Epidermal Growth Factors in Skincare

There’s a new trend in skincare that actually delivers. I know sometimes it can be tough to tell which skincare trends are just that—trends that will be gone when next season’s fashions go out of style. This is something that’s trending because it works!

You may hear them referred to as “epidermal growth factors,” “EGF,” “stem cells,” “human growth factors,” or sometimes just “growth factors.” These are all terms for protein molecules that occur naturally within human skin tissue. They regulate cellular growth and reproduction, make collagen and elastin, and repair and regenerate damaged tissue.

Thanks to advances in science, these growth factors can be obtained from human cells that are grown in a lab: skin cells, bone marrow stem cells, or fat cells. (There are a lot of products on the market currently that boast different “plant stem cells” or “plant-derived growth factors.” Our bodies best accept and respond to human-derived growth factors, however.)

Model of human skin cells

The success of growth factors was first witnessed during experimentation with wound healing. Scientists discovered that when applied to unhealthy skin, growth factors read the signals of neighboring healthy cells and were able to morph to match these cells. This was a huge breakthrough.

The cosmeceutical industry saw the potential to regenerate all kinds of skin deterioration — think wrinkles, dark spots, loss of elasticity, rough skin etc. And hallelujah, they were onto something big!

As it turns out, with age, our naturally occurring epidermal growth factors decline. “By replacing growth factors in our dermis and epidermis, we lessen the symptoms of aging, like thinning skin or sagging under the eye,” says Dr. Ronald Moy, former president of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Comparing young and old skin

Because growth factors communicate with your cells to create more collagen, the result is smoother and firmer skin with fewer wrinkles and a lessening of dark spots. Remember, the growth factors are reading the signals of the healthier tissue, and in turn cause the less healthy tissue to sort of “get up to speed.” This is a simplified description of what’s happening, of course. The important thing to understand is that the growth factors encourage your skin to regenerate, and the result is an improvement in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, texture, and discoloration.

There are only a handful of products currently containing human growth factors that are worth investing in, but the list is growing. Anyone can claim their product contains a certain ingredient, but if you’re going to spend the money look for something with the research to back its claims.

Dual Chambered TNS Essential Serum

Currently, SkinMedica offers two stand-out growth factor products: TNS Recovery Complex and TNS Essential Serum. The TNS Essential Serum is a dual chambered product where one chamber contains the TNS Recovery Complex and the other chamber something called APS Corrective Complex. The ingredients in both chambers are meant to be mixed together before use. The APS Corrective Complex contains a blend of peptides, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and alpha-arbutin. Because I’m talking about human growth factors, my focus is on the TNS Recovery Complex product and the TNS Recovery Complex chamber (half of the TNS Essential Serum). You can purchase either the TNS Recovery Complex or the Essential Serum and get the same great growth factor complex.

SkinMedica calls their blend of growth factors “Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media” and it’s first on the list of ingredients. It makes up a whopping 93.6% of the formula in the TNS Recovery Complex. When I check the ingredients lists of a handful of other products said to contain “growth factors,” none list their growth factor ingredient(s) as being in the top five on their lists, let alone at the very top (these lists go from highest to lowest in order of concentration). In addition to containing such a high concentration of “human fibroblast,” the TNS Recovery Complex boasts antioxidants, soluble collagen, cytokines and matrix proteins.

There is clinical data to back SkinMedica’s TNS Recovery Complex’s efficacy. Studies like the ones found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5108505/ objectively measured improvements where “the depth and number of textural irregularities or fine lines were found to have decreased significantly from baseline….eleven out of fourteen participants in the study showed improvement in at least one facial area. The periorbital region, in particular, showed a statistically significant improvement in clinically assessed photodamage… eight out of fourteen of the participants felt that their wrinkles had improved, while twelve felt that their skin texture had improved.”

There is a second study you can read about at the same link, done with 60 people, where researchers found “significantly improved facial lines and wrinkles at month 3 versus baseline in participants using TNS Recovery Complex. In addition, per investigators’ clinical assessments, the appearance of fine lines was significantly improved versus baseline for TNS Recovery Complex.” These are results to get excited about!


SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complex




I have recently started using SkinMedica’s TNS Recovery Complex myself. It is a little too soon to report my results, but so far, I’m liking what I see!

I’ve had amazing results with a growth factor eye cream called Regenica.* So, I’ve experienced firsthand the transformative effects. I can say without hesitation that there is much more going on here than marketing hype. My eyelids were getting slightly crinkly. You could tell when I would apply certain eyeshadow. They are now smoother than smooth and look tighter too! No other eye cream has done this for me, and I’ve tried a ton of them.

Have you tried skincare with human growth factors? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from those of you who are either already using these products or are thinking about doing so.

Don’t forget, when using any kind of growth factor product:  always wear your sunscreen! The same rules apply as usual, but especially if you’re regenerating fresh new skin! You want to protect it at all costs! Antioxidants are always a great idea too.

*It is my understanding that Regenica is being bought out by SkinMedica, so I will need to find a replacement for my beloved eye cream soon. Most likely SkinMedica will make a similar one, or already has one that’s comparable. I just can’t speak to it since I haven’t tried or researched their eye products as of yet.

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