Life Extension Magazine®
Couple at beach using topical peptides for skin health

Issue: Jun 2019

Topical Peptides Rebuild Youthful Skin

Five key growth factors repair and reverse chronological and environmental skin damage. Clinical evidence shows that they can decrease under-eye wrinkles by 46%, boost skin elasticity by 47%, and increase hydration by 64%.

Scientifically reviewed by:  Juanita Enogieru, MS, RD/N, on January 2020. Written By Robert Goldfaden and Gary Gldfaden, MD.

Peptides are amino acids naturally present in young skin.

As we age, there is decreased production of these peptides.

When applied to older skin, peptides promote growth, organization, and maintenance of cells. The result is restoration of more youthful skin structure and function.1,2

An advance in topical skin rejuvenation has been the discovery of specific peptides called growth factors.3

These growth factor peptides have been found to repair and reverse chronological and environmental skin damage.4

What you need to know

  • Growth factors are dynamic peptides that activate cell-signaling pathways to orchestrate the repair of chronological and environmental skin damage.
  • Decreased concentration of growth factors as we age compromises the skin's healing capacity, setting the foundation for wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin.
  • Topical replenishment of five key growth factors has been shown to stimulate epidermal and dermal regeneration to reverse visible signs of aging.
  • Two plant extracts—sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum) and date palm fruit (Phoenix dactylifera L.)—further support skin renewal and maintenance. 
  • All of these compounds have been incorporated into one unique, topical formula that results in healthier, more youthful and radiant skin.

Growth Factors: Master Regulators of Skin Repair

Woman smiling

Young skin efficiently repairs damage from internal and external insults, thanks to the inner workings of growth factors.

When skin is damaged, there is a natural release of growth factors that initiate and coordinate reparative processes. These growth factors accomplish this by communicating with other cells, like keratinocytes and fibroblasts.5-7

Scientists have zeroed in on five key growth factors that modulate skin repair and protect against premature aging.

Here is how each growth factor functions:

  • Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) stimulates proliferation of dermal fibroblasts responsible for producing major skin matrix constituents such as collagen, elastin, and fibronectin.8,9
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) helps boost the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients.10,11
  • Acidic fibroblast growth factor (AFGF) increases the growth and differentiation of epidermal keratinocytes to renew the skin's surface.12,13
  • Epidermal growth factor (EGF) attenuates the strong inflammatory and oxidative stress response following skin damage.14
  • Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) triggers new production of collagen and protects against its breakdown by down-regulating collagenase.15,16

These growth factors control cellular growth, proliferation, and differentiation, to give skin the capacity to renew itself completely in our youth. This is why young individuals are able to temporarily combat the detrimental effects of sun exposure, air pollution, and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

As we grow older, decreased production of growth factors compromises the skin's ability to preserve structural integrity and function.17,18 This finding prompted researchers to investigate the impact on aging skin of replenishing growth factors.

Clinical Efficacy of Topical Growth Factors

Sea Fennel

Human trials show that topical preparations with one or more (but not all) of the growth factors described so far function to boost collagen and elastin synthesis, promote epidermal thickening, and quell inflammation. Findings from these studies reveal improvements in skin that was aged and photodamaged.19-23

When all five growth factors are physiologically balanced in one topical formula, the results are more impressive. In one human study, female participants who applied a topical cream containing all five growth factors daily for four weeks experienced the following:4

  • Decreased wrinkles under the eyes by 46%
  • Reduced appearance of crow's feet by 21%
  • Increased skin elasticity by 47%
  • Enhanced skin hydration by 64% (improved by 83% immediately after applying)

Accelerate Epidermal Regeneration

Illistration of peptide

Epidermal stem cells are responsible for self-renewing the skin's surface.

These stem cells manufacture basal keratinocytes that travel upward to form the "brick and mortar" structure that acts as a barrier against the external environment.24,25

As we age, epidermal turnover rate slows down as stem cell activity decreases. This causes thinning of the epidermis, making it more susceptible to external threats, and allowing vital moisture to escape.

Sea fennel is a flowering plant whose stem cells allow it to adapt and thrive in salty coastal areas of Europe. When researchers tested the impact of sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum) extract on aged human skin cells, they found that it increased the viability of skin cells by 120% compared with untreated controls. This rapidly increased the density and thickness of the epidermis, enabling the extract-treated group to achieve complete epidermal regeneration significantly faster than the non-treated group.26

These in-vitro findings led to a human study in which 12 healthy volunteers with a mean age of 56 applied sea fennel extract or a placebo daily to their forearm skin for two weeks before undergoing a toxic protocol that induced epidermal damage.

Researchers observed that within 96 hours, the group treated with sea fennel extract had significantly lower transepidermal water loss than the placebo group, indicating faster recovery of epidermal structure and function.27

Research also shows improvements in skin radiance, tone, and firmness with topically applied sea fennel extract.28

Fade Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

Scientist looking through a microscope

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.), a plant native to southern Asia and North Africa, confers anti-inflammatory activity due to its abundance of polyphenols, tannins, and carotenoids.29

Hyperpigmentation is a common skin disorder that stems from excessive production of the pigment melanin in response to cumulative sun exposure. It manifests as age spots, dark patches, and melasma that contribute to older looking skin.30

In a clinical trial, female volunteers topically applied a facial cream with date palm extract daily for eight weeks. Compared to baseline, researchers observed an aproximate 25% reduction in melanin output, thereby demonstrating skin lightening effects. This was accompanied by a decrease in erythema, as well as increases in skin elasticity and hydration, which left participants with even-toned, younger-looking skin.31

Date palm fruit extract has also delivered anti-wrinkle activity. Topical application of a facial cream containing date palm extract twice daily for five weeks reduced the total surface area of wrinkles by 27.6% and the depth of wrinkles by 3.52% compared to a placebo in a group of women aged 46 to 58.32 These potent wrinkle-reducing effects might be attributed to the presence of phytoestrogens which induce collagen formation for dermal renewal.33,34


Woman smiling

Scientists have identified five key growth factors that activate natural repair pathways in the skin to offset damage from chronological aging and external stressors.

Clinical research verifies that replenishing growth factor peptides restores skin elasticity, tone, and hydration, while reducing wrinkles.

These growth factors have been combined with sea fennel and date palm fruit to support more youthful skin structure.

Gary Goldfaden, MD, is a clinical dermatologist and lifetime member of the American Academy of Dermatology. He is the founder of Academy Dermatology in Hollywood, FL, and Cosmesis Skin Care. Dr. Goldfaden is a member of the Life Extension® Medical Advisory Board. All Cosmesis products are available online.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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