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Reader Review: SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum
The first thing that is slightly alarming about SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum ($250, 1 oz) is that the primary ingredient has ‘human’ as an adjective -- human fibroblast conditioned media (HFCM) to be precise. Human fibroblasts are cells that make up part of the skin’s connective tissue, including collagen, and when skin is damaged, the body stimulates their production as part of the process of repair. The logic behind topical application of human fibroblasts, according to SkinMedica, is to trigger this same process of repair in the skin through external signals.
SkinMedica is apparently one of the first companies to start manufacturing human fibroblasts for cosmetic purposes, although this product and process has been used for several years in the treatment of burns victims. This is a potentially exciting development for the field of anti-aging treatments; that is except for the fact that a lot of people have been upset by rumors that human fibroblast cells might be derived from actual human sources like embryos and foreskins and all number of other nefarious methods.
The first thing I did after receiving full size sample of SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum to try it out -- then, to check the veracity of these rumors. And lo and behold, it all seems to be true. Human fibroblast cells have been obtained from human foreskins for research purposes at least, and these are also commercially available in the U.S. So let’s just say that my first thought before actually trying TNS was that this stuff had better be damn good for me to be potentially slathering my face in male genital cells.
Having said that, it’s getting to the point with my skin now that I am really willing to try just about anything. I have noticeable lines on my forehead and deep creases in the nasolabial folds even though I am only 37. My problem is clearly related to collagen breakdown: typical signs include fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, etc., all of which I have. I have noticed good results in the past using Retinol-based products. But, as I learned from TIA, the problem with this approach in the long term is that I may simply be hurtling myself toward even faster cell death (i.e., the Hayflick limit) while doing nothing to actually rebuild damage.
SkinMedica’s product works on a different principle in that it is designed to stimulate the skin’s own repair process via a powerful three-pronged approach. First is rebuilding of the skin’s extracellular matrix with ingredients like HFCM, palmitoyl tripeptide-5, and silk peptides -- all of which are designed to stimulate the rebuilding of collagen.
TNS also fights free-radicals with antioxidants, including Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin C, Green Tea extract, Blackberry, etc., (I am happy to say that TNS does not, however, contain spermine because things would just be way too weird if it did). And finally, for instant cosmetic effect, TNS also contains a few ‘specialty ingredients’ such as aminobutyric acid, which purportedly acts as a neuromuscular inhibitor, relaxing facial muscles; and hyaluronic acid, which acts as a kind of molecular sponge, resulting in a smoothing effect. In other words, short of making you a cup of tea in the morning, this product has just about everything you need for the ultimate beauty sleep.
And after about 7 nights of use, I really began to notice a major difference in my skin. The lines on my face have been plumped and smoothed, and the overall texture is more refined and clear. I was recently Facebook tagged in a random-night-out candid photo. This would normally be horrifying event for me, but instead I look positively radiant (and that isn’t even a euphemism). But the verging-on-Benjamin-Button-type drama is reserved for my neck and décolleté.
Here I have noticed quite miraculous effects. I am a side-sleeper, which usually means that I wake up in the morning with a neck resembling a crumpled piece of paper. However, I have been waking up of late ready for my close-up, as it were. I have also noticed a marked improvement in the tone of my skin: age spots have faded and general redness and discoloration have been reduced. In fact, TNS is so effective that I am beginning to think that it might join YBF Correct as one of those products I simply cannot live without.
Having said all that, I do have a couple of minor criticisms about this product. The first is the scent. To me it is ghastly. I don’t know how to describe it, except that it conjures up really cheap creams full of badly blended chemicals (all I can think is “human fibroblast, human fibroblast”). If you are a big fan of the all-natural product, you might have a hard time getting used to this (and so might your bed partner; I get to add this to my ‘Hurray! I am single’ list).
Another thing is the color. Again, it looks horribly artificial. The pump simultaneously dispenses two potions that you are instructed to mix on the back of the hand: one is a bright orange serum, the other is a peachy opaque lotion. I am quite confounded by the choice of coloring because it makes the product seem tacky and cheap. And cheap it ain’t. At $250, TNS is a pretty pricey product, and that right there might be another reason to be put off.
However, If you aren’t ready to move onto dermal fillers, which purportedly also help to stimulate collagen regrowth (and I only had to take one look at Mickey Rourke at the Oscars to remind myself not to go there), and if your budget doesn’t stretch to a course of lasers, then TNS might be for you.
And if you’re still upset of the whole foreskin issue, I should point out that it is entirely possible to produce human fibroblasts from animal sources. Moreover, regardless of the source, it seems that only an initial crop of cells is obtained and these cells are then cultivated (cloned) in a nutrient solution (i.e., a conditioned media), rendering the final product entirely artificial. This means that any Orwellian nightmares of rooms full of men donating their foreskins to the anti-aging cause are completely unfounded. TNS probably isn’t going to be making the purists happy any time soon, but at least you will not be committing any crimes against humanity if you decide to splurge.
ReLuma with human fibroblast conditioned media
A&G with human fibroblast conditioned media
Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, Water (Aqua), Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Unsaponifiables, Alpha-arbutin, Isoceteth-20, Arachidyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Ergothioneine, Dipalmitoyl Hydroxyproline, Hydrolyzed Silk, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Leaf Extract, Saccharomyces Ferment Lysate Filtrate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Aminobutyric Acid, Phytosterols, Tocopherol, Tocotrienols, Squalene, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Dimethicone, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Polysorbate 20, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Butylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Xanthan Gum, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Ethylparaben, Fragrance.