Growth factors are essential in the skin because they are responsible for immunomodulation, regulation of cell division, wound healing, and tissue generation.1 There are several important growth factor families, including: transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), and fibroblast growth factor (FGF).2 Because of the numerous different variables that play a role with growth factor function, it is difficult to know exactly which combinations are the most helpful to improve outcomes after procedures. There is some evidence to support the use of FGF, TGF-beta, and EGF, IGF, and PDGF to hasten skin healing.8,9 It is certain that growth factors play an important role in pre- and postprocedure skincare, but we do not yet know which growth factor combinations are the most effective.
Heparan sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan found in the skin. Older cells are less responsive to growth factors than are younger cells; therefore, it is desirable to amplify the growth factor signal in older patients. Heparan sulfate has been shown to contribute to growth factors reaching the receptors on the cell surface and enhancing the cell’s ability to “hear” growth factor signals. Combining growth factors with enhancers such as heparan sulfate, defensins, ascorbic acid, and matrikines can improve outcomes of cosmetic procedures. There are not enough studies yet to substantiate which combinations are the most effective. However, I believe that if you are using a growth factor–containing product after a procedure, you should combine it with heparan sulfate to improve efficacy.
Heparan sulfate is not the same as the blood thinner heparin; however, it may affect clotting factors. It is prudent to stop heparan sulfate the day before a dermal filler procedure because of this theoretical risk. (I have not seen an increase in bruising in patients who use heparan sulfate prior to getting fillers.) I suggest using heparan sulfate–containing products with growth factors 24 hours after injecting fillers to try and enhance collagen synthesis that occurs after hyaluronic acid (HA) filler injections.10
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is known to increase penetration of drugs, as well as cosmeceutical ingredients.11 For this reason, it is often used before a procedure to increase efficacy of growth factors. Many practitioners report using it during microneedling to help the device glide across the skin. I have not observed or heard of any reports of adverse events from using it during microneedling.
HA has been shown to accelerate wound healing in rats12 and dental procedures.13 For this reason, it is often used after laser resurfacing and microneedling procedures and on sutured and open wounds. HA can vary in chain link and molecular weight and whether or not it is cross linked. These differences affect efficacy and should be taken into consideration when choosing an HA product. Some formulations combine various forms of HA. Because HA may increase bruising because of its effects on fibrin formation,14 I prefer not to use it 2 days prior to or the day of filler injections.15