An Honest SkinMedica Review

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Image of four models in white hugging each other. Overlay of the SkinMedica name and logo. This is used to begin an honest skinmedica review and the reaction and rash I got by Wardrobe Oxygen

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.

Image of the SkinMedica Everyday Essentials System

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.

skinmedica review pictures of skin using TNS

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.

skinmedica review - my skin after stopping use of the TNS

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:

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  1. Oh my God. I am currently suffering from a severe allergic reaction to skinmedica’s firm and tone lotion. I had been using it for over 3 weeks daily with no side effects at all, and then two days ago, I started getting hives on one area where I put it. Then, later in the evening, on every area where I put it. The hives were obviously due to the lotion because they were only *exactly* where I put the lotion. It was eerie. The hives are currently huge and there is now swelling. I probably should go to urgent care to get steroids and antibiotics. I had been mildly impressed with the results and was going to continue.

  2. I am horrified!!! I bought the SKINMEDICA Exfoliating Brush.

    I spent so much on this brush which I can’t use due to the rancid smell. My friends and family have tried to help me for weeks. I almost vomit every time I get it out of the box. I want to know if anyone else has had the same issue?

  3. I know this is an older post but the thing that’s holding me back from purchasing is that users revert back to baseline when they stop using it. If it was truly benefiting the skin and causing the changes it claims, those benefits should last (factoring in the intrinsic and extrinsic aging that is still occurring, of course). If it truly had a significant change in the tissues of the skin, it would be classified as a drug (e.g. Tretinoin). I suspect a low level of inflammation is occurring thus the appearance of fewer wrinkles, smoother skin, etc.; similar to how skin looks the day after Microneedling. I just don’t know with this one. I’ve had a mysterious neck rash with another product so your experience in addition to my aforementioned reservation pretty much slid TNS into the NOPE zone. It’s so tempting through! Thanks for the post.

  4. I have used the products for 1 week and my face is red ,like a sun burn and it’s peeling.
    My dermatologist just had me start it a week ago after fillers. Guess, I will stop using it for awhile. My face burns, I feel like it helps tighten and firm ,wish I wasn’t having these issues.

  5. I have used the full line of Skinmedica products for at least the last 15 years. My skin regimen is not perfect. Sometimes I miss a nighttime application or forget to use the retinol at regular intervals. Considering that, at age 60, my skin looks better than it did at 45, I am devoted to these products. Absolutely worth the price. They last longer than less expensive products and are VERY effective. I get tons of compliments. And I never wear any makeup.

  6. Hi,
    I have always wanted to try this line so I bought the AHA/BHA Cleanser on Amazon.ca

    After receiving the product, I find that the tube doesn’t have a seal and it smells awful ! I went to read the reviews from other buyers and found one review that has the same issue which is no seal and smell awful. Now I wonder that the product might be a KNOCK OFF ??
    Please advise.

    Thank you 🙂

    1. I am so sorry this happened to you. Amazon is not an authorized SkinMedica retailer; I’d recommend going through the SkinMedica site, Dermstore (which I think I linked to in this post) or an authorized dermatologist.

    2. I never buy cosmetics from Amazon, unless they are a authorized dealer. You can check out unauthorized dealers at Skin Medica website or give them a call. I have purchased the AHA/BHA Cleaner from an authorized clinic near me and it does not any smell whatsoever. I have heard that Amazon buys products that have expired and maybe they are also getting knock offs from their 3 parties that they deal with. Hope this help.

    3. Amazon is known for sellers having a lot of knockoffs and for that reason, I personally don’t purchase any kind of skincare products from Amazon. Especially if no seal is present. I try getting as much info about the seller as possible if it’s something that I will use like bath wash, bubble bath anything that goes on or in your body.

  7. Thank you for this review. It was very helpful. Im wondering which ingredient sparked your allergic reaction? I feel like Ive tried everything and Ive never reacted to anything but your review kind of spooked me from wanting to try this.

    1. I think it’s a reaction to what they use to source the stem cells. I tried a hair product with stem cells and it cause irritation. My dermatologist says it’s rare, but possible. He sells SkinMedica and hasn’t had any other clients with the same reaction.

  8. I am 77, and I have used TNS Essential Serum for several years upon the recommendation of my dermatologist. The tone and texture of my skin was immediately improved in less in a week. I have used this serum daily and cannot fathom being w/o it. I just ordered 2 . I shall use 1 on my arms bc of the skin cell rejuvenation. I bruise and get skin tearing very easily on my hands & arms bc of thin skin so I have had to wear arm w partial hand gloves. I am hopeful it will bring improvement to my skin in those areas. I have never had any ill effects from this stellar serum. I rely on TNS for maintaing my youthful skin. In fact, my facial skin is better than when I was younger. I would give up another seemingly nessessity to continue using my TNS Essential Serum.

    1. I absolutely love skin medica products. The TNS advance plus serum is expensive but worth every penny. I am 72 and have used these products for almost 20 years and get compliments on my skin and never wear make up. I’ve stopped using the serum which is the most important one because of the skin cancer scare. I read that cell turnover can happen cause cancer cells to turn over as well. Can’t explain but it said that growth factors can cause cancer. So upset about this and can’t get anyone to really explain if this can happen except that it’s possible. If you google this info about growth factors it’s scary. Can anyone give me information about this. I miss the tns serum but afraid to continue using it.

