Want to take your skincare regimen to the next level? Look no further than Peptides, Stem Cells, and Growth Factors. In my opinion, they’re worthy of the hype and are high-performance superstars when it comes to cosmetic ingredients.
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.
What Are Peptides?
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to high school biology science. Essentially, Peptides are short chains of amino acids, or protein fragments, capable of cellular communication. Lord knows how many years ago that was, so that may not make sense.
Peptides are proteins, food to feed your skin… similar to bodybuilding but 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 skin cell receptor’s ability to create specific actions within your skin. Signaling Peptides instruct cells to carry out functions like producing collagen and elastin, or to act 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)
What Are Stem Cells?
For skin to remain in optimal condition your epidermis needs to renew constantly. If your skin is damaged, like say from over exfoliating, 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 our own stem cells decline. 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 with the ability to replace damaged cells. They have limitless potency to become a variety of specialized cells, which means they can help a number of skin age-related issues.
Within our skin, epidermal stem cells help regenerate each layer of the epidermis and can be found in the basal layer, the deepest layer of our skin. Known as “mother cells”, young, well-nourished epidermal stem cells 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 skin’s renewal processes slow 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. In other words, your skin’s ability to self-heal and product vital substances like collagen and hyaluronic acid slows down.
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 botanical stem cells 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 aging, thinning skin. Science shows 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 hinder 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, containing both proteins and growth factors to deliver nutrients the human body cannot produce alone.
What Are Growth Factors?
Growth factors can be proteins, small peptides, or 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.
Any growth factor can target a specific 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, and 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. For example, 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. However, botanical growth factors are far more common. Like botanical stem cells, botanical growth factors cannot replace our own but they can stimulate existing growth factors into action without the risk of over-stimulation.
For example, one activates to stimulate 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) Bio-engineered growth factors derived from barley have been used to tighten skin and even reduce pigmentation. Clinical studies have shown improvement of acne scars and melasma, too.
Scientifically, human growth factors would work better than botanical growth factors. Currently, we derive human growth factors 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 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.”
Your Ingredient Shopping Guidelines
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, the same can be said for Stem Cells and Growth Factors.
The formulation is important, too. For Peptides, Stem Cells and Growth Factors to benefit the skin they must be stabilized (airless packaging that prevents air from getting in, so no jars), paired with a carrier to enhance skin absorption, and they must be able to reach their target within your skin without breaking down.