I have tried a lot of beauty products over the years. l’ve read the reviews, done the homework, and have learned that one’s Holy Grail is not another’s. Just because someone has great skin doesn’t mean their routine will work for you. But I read a lot of reviews from a lot of different people with different lifestyles, of different ages, with different needs who thought SkinMedica was their Holy Grail so I had to do a SkinMedica review.
I’m going to give the information I’ve found helpful to determine if another’s favorite beauty product will be mine. I am 43. I don’t smoke, I rarely drink, I eat a diet of primarily whole foods – meats and seafood and produce with a few whole grains and the occasional refined carbs and sweets. I take Borage Oil, Fish Oil, a B Complex, D, Quercetin, and a Mushroom Complex each day for inflammation and allergies. I drink 1-2 cups of coffee each day and 1 cup of tea but otherwise, it’s water (sparkling and still).
I don’t break out often, but when I do it’s usually hormonal and causes one or two deep pimples on my chin or near my mouth. In the winter my skin can get so dry it cracks under the nose. In the summer I am perma-shine, especially in my T-Zone. I had Botox in February but no other procedures and it’s been a year since my last facial. I rarely deal with skin sensitivity but am allergic to a few common ingredients (salicylic acid, aloe, and nickel). I abused tanning beds in college but now am fastidious with sunscreen. I’m an Aquarius, I love long walks on the beach… wait maybe that’s TMI? Anyway, here’s my much-delayed SkinMedica review.
My Honest SkinMedica Review
Full disclosure: I had a partnership with SkinMedica. In exchange for four scheduled Instagram posts, I received free product. There was no requirement for me to review it, love it, or even use it. But I did my research before agreeing and chose to work with them because this stuff gets stellar reviews (from many of you readers as well as what I found online) and honestly, it’s beyond my budget and I was excited to use such expensive highly-rated skincare.
I was sent the product in the SkinMedica Everyday Essentials System: HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, TNS Essential Serum, Dermal Repair Cream, and Total Defense + Repair SPF 35. Below I share details about these SkinMedica products, how I used them, the results after six weeks, and why I stopped using SkinMedica.
SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum
TNS Essential Serum contains a combination of SkinMedica’s growth factor formula, TNS Recovery Complex® in one chamber and APS Corrective Complex in the other. 92% of the people who used this serum rated their skin as looking healthier and more youthful, reduced the appearance of wrinkles, and enhanced skin texture and tone. Initial results occurred in 30 days with optimal results occurring in 90 days. Do note this has human growth factor (AKA stem cells).
I applied this product every morning and night after cleansing and toning, before moisturizer. Some have complained that that dual-chamber pump clogs and stops working but I never had that issue. I used it religiously for seven weeks. No strong smell, no irritation upon application. It absorbs nicely, making it easy to apply other products over it.
SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator provides immediate smoothing in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and supports the skin's natural ability to replenish its own hyaluronic acid (HA) for overall skin health. HA5 has a proprietary mix of five HA forms that smooth the skin, thereby decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The 5 HA's work synergistically to provide immediate smoothing and continuous hydration throughout the day.
Yeah, I didn’t really understand either but I applied it every morning and night over the TNS Serum. And even when applying I couldn’t really tell what it was doing. Since then I have researched hyaluronic acid (see this post) and realize it was helping my skin retain moisture. Like the TNS Serum, no strong smell, no irritation, no breakouts. Like other HA products I’ve used, it absorbs really quickly leaving a dry finish.
SkinMedica Dermal Repair Cream
Dermal Repair Cream contains high levels of antioxidant vitamins C and E, along with highly effective moisturizing ingredients like Sodium Hyaluronate, to provide hydration. Sodium Hyaluronate naturally occurs in the skin and has the ability to retain up to 40 times its weight in water on the surface of the skin.
I applied this over the Hydrator every evening. Again no strong smell, no irritation or breakouts. It’s thick and feels nice on the skin and absorbs enough that you won’t end up with a greasy pillow. I really liked the way it felt and how my skin felt soft and plump in the morning.
SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad-Spectrum SPF 35
Essential Defense is sunscreen that also improves tone and texture. Formulated especially for sensitive and post-procedure skin types, this sheer, lightweight, mineral sunscreen gives you the highest level of UVA protection available, along with UVB coverage to protect you from damaging rays. Green tea and caffeine help to calm, soothe and reduce redness and discoloration.
This felt like a pretty typical daytime moisturizer with SPF. Not too greasy, needed a bit of rubbing to fully absorb, felt good, no strong smell, no adverse reactions. I applied it each morning after the Hydrator and before my makeup.
Results from Six Weeks Using SkinMedica
After two weeks I started seeing a difference, as though I had more sleep. My skin just looked happier, brighter, had more bounce. After a month my skin was truly transformed. Wrinkles were reduced, the creases in my forehead became more shallow, my pores shrunk, my skin seriously looked years younger.
