TIA surprised me with a day and night serum duo to test, and I’ve been using it for just about a month now. LifeLine Skin Care, according to its site, originates with research at International Stem Cell Corporation, its parent company, and describes its products as featuring proprietary parthenogenetic stem cell extracts. Yet I’m confused about these products, and they haven’t made a convert of me yet, much as I wanted to be convinced.

Specifically, what TIA sent was the LifeLine Defensive Day Moisture Serum SPF 15 and the Recovery Night Moisture Serum, packaged (beautifully) together. (Each product is also sold individually on the LifeLine site; and that’s the extent of the products on offer.) It was genuinely impressive out of the box: in fact, an elegant presentation box covered in embossed silver foil and decorated only with the simple and attractive LifeLine logo. Inside, the two bottles nestled in a plastic housing under more silver cardboard. The cynic in me started to wonder how much the packaging cost these stem cell scientists, and so of course I checked the price tag. Indeed, on the LifeLine website, the duo sells for $340 for an ounce of each. (Individually, they are $160 for the Day serum, and $190 for the Night – so the package is $10 cheaper.) The bottles – actually, airless pumps – are really well-designed: white, spare cylinders, solid and substantial, the pump-top silver and flush to the top of the container (so it’s depressed into the cylinder), with minimal, modern san serif lettering. My expectations were high; I wanted these babies as bathroom décor. Whoever does the company’s design deserves an award.

I’m less sure about their formulations, though. To get the first issue out of the way: the Defensive Day Moisture Serum gets its SPF 15 from the use of three standard chemical sunscreen components – avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone – which will make it a non-starter for many TIA readers. Beyond the sunscreens, the formula has several antioxidants (ubiquinone is the second item after water) and a large complement of vitamins and minerals (various Bs, niacin, E, C, A, etc.) The list contains lots of familiar unpronounceables: emulsifiers, surfactants, humectants, emollients. Nothing raised any particular flag except for possibly sorbitan sesquiolate, a potential irritant, according to TIA’s database. Those who are looking for “natural” ingredients will notice mushroom and blueberry extracts. Of course, the secret sauce – LifeLine’s stem cell extract – figures prominently (as the sixth ingredient), as it does in the Moisturizing Night Serum list. Actually, that ingredients list largely overlaps with the Day Serum’s. Among the differences, the second ingredient on the Night Serum list, caprylic/capric triglyceride, along with safflower seed oil, must account for its richer, more lubricating quality.

I was willing to go with the chemical sunscreens, though, to try this line. The promised skin renewal is based on technology that extracts peptides from stem cells and encapsulates them in nanospheres for delivery through the skin – or so the explanation on the company’s site goes. TIA readers have reported good results with a variety of products that are based on plant stem cells or other stem cell derivatives – so why not LifeLine?

I found the Day Serum a bit heavy – rather thick and somewhat slow to absorb, probably due to the sunscreen. It has an odd (though not offensive) smell, which I finally decided reminded me of uncooked flour. I used it faithfully on my face, neck, and chest, and it did seem to provide adequate sun protection at least for everyday, urban activities. I did notice some redness, especially on the edges of my face, after the first few applications. The Night Serum was actually the more pleasant to use. It absorbed well, without greasiness, but seemed adequately rich and moisturizing. I will mention that I have had a few breakouts in recent weeks, which is not usual for me – but I can’t be completely sure that I’d lay the blame on the serums rather than the summer weather and everything that goes with it.

I didn’t use any other anti-aging products (or moisturizers) while experimenting with LifeLine: no serums, no anti-wrinkle potions, etc., except for eye cream. I did have a few LED and ultrasonic sessions most weeks with the Ultra Renew – my usual routine. After a month, I can’t report any noticeable improvements in my face, though it does feel hydrated and smooth. My wrinkles don’t seem to be reduced; my skin isn’t noticeably brighter, firmer, or plumper. LifeLine’s home page refers to a study that demonstrated very significant improvements in hydration and elasticity, reductions in wrinkle appearance, and improved skin tone and brightness.

As a final note, I wonder whether the issue is the attempt to combine multiple functions in a single product (day or night). I think I’ve had better results using products that do specific jobs: anti-aging serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, etc. LifeLine wouldn’t be comparatively expensive if it did every one of those things well, but for me, it didn’t do a remarkable job of any.

Ingredients in Defensive Day Moisture Serum

Active: Avobenzone 2.0%, Octinoxate 7.4%, Oxybenzone 3.0%

Inactive: Aqua (Water), Ubiquinone, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Human Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Extract, Cetyl Alcohol, Troxerutin, Choline Chloride, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Folic Acid, Nicotinamide, Pyridoxal Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamine Hydrochloride, i- Inositol, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Tremella Fuciformis Sporocarp Extract, Sodium PCA, Isoquercetin, Vaccinium Angustilolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydrogenated Lecitin, Cholesterol, Cholecalciferol, Polysorbate 60, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 20, Sorbitan Sesquiolate, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Carbomer, Triethanolamine

Ingredients in Recovery Night Moisture Serum

Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ubiquinone, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Human Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Extract, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Troxerutin, Choline Chloride, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Folic Acid, Nicotinamide, Pyridoxal Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamine Hydrochloride, i-Inositol, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tremella Funciformis Sporocarp Extract, Isoquercetin, Vaccinium Angustilolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Sodium PCA, Hydrogenated Lecitin, Cholesterol, Polysorbate 60, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 20, Sorbitan Sesquiolate, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Propylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Triethanolamine