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SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum

Reader Review: SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum

Reviewed by TIA Community Member March 13, 2013 47 Comments

by Justine

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 for treating burn victims. This is a potentially exciting development for the field of anti-aging treatments; 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 a full-size sample of SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum to try out was 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 SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum was that this stuff had better be damn good for me to be potentially slathering my face with 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 skin, etc., all of which I have. I have noticed good results in the past using Retinol-based products. But, as I learned from Truth in Aging, 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.

SkinMedica TNS also fights free-radicals with antioxidants, including Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin C, Green Tea extract, Blackberry, etc. (I am happy to say that SkinMedica TNS does not, however, contain spermine because things would just be way too weird if it did). And finally, for instant cosmetic effect, SkinMedica 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 seven 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 exaggeration). But the verging-on-Benjamin-Button-type drama is reserved for my neck and décolleté.

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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, SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum 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 SkinMedica TNS. 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, SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum 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 on to 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 SkinMedica TNS might be for you.

And if you’re still upset by 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. SkinMedicaTNS Essential Serum 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.

See also:

ReLuma with human fibroblast conditioned media

A&G with human fibroblast conditioned media

SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum Ingredients:

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.

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  • May 6, 2016

    by Caroline B.

    Two points: Many sellers on eBay continue to sell knockoff TNS Essential Serum and TNS Recovery Complex. I've tried bottles from 3 sellers and the products are NOT genuine. Years ago I read that some sellers bought/sold bottles filled with who-knows-what inserted through bottle bottoms and repackaged or sold as testers. I'm not sure if that's it, or if bottles are just waay past expiration dates, but save your money! DO NOT trust all online sources. Once you use the real thing, the kakes are obvious.

    Second point: I spent years in the sun and thought I was doomed. At age 40, I had a derm zap two sunspots. He recommended TNS Recovery Complex, which I used religiously for 6 or 7 years. Great results - skin tightening, fewer wrinkles, etc. Then I switched to TNS Essential Serum for about 1 year. I wasn't overly impressed; my skin felt saggier and I saw more forehead wrinkles. I''m back to TNS Recovery Complex, which seems to work better on my combo skin. I know fillers are in my future, but my skin looks great for my age. I thank the Recovery Complex for that! Yes, the smell is funky, but the results are not.

  • December 28, 2015

    by Marta

    Hi Lolena, I had a similar reaction with breakouts and inflammation as you can see from my review here:

  • December 28, 2015

    by Lolena

    Has anyone else had an immediate allergic reaction to using the TMS Serum?
    MY skin became red inflamed, swollen, burning & itchy. My eyes swelled so badly I could not see very well and it blurred my vision.
    I have never experienced an allergic reaction like this to any topical product in my life. I have never experienced any food allergies either.
    I don't consider myself to have sensitive skin.
    MY reaction is mind boggling and it is most assuredly from the use of TMS Serum.
    I have deployed measures to assure only using 1 product at a time and both times the burning began immediately after applying TMS Serum.
    Perhaps, I purchased a bad batch from my dermatologist? Product does not have an expiration date or lot number on package.

  • March 21, 2015

    by Lindy

    Anybody out there know how many pumps are there in SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum?

  • January 24, 2015

    by Crystal

    I grew up in my teens getting the best tan possible. After being a single mother and raising three children basically on my own it has taken a toll on my life. Now I have stepped back and taken a really good look at what life's toll has done to me I am determined to find that fountain of youth. I have made some real changes in my routine. Let me first say I have been visiting a dermatologist for about 8 months now. I have totally changed my morning and nightly routine for my face.

    Now after so much consideration I decided to undergo a Fraxel Repair laser procedure in December 2014. Wow what a difference it has made for me. After a couple follow ups to examine my progress my dermatologist introduced me to the TNS Essential Serum. I have followed her instructions and have applied this in my daily routine. All I can say is "WOW". This product has really made a difference in not only my texture but also appearance. My dermatologist has taken before and after pictures so I have been seeing the real difference of my journey.

    Even though TNS Essential serum is pricey you have to ask your self is it worth it. Let me answer that with one word "TOTALLY". For me I will continue to use this product.

    I do however have a question for those who have commented on the A&G Serum results. I have also researched this product. You are paying about $200.00 for .06 of an ounce and TNS gives you a whole ounce for just a little over $200.00 (from my dermatologist). Why would you pay almost double for a product that is suppose to be in comparison?

    For me it is two thumbs up for TNS Essential Serum. Just remember to purchase this product from an authorized dealer and not Amazon and others selling this product cheaper.

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