  9. Thank You!!! This explains everything. I just bought tns skin media travel kit and eye repair cream. It finally came here and I tried this last night. The 1st 30 secs after putting on the rejervnating hydrator, my pores in the noses area were HUGE! and turned red. I never had large pores and this was the 1st time I used medicial approved skincare products. ( Im typically a drugstore cleanser girl). Because this wass my 1st time, I assume this is what they refer to as the “acne purge”. I woke up the next morning and I had like 20 milla rash in my nose area and chin. I am terrified. I would have went to the docotor immediately because of the site of the rash but because of COVID 19, Im just going to hope this goes away. I had no idea what caused this rash so I am soooo grateful you wrote this article.

  10. I am so thankful to come across your article! I started skinmedica in May and was in love with it also. Then in August I started getting a very itchy rash on my neck and around my eyes (so bad some days that I was embarrassed to leave the house). After a trip to the allergist & ophthalmologist, there was still zero explanation. I’m allergic to a lot of animals, trees, grasses, mites and molds. None of which explains this. The allergist thought it was likely my gel nail polish but after removing it, it only got worse. It’s been a very frustrating 4 months of eye drops, creams and steroids only to see your post and think “oh my gosh” that’s IT!!! Thank you for posting! I will definitely have some sort of direction at my derm appt next week! Still suffering! I have aged 10 years in the last 4 months!!

      1. I was only using the HA5 and the TNS but I’m pretty sure it is the HA5. I am having patch testing with a dermatologist next week so I will update then. After further inspection of the ingredients, I noticed the HA5 has whey protein and can’t be used by those with a milk sensitivity. I have never been able to digest milk properly so there’s a really good chance that’s it. It should come with a warning label!

  11. I’ve use Skin Medica products for well over a year maybe a year-and-a-half and I have been very pleased. I am 59 years old and have tried to stay out of the sun the last 20 years to decrease facial wrinkles. I use skinmedica TNS serum, HA5, and I use my own face cream which is Origins Prescriptive. I use Skin Medica retinol 0.5 every other day on my forehead lines, around my mouth, on my elecens, and lightly around the eyes. I have actually seen my lines decrease and get softer. The retinol used sparingly will last over six months to a year. The TNS can last up to four months and the HA5 six months. The trick is to put a little bit of water on your fingers first before you pump out the product and then put it on your face. The HA5 actually works better with a little water or hydration. I agree the product is very expensive but I buy it for my dermatologist during their yearly 20% off sale which is at Christmas and also in the summer. And if you sign up for the Brilliant Distinctions program you get points every time you purchase which is good for money off the next time you buy.

  12. Were you using all the products at once? I had purchased a complete regimen and my face started to dry, peel and redden like a rash after a few days. I stopped using all products and once healed I started experimenting by removing one. I found the one causing my problems after several attempts and replaced that step with another product. I’ve been fine ever since.

    1. I did detox and try bringing them back one at a time. It was definitely the TNS but the others also did give a bit of irritation even by themselves. No peeling or drying, it was an itchy rash that started on my neck and moved up around my ears/the thinner and more sensitive skin. I wish I could continue, this stuff is truly a gamechanger!

  13. I also had a very similar experience but I was only using the dermal repair cream. The first month it was doing a miracle then just like that overnight I started getting the bumps and redness. I do think it’s because the product has a retinol in it and my skin may have became more sensitive over time and then going out into the sun lit the fire.

  14. This is all very interesting, and I may well try this out sometime, but did no one else stutter over “newborn baby foreskins”?

  15. I’ve been using the HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator for about 18 months now and love it – I definitely notice a difference in my fine lines. I use it around my lips and marionette lines.

    I also just ordered the TNS Essential Serum and am eager to try it all over.

  16. I am soooo interested in trying these products. I’m going to need to save up but hopefully can try the full system soon!

  17. I had been watching your Skinmedica posts with interest, as I am always on the hunt for that elusive combo of products that will let my 46 year old skin go naked and not look like hell. I was sorry to hear about your reaction to the product, but impressed that you continued to try it, even after that experience! I actually just ordered, through your link in this post, the Everyday Essentials kit, and also signed up for the rewards program and did a 60 day subscription so I can get 15% off my next delivery, assuming I don’t have any cause to not continue to use the products. I’m very excited to see if I get results as good as yours!

  18. After your 7 weeks of daily use, about how much of the product was left? That’s way more than I usually spend on skin care, but even before this post, I noticed (and almost comment on!) how great your skin looks, so I’m considering giving it a try. But Id like to know of those products/prices will are for roughly 2 months or 6 months worth.

    1. The TNS serum I can’t tell since it’s a solid container. However, the night cream maybe half of it has been used and the hydrator and SPF feel like there’s half still left inside. They said it should last me at least a quarter and based on what I have left I’m thinking you’ll get probably 4 months if you use it daily.

      1. TNS using one pump will last one month. Put one pump on the back of your hand…. That’s a 1oz bottle

  19. What a shame! I work for a respected cosmetic dermatologist and we all love (and use, and recommend) SkinMedica products. I haven’t yet seen anyone with such a serious reaction–I hope that means it’s rare–but of course, some people will be sensitive to one or more ingredient in a product. I suppose I commented to assure people that reactions such as yours are unusual and not to fear using SkinMedica. Thank you for trying hard to determine which ingredient caused the problem, and thank you for not trying to dissuade others from trying them. I love your blog and recommend it to everyone!

    1. With all my research I have found reactions are rare. It’s not that SkinMedica causes allergic reactions, it’s that I had a reaction. I can’t use some of the highest rated products at Sephora or from well-known brands like Neutrogena not because they’re bad but because of a specific ingredient. SkinMedica is a well-trusted brand sold by dermatologists, don’t let my single experience dissuade you, if you’re unsure see a doctor.

      Thank you Jenny for your feedback I agree!

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