E’shee makes some sweeping promises for their Cellular Repairing Night Cream ($289 in the shop), which they describe as “everything you ever wanted from your night cream.” Its use, they say, will lead to an increase in new skin cell growth “at least 10–20 times faster than other skin care products,” as well as “almost 100% collagen protection,” resulting in “stronger dermal structures within 28 days.” When given the opportunity to test this product on behalf of Truth In Aging, I was eager to find out whether these bold claims were simply too good to be true. After a month of nightly use, I am pleased to report that the changes in my skin—which is noticeably lifted, firmer, thicker, smoother, and more radiant—suggest that Cellular Repairing Night Cream delivers on E’shee’s promises.
I was already a devotee of E’shee’s eye cream and serums, which have produced incomparable results on my most prominent trouble spots, so to minimize any potential bias in my observations, I postponed reading E’shee’s specific description of what the results of using their night cream would actually look like until after I had tested it, in order to let my skin speak for itself. I should mention that my 50-year-old, perimenopausal skin is pretty outspoken, employing a large and unpredictable vocabulary to comment on every negative event in my inner or outer life. In fact, I was a little worried about how it might respond to this rich, silky cream, since it seems to prefer the relative simplicity of serums. But my usually temperamental skin—which manages to be oily, dehydrated, droopy, and acne-prone all at once—has had nothing but good things to say about Cellular Repairing Night Cream.
After the very first night, I awoke to softer and more hydrated skin, as if it had received a much-needed nutritional boost. After the first week, my previously sagging cheeks began looking higher and more sculpted and my skin looked more luminous, as if it was busy regenerating its proper color from within. After two weeks, the area on the sides of my face both between jaw line and cheekbone and above the brow bone definitely looked lifted and firmer, as well as generally more smooth and youthful. The center of my face was slower to respond, but after a month there has been a noticeable diminishment of the furrows and sagging around the edges of my mouth and the vertical lines and sandpapery texture between my eyebrows.
Amazingly, three fine lines that have been running across my forehead for several years are suddenly significantly narrower, now occupying only about two inches in the middle of my face, and where they remain, they are slightly more shallow. The surface of my skin also looks refreshed, with improved color and texture. By the end of the month, I had picked up a new habit of gazing in the mirror and marveling at the gradual reemergence of the contours and vitality of a face reminiscent of the younger me. Strikingly, all of these changes occurred during a stressful month when I skipped my weekly LED and ultrasonic treatments, an omission that has previously had deleterious consequences. That it didn’t this month can be credited, I believe, to the effectiveness of E’shee’s night cream.
My one disappointment has been that my neck has been lagging behind, and at first even seemed to be resisting my effort to rejuvenate it, when the skin just below my jaw line, right at the border between the thicker facial skin and the thinner neck skin, became shriveled and baggy for several days, before ultimately smoothing out. Although my neck itself now feels firmer and looks slightly more taut, it still has a crepey texture and its two horizontal rings are only marginally less noticeable. I was hoping for a transformation of my neck closer to that of my face. But maybe a mere month is simply not enough time to rehabilitate the notoriously recalcitrant neck skin.
Other than this, if I had been granted three wishes for my skin, I would have asked for just what Cellular Repairing Night Cream has provided. Until I started catching uncanny glimpses of my more youthful self in the mirror, I hadn’t even realized how deflated and lackluster my face had been getting. My face today looks as if it has undergone a structural renovation—with no Botox, no fillers, and no procedures whatsoever, other than unscrewing the lid on E’shee’s decidedly low-tech clear plastic jar and dipping in the tiny plastic spatula to scoop out this magical cream.
So what makes this elixir so powerful that it can be compared to a genie in a bottle? Several of its 72 ingredients stand out, including atelocollagen, which not only hydrates but also seems to enhance the delivery of other key ingredients such as proteins, as well as a cocktail of skin-strengthening trace minerals. But the two most noteworthy are a pair of complex gene therapy polypeptides that together seem to produce a strong synergistic effect: a double dose of E’shee’s highly touted FGF1 and a 5% dose of the mysteriously labeled TIMP-2. Trying to understand how a couple of deceptively simple acronyms could account for such good fortune for my skin led me on an instructive, if somewhat dizzying, foray into the realm of skin science, where I became immersed in an epic saga populated by matrixes, fibroblasts, and competing dynasties of FGFs, TIMPs, and MMPs.
As it turns out, FGF1 (otherwise known as human recombinant acidic fibroblast growth factor) is a multi-talented protein that, as Marta has previously explained, plays an important role in tissue repair and wound healing, due to its abilities to send messages stimulating our cells into action and to encourage cell proliferation. As a key member of the family of fibroblast growth factors (or FGFs), FGF1 predictably works hand in hand with fibroblasts, the dermal cells responsible for synthesizing and maintaining the extracellular matrix that is the structural foundation of our skin. Fibroblasts produce the proteins such as collagen and elastin, as well as fillers such as hyaluronic acid, that comprise the bulk of the skin matrix. As we age, our fibroblasts slow down and thus need extra impetus to continue their skin-synthesizing activities at a rate that will enable our skin to retain its thickness, strength, and flexibility.
