Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media
Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media (HFCM) essentially means a "Growth Factor Cocktail" for your skin. We have written more about the most common GF used in skincare, the Epidermal Growth Factor here, so if you are new to the topic head over there to catch up. The TL;DR version is that a Growth Factor is a medium long amino acid sequence (= small protein = big peptide) that works as a cell signaling molecule to stimulate cell growth, proliferation, healing and/or differentiation.
Ingredients called "Conditioned Media" cover not one but a mix of Growth Factors derived from some cells grown in a lab. In the EU, human cell-derived ingredients are illegal, so GF products available in the EU usually use a plant source (e.g. barley). In the US, human-derived GFs are all OK, and Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media is derived, as its name suggests, from human fibroblast cells (VIP skin cells for collagen production).
The company Skinmedica was a pioneer in using GFs in cosmeceutical skincare, and their version of HFCM contains a "proprietary mixture of growth factors, cytokines, and soluble matrix proteins secreted by cultured neonatal human dermal fibroblasts during the production of extracellular matrix (ECM)". It is claimed to be a physiologically balanced mix of GFs that are ideal for skin cells to regenerate themselves. More specifically, it contains growth factors that can promote angiogenesis (VEGF and hepatocyte growth factor), modulate inflammation (IL-6 and IL-8), and enhance ECM deposition (TGF-β1 and platelet-derived growth factor-A).
Skinmedica has pretty convincing research showing that their products containing GFs (TNS line) work and have great anti-aging benefits. Multiple clinical studies show that the TNS Recovery Complex improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone and texture. The benefits are even greater when GFs are combined with tried and true anti-aging actives such as antioxidants and retinol.
This all sounds really good, however, GFs in skincare are somewhat controversial. As potent mitogenic (= stimulates cell proliferation) molecules, you should not use them if you have any of the skin cancer risk factors high or if you have psoriasis. We have written more about the concerns at EGF.
Overall, Growth Factors have increasing evidence (both proper clinical studies as well as some GF products with a cult following) showing that they have great anti-aging benefits. Whether you are comfortable with using human-derived ingredients or not or if you feel like the cons outweigh the pros or not, is up to you. If you are a better safe than sorry type, daily SPF + retinol is still the golden standard of anti-aging.
Show me some proof
- Mehta, Rahul C., et al. "Reduction in facial photodamage by a topical growth factor product." Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD 7.9 (2008): 864-871.
- Atkin, Deborah H., et al. "Combination of physiologically balanced growth factors with antioxidants for reversal of facial photodamage." Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy 12.1 (2010): 14-20.
- Mehta, Rahul C., and Richard E. Fitzpatrick. "Endogenous growth factors as cosmeceuticals." Dermatologic therapy 20.5 (2007): 350-359.
- Aldag, Caroline, Diana Nogueira Teixeira, and Phillip S. Leventhal. "Skin rejuvenation using cosmetic products containing growth factors, cytokines, and matrikines: a review of the literature." Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology 9 (2016): 411.