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Some truly bizarre facials have entered the wellness sphere in recent years, not limited to vampire facials (which utilize the patient’s own blood), Chinese fire facials (truly horrifying and every bit as dangerous as they sound), and the topic of our discussion today: penis facials. The “penis facial” got quite a bit of attention earlier this year after a handful of notable celebrities, including Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, dished on a fancy treatment they received at Georgia Louise’s luxury spa in NYC.
To be fair, “penis facial” is the street name given to the treatment that Louise offers. Its formal, and less nausea-inducing, name is the Hollywood EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) Facial.
“The term penis facial is a misnomer,” says Dr. Hal Weitzbuch, a board-certified dermatologist based in Calabasas, California. “The key active ingredient of the facial, [of which there are variants across the globe], was originally derived from the discarded foreskin of a newborn baby in Korea, thus the name.”
Also, Blanchett told reporters that the facial smelled a bit like sperm, which also contributed to the nickname.
OK, but what is EGF?
Like collagen — which can be derived from plants, as well — EGF is a naturally occurring polypeptide in our bodies that contributes to a youthful visage. As we get older, production comes to a slow halt. You’ll be happy to hear that while EGF may have first been developed via baby foreskin, that is not the case for the many products and facials boasting the ingredient today. In fact, plant-based versions of EGF are the most popular.
“EGF is involved in a signaling cascade playing a key role in skin regeneration. It is critical in healing of the top layer of skin, the epidermis, and also plays a role in the bottom layer of the skin, the dermis,” notes Dr. Weitzbuch.
In other words, you might consider EGF a more potent and gentler version of retinol, which is arguably the reigning superhero anti-aging ingredient in the market today.
Does it actually work?
Let’s get to the heart of the issue here: whether or not products touting EGF are worth your money. Because right now they’re not exactly cheap.
“There is no question whether EGF plays a crucial role in wound healing, but there is still ongoing research into its role in improving overall skin quality, reducing wrinkles, and minimizing dark spots,” says Dr. Weitzbuch. “The only question is how to get EGF into the skin with topical application. Also, the products that are available don’t always have a very active version of the molecule.”
In other words, there’s compelling research out there regarding EGF’s ability to heal damaged skin, including acne-related scarring and psoriasis, but studies are still underway in regard to how effective EGF is when it comes to anti-aging concerns. As is the case with other trendy, “up and coming” skincare ingredients, we predict that more studies will be conducted and that formulations will become more effective over time.
For those who enjoy experimenting with new products and have the extra cash lying around, we say go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose, and potentially a lot to gain.
“If you are looking to add a product with EGF into your routine, consider purchasing a reputable brand, “advises Dr. Weitzbuch. “Also, it would probably be best to apply an EGF-based product to your skin immediately after cleansing, prior to any other products, or after needling.”
On the other hand, if you’re skeptical or simply want to wait a few more years before EGF becomes more mainstream, continue to slather on products with scientifically proven anti-aging ingredients like retinol and vitamin C.
Whatever route you go, I think we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that no actual penises are required to formulate EGF-laden products and facials.
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