The biggest difference to me was under my eyes and I wasn't even using an eye cream. I had allergies all my life which gave me perma-dark circles. Rubbing my eyes stretched the skin and left “pockets” under my eyes. I was so concerned with them that I considered getting a procedure to reduce them. But this mix of products diminished them and did more than water and 12 hours of sleep.
I was obsessed and was raving about SkinMedica to anyone I met. The longer I used it, the better my skin looked. I tried removing the Hydrator from the regimen and my skin felt drier the next day so I added it back in. I tried a different night cream and it was fine, but the SkinMedica one left my skin much happier and glowy in the morning.
My skin after using SkinMedica; the top row is without makeup, the bottom row with just a bit of CC cream no concealer and color cosmetics. All in natural lighting.
Six weeks in, I was going without concealer and most days without foundation. I became a woman who just did mascara and brows and had strangers commenting on how nice my skin was. I also became one of those women that when I said I was 43 people looked a bit surprised. I was psyched and asked SkinMedica for refills of the products.
What SkinMedica Product Made the Biggest Impact
The true magic of this SkinMedica routine is the TNS serum. The rest… it's really high quality but you can find good enough hydrators and hyaluronic acid and sunscreens from lower-priced brands. But the TNS Serum… that stuff is liquid gold and worth every penny in how it transformed my skin.
Allergic Reaction to SkinMedica
Seven weeks in, I went to Rehoboth Beach for the weekend. Went to bed Friday night fine, woke up Saturday with a rash all over my neck. Maybe it was the feather pillow in the hotel; I requested a hypoallergenic replacement and took some Benadryl. Nope, the next day it was worse and had reached up around my ears. I came home, and that week it spread to the outer corners of my face.
I started doing some research and found that a small percentage of people have allergic reactions to SkinMedica TNS Serum and they get a reaction either after their first use or after 6-8 weeks. I went to the dermatologist who suggested a “detox diet” to pinpoint the exact product, and yep once I tried re-incorporating SkinMedica TNS Serum the rash came back.
I’m ashamed to admit I tried more than once hoping the rash was a fluke. I really didn’t want to give up SkinMedica TNS Serum. I have never before used a product that provided such visible and dramatic results.
My skin after quitting SkinMedica. Not drastic because I care for my skin, but you can see that my under eyes and forehead creases returned, I have more freckles and redness, and there are hardly any photos of me without makeup (even the top right and top left ones I'm wearing a full face, it just sweated off a bit)
Why I Am Trying SkinMedica Again
When I used SkinMedica in 2018 and experienced an allergic reaction, no one, not even my dermatologist could figure out the reason. Everyone automatically assumed it had to do with the human growth factor in the TNS serum because that was the weirdest and least tested ingredient. But my dermatologist admitted that didn't make sense, and it didn't explain why it was a hives-like rash, very much like what I get from salicylic acid.
Over these years, more folks have used SkinMedica and others have experienced the same allergic reaction I have: redness, inflammation, itchiness, hives-like rash. And many have decided that yes, it is because of the TNS Serum, but because of the TNS itself.
The TNS Serum comes in a two-chamber container. One side has the TNS complex, the other side has a cream that has antioxidants and other ingredients that activate when mixed. And the combination of the antioxidants and their level of intensity may actually be what is causing the allergic reactions to SkinMedica.
The SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complex is now sold as an individual product; essentially the red product side of the chamber sold separately. I am going to order it and will report back once I have used it long enough to see results (or a reaction).
What Is Human Growth Factor?
SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum contains human fibroblast-conditioned media. Human fibroblast media is essentially the solution (sugars, amino acids and such) that is put in a petri dish to grow skin cells. From a progenitor cell, thousands of new cells are grown in the lab and those cells are what are used to make the solution.
The solution collects proteins and cytokines secreted by the skin cells which is what makes it powerful. If the purpose of the petri dish is just to make skin cells, this solution would be tossed. But skincare brands like SkinMedica specifically go through this process to create this solution for their products.
This solution will improve skin’s texture, tone, and color. It will reduce wrinkles, redness will reduce, and it will even help cuts heal faster. EWG’s Skin Deep gives human fibroblast conditioned media a score of 3 but has limited data regarding the ingredient (please note Skin Deep hasn't reviewed the latest formulations of any SkinMedica products). However, many sites recommend you do NOT use human fibroblast-conditioned media if you have psoriasis.
Where Does the Progenitor Cell Come From?
The progenitor cells of the human fibroblast are typically taken from newborn baby foreskins or human cells. Embryonic stem cells are NEVER used in cosmetics. No human cells are used in making any cosmetics including SkinMedica, these are only lab-created cells. The lab will use a single pristine cell to clone thousands more for products like TNS. Essentially it’s a copy of a copy of a copy (please say you get the reference if not click the link).
For More Information on SkinMedica
I don’t claim to be an expert, all this information I got from Dr. Google and a bit from my dermatologist. For more information about SkinMedica’s TNS, human growth factor, and fibroblast-conditioned media by actual experts please visit: