Want to take your regimen to the next level? Look no further than Peptides, Stem Cells and Growth Factors. In my opinion, they live up to the hype. They’re the hottest buzzwords in anti-aging skincare known for their performance in creating younger, healthier skin. We’re going to break it down past the buzz, get down to the facts, and find out why you need one or more of these in your routine.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to high school biology science. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, or protein fragments, capable of cellular communication. That was God knows how many years ago, so if you’re like most that probably doesn’t make sense. Peptides are proteins, food to feed your skin… like body building. For your face. They strengthen and feed the skin so it’s nourished and behaves and looks as if it were younger.
Peptides have been around since the 1980s, starting with Copper Peptides to increase wound healing. Decades later Palmitoyl Pentapeptide made its debut as a non-irritating alternative to retinol. (Linter et al) As innovation continues Peptides evolve and improve, giving the ability to replace harsh ingredients and provide better results.
There are myriad of Peptides offering many anti-aging benefits. They carry specific messages to bind and unlock a receptor’s ability to create specific actions within the skin. Signaling Peptides instruct cells to carry out functions like producing collagen and elastin, or acting as an antioxidant. Enzyme Inhibitor Peptides can overlap their signaling counterparts by preventing enzymes from reducing collagen and start damage repair. Neurotransmitter-Inhibitor Peptides prevent nerve impulses from releasing by interfering with protein stabilization and muscle contractions. Then, you have Carrier Peptides to aid in stabilizing and delivery allowing Peptides to nourish skin and heal wounds. (Gorouhi & Maibach)
For skin to remain in optimal condition the epidermis needs to renew constantly. If your skin is damaged it needs to be able to repair its self efficiently to do its job well. Stem cells are responsible for skin regeneration and wound healing, an important process in maintaining the skin’s barrier. As we age this renewal process slows down as the regenerative capacity of stem cells declines. Visible signs of a reduction in cellular turn over include thin, drug, rough, and dull skin.
Stem cells are undifferentiated, non-specialized cells capable of self-renewal, and able to replace damaged cells. They have limitless potency to become a variety of specialized cells. Epidermal stem cells are responsible for everyday regeneration of each layer of the epidermis and are found in the basal layer, the deepest layer of our skin. Epidermal stem cells can be referred to as “mother cells”. When mother cells are young and well nourished they produce healthy “daughter cells”, these cells rise to the surface revealing radiant, glowing skin. As mother stem cells age they lose their abilities and the skins renewal process slows down. This results in decreased healing capabilities, shortened telomeres (segments of DNA occurring at the end of chromosomes), and an increase in the imbalance between free radicals and the skin’s ability to detoxify their harmful effects.
Botanical stem cells are able to nourish human stem cells with concentrated levels of phenylpropanoids, polysaccharides, amino acids, anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, and minerals. Think of them as supercharged antioxidants! These plant-based stem cells assist mother cells to remain youthful so they can continue to produce healthy functioning daughter cells, boosting and improving skin renewal while preventing thinning skin. Experiments have shown that plant stem cells are maintained by signals from adjacent cells, a characteristic shared with animal stem cells, helping to adjust stem cell proliferation to the needs of the organism. Mechanisms that control whether a cell continues to function as a stem cell or starts to differentiate also show similarities between plants and animals. (Sablowski)
Botanical stem cells cannot act as human stem cells do, but they have the ability to stimulate or inhibit our natural signaling pathways. They provide exceptional antioxidant and nutrient properties allowing our own skin stem cells to optimally function. Essentially, stem cells in skincare are enriched extracts of proteins and growth factors, delivering nutrients the human body cannot produce alone.
Growth factors can be proteins, small peptides, and steroid hormones. They’re messenger molecules aiding in regulating the communication process between cells and can promote cell growth, cell differentiation, or inhibit cellular activities. The growth factor involved targets a cell type and with a specific reaction. They communicate by cell signaling: binding to specific proteins to signal receptor’s on a cells surface generating a secondary response within the cell, generating proteins to help the cell perform optimally. Growth factors can also activate or deactivate specific reactions of a target cell. This cell signaling between the epidermis and remiss is critical to many cellular processes including how our skin responds to environmental stimuli and other regulated reactions that impact our skin. Growth factors released by the basal layer can communicate with other cells in response to UV, creating a secondary response to protect the skin.
Growth factors in skincare can be human or botanical and vary in their specific actions, too. Like botanical stem cells, botanical growth factors cannot replace our own but they can stimulate existing growth factors into action without risk of over-stimulation. Hydropeptide utilizes two: One activates and stimulates communication between the epidermis and dermis to improve skin resilience and firmness. The other deactivates or slows excess oil production from sebocytes and prevents pigmentation caused by melanin from melanocytes. (Schmid) DNA Renewal uses bio-engineered barley derived growth factors to tighten skin and even pigmentation. Clinical studies showed improvement of acne scars and melasma.
Scientifically human growth factors would work better than botanical growth factors. Human growth factors are currently derived from neonatal foreskins or E. coli and need to be refrigerated to remain stable, which may be why botanical growth factors are more common. Not to mention consumer perception, most of us would probably prefer botanical options! Human growth factors have a bit of controversy surrounding them as there has been a cause for concern about cancer. The thought is if you apply these ingredients on skin with active skin cancer, or pre-cancerous actinic keratosis, there could be a possibility in the increase in growth of cancer.
From the Doc’s at BareFacedTruth:
“We do not believe that EGF causes cancer. Period. There is much research about how cancers use EGF and other growth factors and their receptors to further their agenda of growth at all costs. But the same can be said of the ability of cancers to beg, borrow, or steal blood, oxygen, nutrients, and everything else they need for growth, often at the dire expense of tissues, organs or the whole organism. In short – that is the very nature of cancer and why it is dangerous – but that is not the nature of EGF. To blame EGF would be like blaming amino acids, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, hormones, etc. (cancers use them all). But you should think of EGF as the stolen object, not the thief. To the extent that cancers may co opt EGF, well then so does healing tissue after a surgery, or skin after damage by the sun. There is no scientific evidence that EGF applied to skin in any dose causes cancer. But then you don’t want to apply it to known skin cancers either. That is common sense. Knowing your own skin, and the signs of skin cancer, and promptly presenting to your doctor if you perceive any changes is the reasonable caution there.”
When shopping for products containing peptides, stem cells and growth factors it’s best to invest in quality. Not only will quality products contain higher concentrations of Peptides, but they will also use the newest generation of Peptides. Next generation Peptides perform better than their predecessors in clinical trials, the same can be said for Stem Cells and Growth Factors. Formulas are important, too. For Peptides, Stem Cells and Growth Factors to benefit the skin they must be stabilized (containers that don’t allow air to get in, like jars), paired with a carrier to enhance skin absorption, and they must be able to reach their target without breaking down.