After I reviewed (and recommended) A&G Active Serum with Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, a reader sent me a useful stack of research on other products with HFCM. Since I've been very impressed with the results of my three week plus trial of A&G but put off by the price, I decided to find out if there are good alternatives out there. So I started to do some digging around and entered a murky world of bankrupt companies and babies foreskins.

Derm 123 Replenishing Complex uses HFCM and claims to be cheaper and better than another potion called TNS. But I'll come back to that. Derm 123 seems to have started out life as a collaborative venture with a company called Advanced Tissue Sciences. Advanced provided the human fibroblast technology and ingredients, appears to have been well-funded (according to Derm 123 to tune of $300m) and staffed by reputable scientists. Then it went bust around 2002.

The bankruptcy trust that took over the affairs of Advanced Tissue Services sold one of its products, Nouricel, to a company called SkinMedica for $7m. SkinMedica makes the cream called TNS Recovery Complex that Derm 123 seems to have its competitive knickers in a twist over. TNS is supposed to be 96.3% (no less) Nouricel-MD, a compound that I was amused to read on the website was invented by their very own Dr Fitzpatrick and his team of scientists.

Nouricel-MD, the active ingredient in TNS ($141 for 0.6oz) is a concoction that looks a lot A&G Active. They both have Transforming Growth Factor (TGF-b), Platelet, Grannulocyte Monolyte Colony Growth and Interleukins. TNS has a few other things as well, mostly listed rather vaguely as 'antioxidants'. In addition to this HFCM concoction there is a thinning agent, four paraben preservatives, phenoxyethanol (another preservative and potential irritant), isocetheth-20 (a synthetic made from fatty acids), and triethanolamine (a pH balancer that is in an irritant and possibly carcinogenic according to one study).

Anyway, back to Derm 123. The company behind it is very coy, saying merely that it is privately held. I believe it is called Midwest Aesthetics, a company that is also behind another brand called Revitacel.  Derm 123 starts off well with HFCM, shea butter, macadamia and water. Then there's a bunch of silicones, a handful of things that make cream a cream (emulsifers and suspending agents and so on), and preservatives.

My next question is where does the human fibrobast come from? Actual human stem cells? This is where speculation on the web gets somewhat out of hand with male foreskins being the favored speculation. There is also an outraged group who think that live baby body parts are routinely used in cosmetics. I did find a study on monocytes, interleukins and TGF-b that cultured cells with blood cells and bovine cells. I've seen the word 'cloning' used a few times. Otherwise, I'm really not clear on how a TGF-b is 'manufactured'.

More research is needed. I'll keep digging around. I'm not sure I want to put too much of this Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media on my face until I understand it.