effects of EGF, the research that does exist may hold some promise. Some studies have shown that the topical application of growth factors may result in marked improvements in sun damage by boosting collagen production, resulting in thicker, fuller skin and the visible reduction of wrinkles.⁵ EGF has also been used in the development of new epidermal therapies to promote and enhance wound healing.⁶
EGF occurs naturally in the skin, but we can also synthesize it in labs with stem cells (called recombinant EGF). Some EGF is created using human stem cells.⁷ More recently, chemists have discovered a way to synthesize EGF using genetically modified barley seeds.⁸ If you’re concerned about the source of your EGF, look for over-the-counter products with plant-based proteins, which may present a more comfortable choice.
Both versions of EGF have been shown to be effective at reducing visible signs of aging and sun damage, and many cosmeceutical companies have turned their attention toward this substance. The EGF you’ll find available on the consumer market today will most often be found as an ingredient in topical skincare or cosmetic products. Some clinical therapies may require an injection.⁹
Generally, you’ll find EGF in skincare products labeled as such, but sometimes you’ll see products labeled with “peptide” or “polypeptides.” These ingredients are related to EGF (which is a polypeptide, after all), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the polypeptides contained in any given product are actually EGF. You’ll find that most of the creams or serums that contain EGF will say so.
There have been some studies conducted using EGF via injection in regenerative and aesthetic medicine.¹⁰ However, more research is needed to determine dosages and protocols for EGF to be widely used in clinical therapies. There is evidence that EGF can be quite useful in topical applications, including treatment of hyperpigmentation, and anti-aging therapies, among others.¹¹
If you’re thinking about adding EGF to your skincare routine, here are a few examples of what you might find. You’ll notice that many skincare and cosmetic products combine EGF with other key ingredients such as moisturizers, vitamins, and even other peptides. Keep in mind that this list shouldn’t be interpreted as a recommendation or endorsement of any of these products:
The INKEY List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum: This serum uses plant-based EGF combined with the potent antioxidant effects of vitamin C to brighten and tighten the look of skin.
Nurse Jamie EGF Face Cream: This face cream combines plant-based EGF with other peptides and antioxidants like Green Tea Extract to promote collagen synthesis and improve your skin’s overall tone and texture.
BIOEFFECT EGF Serum: Another plant-based EGF product, this serum also contains hyaluronic acid for a deep moisturizing effect while promoting skin elasticity to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
Glo Skin Beauty Bio-Renew EGF Cream: This cream combines (you guessed it) plant-based EGF with other peptides to boost cellular renewal and strengthen the natural skin barrier while hydrating the skin for a smooth, plump look
Le Mieux EGF-DNA Serum: With a proprietary EGF formula, this serum targets all skin types, and works to treat irritated or aging skin while promoting a healthy glow and texture
FactorFive Regenerative Serum: This formulation doesn’t specifically list EGF as a component but it is an example of a skincare product made using stem cells ethically sourced from human adipose tissue (fat)–those stem cells may contain EGF and other growth factors and peptides.
Some EGF creams and serums can start to get pretty expensive because it’s still a very complex and expensive process to synthesize EGF on a major scale, and the results aren’t always stable. That’s also one reason that clinical therapies using EGF are not yet considered to be a practical option.¹² It’s worth noting that, for many of these types of products, a little goes a long way. Still, with some products running hundreds of dollars, the cost is definitely another factor to consider.
For the most part, complications or issues are relatively minor, but again, more research is needed. There is some evidence suggesting that EGF may promote the growth of pre-existing cancerous tumors, but it isn’t conclusive; though it is likely that EGF itself doesn’t cause cancer or create tumors.¹³ There may be a reason for some concern for people with a current diagnosis or a history of skin cancer, but for the most part, EGF is found to be generally safe.
Minimal treatment-related complications have been noted, but EGF has been well-tolerated in general.¹⁴ In some contexts, there have been some reports of issues with the difficulty EGF has in penetrating deeply into the skin due to its large molecular structure.¹⁵ But even with that challenge, many studies have shown a positive correlation between the topical application of EGF and the visible effects of aging and sun damage. Though, more research is needed.
While there is certainly room for more conclusive research on the subject, the topical use of Epidermal Growth Factor or EGF in skincare shows some promise as an innovative anti-aging and skin regeneration technique. Of course, there’s no such thing as a magic potion, and even EGF treatments will have their limitations. Alternative plant-based options are available for folks who may be concerned about the source of their EGF. If you choose not to include EGF in your skincare routine at all, there are lots of other anti-aging skin rejuvenation options on the market (like Curology’s Future-ProofRx).
If you want to take the guesswork out of skincare, Curology’s got your back. Our team of licensed dermatology providers is ready to answer any questions and help you find a solution that’s tailored to your individual needs. Sign up at Curology today* for a consultation and take the first step on your personalized skincare journey.
Yes, for the most part. Based on the research that has been completed, EGF is typically well tolerated. There’s some concern about how EGF may affect pre-existing cancerous cells or tumors, but nothing conclusive. If you have concerns about this, please speak to your dermatology provider.
Many products exist that combine EGF with other ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, but also vitamins and antioxidants, moisturizers, extracts, and other beneficial ingredients.
Meybosch, S., et al. Epidermal growth factor and its influencing variables in healthy children and adults. PLoS One. (2019, January 24).
Shin, S.H., et al. The use of epidermal growth factor in dermatological practice. International Wound Journal. (2022, December 30).
Mehta-Ambalal, S.R. Neocollagenesis and Neoelastinogenesis: From the Laboratory to the Clinic. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. (July 2016).
De Araújo, R., et al. Fibroblast Growth Factors: A Controlling Mechanism of Skin Aging. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. (2019, July 26).
The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute. Press release-Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. (1986).
De Araújo, R., et al. Fibroblast Growth Factors: A Controlling Mechanism of Skin Aging. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. Ibid.
Bodnar, R.J. Epidermal Growth Factor and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor: The Yin and Yang in the Treatment of Cutaneous Wounds and Cancer. Adv Wound Care. (2013).
Schuldiner, M., et al. Effects of eight growth factors on the differentiation of cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. PNAS. (2000, October 10).
Schouest, J.M., et al. Improved texture and appearance of human facial skin after daily topical application of barley produced, synthetic, human-like epidermal growth factor (EGF) serum. J Drugs Dermatol. (May 2012).
Miller-Kobisher, B., et al. Epidermal Growth Factor in Aesthetics and Regenerative Medicine - Systematic Review. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. (April 2021).
Miller-Kobisher, B., et al. Epidermal Growth Factor in Aesthetics and Regenerative Medicine - Systematic Review. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. Ibid.
Mitchell, A.C., et al. Engineering growth factors for regenerative medicine applications. Acta Biomater. (2015, November 7).