Reviewed by Gretchen

The first time I applied the Osmosis Renew Skin Serum ($50), I used about two pumps for just my face. Initially, I was concerned because the amber-orangey serum felt thick, gooey and it remained very sticky on my skin. The next day I used only one pump for my face – which is plenty – and another 1/2 to one full pump for my neck. Much better, however, the serum does stay slightly tacky for quite a while on the skin. This stickiness, even after it has dried a bit, remains and makes it difficult to impossible to apply foundation or powder to the face. A moisturizer and/or sunscreen seem to help make it less sticky, but by the time the serum has dried and then the moisturizer has soaked in, it’s noon. This works fine for me, as I work out of my home (and usually in my pajamas) so I rarely have to put on full makeup. I still find the stickiness, even without makeup, to be a bit annoying, though it’s great for picking up dust particles as they waft through the air.

Renew has an unusual but not unpleasant scent – it is slightly more medicinal smelling than other skincare products I’ve used. It doesn’t use artificial fragrances but lists lavender, cloud berry, sandalwood, two types of honeysuckle and patchouli.

Since my skin is quite fair, the orangey tint of the serum slightly colored my skin, but it’s not noticeable, and I hoped it might impart a bit of a “tan” to my pale face. As it dries it seems to tighten, smooth and make the skin look shiny, which, along with the sticky, lasts for a little while after it dries.

Shiny, sticky, smelly. On a sensory level, I’m not too pleased with Renew. But is it effective?

Perhaps I’ve been too superficial so far in my review so far. In looking at the science, I read the fine print on the bottle and delved deeper into Osmosis’s Renew. First, I have to ask – Is it important to you that your skincare products are chirally correct? Because Osmosis products are, indeed, chirally correct. Now you may ask me, what is chirality? A chiral molecule is not super-imposable on its mirror image. Human hands are often used as an example of chirality: the left hand is a non-super-imposable mirror image of the right, which becomes obvious when a left handed glove is placed on a right hand. In chemistry, chirality is most often caused by the presence of a symmetric carbon atom. A pair of chiral molecules can make one molecule smell like caraway and the other smell like spearmint. Is chirality important in skincare products? I have no freaking idea – and Osmosis doesn’t tell us why it’s important either. Moving on.

First on the list of ingredients is Aqua (Harmonized Water). I had to look this up. On the Osmosis site, it is explained that Harmonized H2O is “frequency enhanced.” Through the process of “harmonization” –  which is the term I just made up – Osmosis claims that radio waves are imprinted onto water molecules and thousands of frequencies can be “stacked” onto one molecule. “Holy moly,” I thought. Perhaps I’ll be able to tune in to a J-Pop station directly from Japan from all this harmonized water I’m applying to my face! Osmosis offers 18 different – ummm, harmonies, I guess? – of water that one may purchase, and each of the 18 “improves your health at a cellular level.”

My bottle of Renew didn’t specify which harmonized water it used in its serum, but I’m guessing it was either the Anti-Digestive, which claims to be beneficial for rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema as well as bowel irregularity, or the Anti-Pathogen, which is supposed to be antiviral, antibacterial, anti-yeast and antifungal. One theory is that rosacea is caused by a fungus – but my rosacea seemed to get worse while using Renew. I can’t say that Renew was the direct cause, but it didn’t seem to help. But you could run a train off my bowel movements – so exceptionally timely!

Why the snark? This all might be very valid science – I’ve not investigated the veracity of imprinting radio waves or stacking frequencies, and chirality is “real” and is applied in chemistry – especially pharmaceuticals. But don’t you sometimes feel like skincare companies are too concerned amping up each ingredient, at least at an aural level?

If we are to honor this site’s “Truth in Aging” mission, I’d rather the companies appeal to either my Right Brain or my Left Brain – but not both. Either explain why chirality is something I must insist on in my sticky beauty goo, and why thousands of layers of radio waves are essential to my eye bags – or translate everything into French. I won’t have any idea what is in my magic skin potion, but as I read it aloud I can pretend Serge Gainsbourg is making love to me: Je t'aime... moi non plus!

Anyway, Osmosis Renew also lists Retinal (.1% retinaldehyde) several ingredients down and this is an ingredient I enjoyed. Retinal is not as harsh as retinoic acid, but the amount in Renew did offer effective and consistent mild peeling of the skin, which, after several weeks of use, appeared to make my skin look smoother and freshened. Lecithin (Phosphatidylcholine or “PC”) is the third ingredient that, according to the studies summarized by Osmosis, moisturizes, enhances penetration of other ingredients into the skin, has antibacterial properties, and helps wounds heal; the high level of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in Lecithin also increases antioxidants and reduces free radicals. Gimme some more of that!

Enough science. Onto the empirical evidence.

As I mentioned, I applied Renew in the morning only – not in both the a.m. and p.m. as directed. My results may have been affected by this fact. At night it just felt too sticky to wear to bed and, most importantly, my husband didn’t like to kiss my cheek goodnight.

As the weeks went by, I have noticed my skin to be a bit smoother – like it has a higher thread count, if you will. My eye crinkles might be a little less crepey and more fine.

I have noted that in all of the product trials I’ve done, results (if any) begin to show up around the sixth week mark. (This is one reason why Truth In Aging reviews are much more credible than most beauty bloggers who may receive a two-day sample of the latest miracle cream. TIA provides a full-size product and time to give it a fair shake. And Marta really does stress to her reviewers the importance of being honest – as well as earnest.) Time and consistency definitely pay when deciding whether to continue shelling out for a product or sending it to the recycler.

Does Renew perform to its claims? The copy on the bottle reads:

Indications: High activity serum for normal and/or aging skin. I’m not sure what “high activity” means. Must have something to do with those radio waves? (No, wait, that’s High Fidelity.)

Benefits: Remodels, replenishes and restores healthy skin. The last two claims are acceptable to me. My skin does look smoother, hydrated, less crepey and with the exception of the rosacea, healthier. Remodeled? Absolutely not. But then I think one can remodel skin only with needles and knives.

Although changes are very minimal at this point, I will finish the bottle. Perhaps I’ll see continued improvement. So stay tuned to those stacked frequencies!

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Niacinamide, Phosphatidylcholine, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerin, Cyclodextrin, Asiaticoside, Chlorella Vulgaris Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate (L), Lactic Acid (L), Dimethyl Sulfone, Retinal (.1% Retinaldehyde), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Caprooyl Tetrapeptide-3, Beta-Glucan (D), Fulvic Acid, L-Hydroxyproline, Thioctic (R-lipoic) Acid, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rubus Chamaemorus (Cloud Berry) Seed Oil, Santalum Austrocaledonicum (Sandalwood) Wood Oil, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Dextran, Alcohol Denat., Xanthan Gum, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Benzyl Alcohol