Considering Botox? Choose This Skincare Ingredient Instead

Photographed by Ana Larruy
In a world jam-packed with 'must-have' skincare products and 'buzzy' new ingredients, it's trickier than ever to sort the wow from the waste of time. Should you be using retinol or is glycolic acid your best bet? And what even are ceramides?
Any qualified skin specialist will tell you that you don't need to use all of these hyped ingredients to achieve smooth, glowing skin. But one ingredient in particular is piquing the interest of skincare enthusiasts, aestheticians and dermatologists and popular beauty brands across the board.
Enter: epidermal growth factors aka EGF.

What are epidermal growth factors (EGF) and where do they come from?

Don't let the complicated skincare lingo put you off. Epidermal growth factors aren't as confusing as the name hints. "EGF are polypeptides [basically a type of protein] which has been developed to speed wound recovery," explains Dr Kaywaan Khan, medical doctor and aesthetician at Hannah London. Dr Kaywaan explains that EGF stimulate skin cell growth and beyond healing wounds, they have a place in ageing skincare, too.
"Epidermal growth factors are becoming more popular in skincare," adds Claire Williams, skin specialist and founder of WOW Facial. She explains that when applied topically, EGF encourage new skin cell growth, boosting collagen and elastin. Both of these things are found in skin naturally and help to keep it plump and youthful but production slows down as we age, leading to sagging, fine lines and wrinkles, Claire says. "Using epidermal growth factors in anti-ageing products can reactivate the skin's ability to produce collagen and elastin, leading to rejuvenated skin."
Claire recommends doing your research to know where the EGF in your chosen skincare product come from so that they align with your personal values. "There are many skincare ranges that include EGF," she says, "but the thing to consider is whether you want 'bio EGF' (which is human or animal-derived; remember Kate Beckinsale's Korean baby foreskin facial?) or 'phyto-derived', meaning it comes from plants." Claire adds: "To be clear, bio EGF doesn't contain any actual human body parts! I'm a vegetarian so the idea of using animal-derived products doesn't sit well with me." Instead, Claire opts for the plant-based option.

What are the skin benefits of EGF?

As well as helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, Dr Kaywaan says that EGF are beneficial for boosting skin hydration (which makes skin smooth, soft and glowy) and preventing pigmentation. This can be anything from skin staining left behind by acne to dark spots caused by sun damage. That's not all, though. Dr Ioannis Liakas, medical director at Vie Aesthetics, explains that EGF help strengthen the skin's natural barrier. "This means it can defend against external factors like pollution, so you can avoid seeing further effects of ageing."

How do you use EGF and what are the best skincare products containing the ingredient?

Claire likens EGF to popular skincare ingredient retinol, which speeds up skin cell growth and minimises pigmentation, fine lines and spots. EGF are a less irritating alternative, she says. Typically, retinol can lead to quite sore, flaky skin when overused. According to Dr Liakas, EGF can be used in the morning and evening. "That said, we would advise use in the evening, which will help to achieve optimal effects. This is when skin is at its highest healing peak," he says.
EGF are a staple in plenty of luxury skincare products but affordable beauty brands are also harnessing the ingredient and making it accessible for all budgets. Thanks to TikTok, one very in-demand product right now is The Inkey List's 15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum, £14.99, which combines brightening vitamin C with smoothing and rejuvenating EGF. It can be used in both the morning and the evening. In the daytime, follow with sunscreen to maximise the vitamin C and to protect your skin from UV rays, which exacerbate fine lines and pigmentation.
If you're happy to splurge, try plant-based BIOEFFECT EGF Serum, £130, which is another TikTok favourite. Huge in Iceland, it boosts collagen and elastin, making it the ultimate product for those who are interested in putting together a mature skin routine. It's formulated without irritating fragrance, drying alcohol or pore-clogging oils. Also try the Hydrating Cream, £60, which is an excellent day and nighttime moisturiser.
Aimee Piper, senior aesthetician at Vie Aesthetics, recommends Alumier MD's Ultimate Boost Serum, £69.50, which incorporates growth factor peptides to strengthen the skin and improve its elasticity. "Another superpower product by Alumier MD is the EverActive C+E Peptide, £149," says Dr Liakas. "This product involves manually mixing peptides [proteins] with antioxidants, namely vitamin C, in order to create a serum that helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles." In addition, the products from the DIBI Milano Procellular 365 range contain growth factors extracted from plants to help repair skin cells and stimulate growth, says Dr Liakas.
Ampoules (individual vials containing a single dose of skin serum) are also gaining traction among skincare obsessives. MDO by Simon Ourian MD Powerful EGF Ampoules, £58, are exclusive to Cult Beauty and have been developed by Beverly Hills cosmetic dermatologist Simon Ourian. Using them is simple: smooth over your skin after cleansing and follow with your chosen moisturiser.

Are there any side effects of using EGF?

There's good news for those who don't get on with retinol as Dr Liakas says that EGF are known to be gentler on the skin compared to the ingredient, as they do not have the same flaking effect.
"There are claims that the use of EGF on skin can lead to irritation and redness," adds Dr Kaywaan, although he says that plenty of skincare products can have this result if not used correctly. As always, it pays to follow the instructions on your chosen product very carefully. The same thing can occur if you're using the product and your skin is very sensitive or prone to reactions.
If this is the case, consult a skin expert for advice before using any new skincare products.
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