Extracellular Vesicles in Skin Care

extracellular vesicle on a blue background containing RNA

What are Extracellular Vesicles?

You may have heard about extracellular vesicles (EVs) being harnessed to rejuvenate skin.  What are extracellular vesicles?  Are they harmful or helpful?

 EVs are lipid bilayer bound vesicles secreted by cells. EVs can cross from the dermis to epidermis and function as a conduit of communication between keratinocytes, melanocytes, and fibroblasts.[i]

EVs can carry multiple types of cargo between cells such as:

  • matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs)
  • inflammatory cytokines,
  • growth factors,
  • mRNA,
  • miRNA,
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • genomic DNA

Extracellular vesicles  are an advanced way for cells to communicate with each other by transferring RNA, growth factors and other signals to each other. EVs can carry multiple types of cargo between cells such as proteases (MMPs), inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and functional RNA. EVs can deliver miRNA from SASPs to surrounding cells. They have even been found to carry mitochondrial DNA and genomic DNA.[ii]


There are numerous EV subtypes.

Exosomes are a type of Extracellular Vesicle.

Exosomes are the smallest and most studied type of EV. 

Benefits and Harms of Extracellular Vesicles in Skin Serums and Treatments

 EVs have been shown to be increased in older individuals as compared to younger people.[iii]  EVs are not always good.  It depends upon where they come from and what messaging signals they carry.

DNA damage results in a p53-dependent increase in EV secretion.  [iv]  These can be harmful.

 EVs may be produced after senescence-inducing stimuli. Senescent cells (SCs) produce EVs that can be harmful. Senescent cells (SCs) are bad for skin because they secrete matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) such as collagenase that damage and ages skin. SCs use EVs to age the cells around them.

For EVs to be beneficial to the skin, they must come for the right source.  A regenerative tissue such as a platelet is a good source of regenerative EVs that will renew skin, while EVs derived from senescent cells can age skin.  This is why the source of EVs and exosomes is so important.  

Click this link to learn more about exosomes in skin care.

Confused about how to find the best skin care products to rejuvenate your skin?  We can help!  All you need to do is shop by your Baumann Skin Type.

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[i] Wallis R, Mizen H, Bishop CL. The bright and dark side of extracellular vesicles in the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. Mech Ageing Dev. 2020;189:111263.

[ii] Baumann L. Chapter 5 Intrinsic Aging in Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology (McGraw Hill 2022)

[iii] Im K, Baek J, Kwon WS, Rha SY, Hwang KW, Kim U, et al. The comparison of exosome and exosomal cytokines between young and old individuals with or without gastric cancer. Int J Gerontol. 2018;12(3):233-8.

[iv] Lespagnol A, Duflaut D, Beekman C, Blanc L, Fiucci G, Marine JC, et al. Exosome secretion, including the DNA damage-induced p53-dependent secretory pathway, is severely compromised in TSAP6/Steap3-null mice. Cell Death Differ. 2008;15(11):1723-33.

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