Ingredient Spotlight: How EGF Actually Transforms Skin to Look Younger

By April 5, 2018

What is EGF? Looking for the perfect anti-aging ingredient? Find out if EGF is the ingredient you’ve been missing in your routine.

Anti-aging products can be tricky to navigate because despite the price tag, their effects are often preventative or invisible. You’ve got your daily SPF, which protects you from sun spots and reduces the risk of skin cancer, but the fact that it prevents you from aging at the speed of light doesn’t mean it can remove the fine lines you already have. And when you’re committed to seeing what you believe in, a collagen-infused serum that does nothing but hydrate your skin can feel like a major letdown.

That’s why it’s important to understand how ingredients work on the deeper level and the exact impact they have on your skin. To solve the mystery around the most effective ways to fight wrinkles, we looked at EGF, a powerhouse ingredient used in Korea to improve wrinkles on the cellular level.

What is EGF?

EGF stands for epidermal growth factor, which is a single-chain, non-glycosylated protein that naturally occurs in our skin cells. Its main purpose is to heal our skin by promoting DNA synthesis and cell proliferation. Once it binds to EGFR, which is its receptor, on the surface of the cell, the combination of the two kickstarts several signaling pathways that ultimately lead to results such as cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival.

As the healing factor for your body, EGF helps repair skin as well as corneal, intestinal, and mucosal wounds. The discovery of EGF won biologist Rita Levi-Montalcini and biochemist Stanley Cohen the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1986.

If you’re still confused about growth factors, Joshua Zeichner, dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, offers an easy explanation. “Growth factors are signals that tell your skin cells to behave like young, healthy cells,” he says. When it comes to cosmetic use, “they are most appropriate for people with aging skin” because they can target various issues such as wrinkles and crepy-ness.

What are the skin benefits of EGF?

EGF has many benefits for your skin, including wrinkle improvement, hydration, and pigmentation prevention. The process by which EGF encourages cell growth also stimulates the division of keratinocytes and fibroblasts, which then synthesize fibrous proteins that improve skin elasticity such as collagen and elastin.

Because EGF repairs skin by stimulating the growth of new skin cells, it also enhances skin barrier. This allows skin to hold on to moisture better, so your skin becomes smoother and softer. Lastly, it inhibits melanin production during the wound healing process, so it improves acne marks and other forms of hyperpigmentation.

When should you consider using EGF products?

Typically, you can find traces of EGF in body fluids such as breast milk, saliva, and tears. Because they help with wound healing, epidermal cells also naturally release EGF when there is a wound.

But the level of EGF in your body experiences a sharp decrease when you hit around 29. Studies have showed that when you’re in your thirties, the level of EGF in your urine is less than 10% of the amount from when you were a child. This decrease slows down the speed at which your skin can repair itself, which in turn contributes to aging.

So using EGF products can help replenish the low levels of EGF present inside the body, which then helps heal the skin and prevents signs of premature aging. Thankfully, EGF can be made in a lab to function exactly like naturally-occurring EGF without using any human or animal-derived ingredients. 

How can you add EGF to your routine?

Products with EGF such as the Biopelle Tensage Growth Factor line, the SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, and PCA Skin Total Strength Serum have been on the market for years. But when you consider the popularity of other anti-aging ingredients such as collagen and adenosine, it’s clear that EGF is still pretty much a best-kept secret in the skin care world.

For those who decide to add EGF products to your routine, Zeichner recommends using them in the evening, “when skin cells’ turnover and skin healing is at its peak naturally.” He also notes that “growth factor containing products have the advantage of generally being non-irritating.”

The Bottom line

If you’re looking to hydrate, brighten, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles all at once, a product with EGF may be worth a try. But as always, which EGF product you should use would depend on your skin type and the products themselves, so it’s important to ask questions and do your research before reaching for this all-in-one ingredient.

+ Would you try EGF to improve wrinkles? Let us know in the comments!