Stem Cells vs Growth Factors vs Exosomes In Skin Care

stem cell growth factor and exosome serum bottles

This is a guide that explains the difference between human growth factors, human stem cells and human derived exosomes in face serums.

There are many antiaging ingredients, and it can get confusing and hard to decide which are the best for you to use on your face. 

 It would be a shame for you to buy an expensive antiaging serum and then waste your money by use it incorrectly or using it in the wrong step of the skincare routine. 

And guess what?


 Most stem cell or growth factor skin care products are not worth the money!


Our dermatologists can guide you to find the best antiaging products for your skin type.  And- we will tell you exactly what step to use them in your skin care routine and what other products to layer them with. 

All you need to do is shop by your Baumann Skin Type.®



How to choose between stem cell products vs growth factors vs exosomes?

This can be hard if you do not understand the science.  This blog explains the difference between stem cells, growth factors and exosomes.

Note that this article only discusses human growth factors.  Growth factors and stem cells from plants such as apples are a complete waste of money.  We are not apples, our skin is completely different than apple skin,  and we do not need the same growth factors they do.  So just forget about every wasting money on apple stem cells.

Exosomes are released by stem cells



Human Stem Cells in Serums

There are different layers of skin. The stem cells that are found in skincare products are either:

  • Keratinocytes from the epidermis
  • Fibroblasts from the dermis


The function of the stem cell is  determined by which layer they come from.  We will focus on stem cells in the dermis because these are more important tin skin aging because fibroblasts are the cells important in antiaging skin care products because they make:

  • Collagen
  • Elastin
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Other important cell components


In the skin’s dermis, stem cells turn into fibroblasts. Lots of research ahs shown us that stem cells, when placed in wounds in in cell cultures, change the way the cells around them act.  This is why stem cells have been used in antiaging skin care and wound therapy for many years.  It is undisputable that they have dramatic effects when naturally occurring in the skin.  However, there are problems with stem cells in skin care products:

  1. Human stem cells must come from fat, bone marrow, placenta, skin biopsies, cell cultures and other biologic material.
    1. This is expensive
    2. FDA is changing requirements for use
    3. May not be safe- it depends on the source
  2. Stem cells do not live in the skin product bottles and jars. They die quickly
  3. Topically applied stem cells cannot get done into the skin to perform their functions


For these reasons, stem cells in topical antiaging skin creams are worthless and not worth the money.


Human Growth Factors in Serums


Growth factors are secreted by many cell types, including stem cells.  They are signaling molecules used in cell-to-cell communication.  Growth factors are excreted by cells. They then must move through the extracellular matrix between cells to get to the target cell.  Once at the target cell, growth factors bind a receptor on the target cell so the target cell can “hear” the signals of the growth factor.


Each type of growth factor has a different message and action that is causes.  For example, some growth factors cause more blood vessels to form, while others stimulate cells to make more collagen. Growth factors work best in groups, with each playing its role. 


The problem with growth factors in skin care products are:

  1. They may not be safe
  2. They may not remain active in a skin cream
  3. They get broken down before they reach the target tissue
  4. They need to be the right combination of growth factors to cause the desired results
  5. We often do not know which growth factors are actually in the skin care products
  6. Old skin cells cannot “hear” them. (Heparan sulfate helps this problem)


There are many types of growth factors in human skin. Find a list of growth factors used in skin care here.


You can read more about what growth factors do here (Link coming soon)

Exosomes in serums

Exosomes are protective spheres known as extracellular vesicles that contains many signaling molecules. They are little spherical capsules surrounded by a bilayer membrane.  Their function is to hold signaling molecules in a safe environment and deliver them directly to the target cell.


New data has shown that the beneficial effects of stem cells actually occur because of the exosomes that stem cells secrete.  In fact, applying the exosomes instead of stem cells has the same effect!  So new science has shown us that it is the exosome containing the growth factors that is important, not the stem cell.


Why exosomes are better than stem cells and growth factors in antiaging skin care serums?

Exosomes protect the growth factors and carry them directly to the target cells.  Exosomes carry important molecules such as:

  • mRNA
  • micro RNA
  • growth factors
  • immune signals

 So the answer is exosomes are better than growth factor and stem cells serums.  Exosomes contain growth factors and are what is in stem cells that gives them skin rejuvenation properties. 

These are our favorite exosome products.

But the real question is- do you need an exosome serum? Or should you be using a different antiaging ingredient such as retinoids?  Well- it depends upon your Baumann Skin Type.

 Don't guess on what skin care serums to buy.  Let us help you.  Choose by your Baumann Skin Type.



level up your skincare knowledge


Baumann L. Ch. 37 Antiaging Ingredients in Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)

Baumann L. Ch. 5 Intrinsic Aging in Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)

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