Fortuitously, FGF1 is able to trigger the growth of fresh, new fibroblast cells and to spur them into increased production of the key components of the skin matrix. According to E’shee, FGF1 is able to serve as a catalyst for our fibroblasts because it can reach past the epidermal surface to the underlying dermis, where the fibroblasts reside—setting it apart from the increasingly ubiquitous epidermal growth factors (EGFs), which only work (as their name implies) at the level of the epidermis. FGF1 thus seems to represent a next generation of growth factors that can bring about both epidermal and dermal repair and rejuvenation, which is presumably the basis for E’shee’s claims—and my consistent observations—that their night cream will deliver rapid skin cell growth giving rise to stronger dermal structures within the span of a month.
But the story doesn’t end there, since the condition of our skin matrix depends not only on abundant matrix synthesis by our fibroblasts but also on maintaining a balance between synthesis and degradation. Skin maintenance and renewal require a process of degradation in which the proteins comprising worn out or damaged matrix tissue are broken down for recycling by a family of enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases (handily referred to as MMPs). Although MMPs play a necessary role in skin remodeling and wound healing, too much matrix destruction by MMPs can mean that the process of matrix production cannot keep pace with its degradation, ultimately causing the skin to lose its firmness, smoothness, and elasticity.
Fortunately, MMP activity is regulated by a family of proteins known as TIMPs (short for endogenous tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases). In young, healthy skin, TIMPs keep MMPs in check, maintaining an optimal balance between matrix synthesis and matrix degradation. But this balance is altered both by the intrinsic process of chronological aging and by extrinsic factors such as cumulative sun damage, exposure to environmental toxins, and inflammation, all of which bring about an increase in MMP activity and a decline in TIMP levels. The result can be excessive matrix degradation and the corresponding signs of aging skin such as lines, wrinkles, thinning, sagging, and uneven texture.
To make matters worse, recent evidence suggests that photodamaged skin may itself become an additional source of degradation by initiating a cascade of negative effects (source). As I understand it, chronic sun exposure apparently causes elevated MMP activity at the dermal level, resulting in a climate of collagen fragmentation within the dermal matrix. Because fibroblasts are sensitive to their environment, this fragmented matrix may actually impair fibroblast function, causing them to produce less collagen and more MMPs, which will in turn generate more of the very fragmentation that led to compromised fibroblast function in the first place—and so on and so on, in a vicious cycle of progressive degradation.
So, unless we can find a way to inhibit our MMPs, even the powerful skin-synthesis–boosting effects of FGF1 are likely to be undermined by the body’s own increasingly unruly enzymes. There are a number of known MMP inhibitors around, such as retinol and vitamin C, and more recently recognized MMP inhibitors seem to be showing up in an increasing number of products, including the glycine soja (soybean) seed extract and argania spinosa leaf extract in E’shee’s night cream. But such exogenous MMP inhibitors have not proven as effective as our own endogenous TIMPs. TIMP-2, for instance, is a broad-spectrum MMP inhibitor that is particularly effective against those MMPs whose excess activity is most deleterious to the skin matrix, and is thus able to help restore the balance between production and degradation that characterizes youthful skin. As a result, according to E’shee, the inclusion of 5% TIMP-2 in their night cream makes possible “a nearly quantitative recovery of chronically sun damaged and aging skin.”
If the principal cause of the skin matrix degradation responsible for lines, wrinkles, sagging, and thinner, rougher skin is indeed the slippery slope of dwindling matrix synthesis being increasingly outpaced by the activity of overzealous and unregulated MMPs, then E’shee’s combination of FGF1 and TIMP-2 does seem to go a long way toward providing just about everything one could want in a night cream. There are, at the same time, a few things you might not want, such as some questionable preservatives and potential skin irritants, including a lineup of phenoxyethanol, sodium dehydroacetate, benzyl salicylate, alpha-isomethyl ionone, and sodium hydroxide, as well as an array of parabens. From my perspective, however, if putting up with a small dose of preservatives is necessary in order to reap the benefits of such an effective product, then so be it.
Based on the improvements in lift, volume, and radiance that my skin has experienced during the past month, I expect to be buying a second jar of Cellular Repairing Night Cream when the current one is empty. After applying it relatively generously to my face and neck every night for a month, I estimate that the 1.7 ounces of cream will be about a four-months’ supply that could possibly be stretched to six. Even at a price of almost $300, Cellular Repairing Night Cream’s effectiveness seems to justify its considerable cost.