Product Review: SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum

Here at ReadHead, we’re just a tad bit (a lot) nerdy about science in skincare.  I will start this post off with saying three things right off the bat before you read on: 1) this is clinically proven to work 2) you will never get over the sticker shock 3) there are some funky ingredients.  Ok now that that is settled, read on!

SkinMedica is a physician-only skincare line – meaning you have to get it from a place that is licensed like a dermatologist, medical spa or plastic surgeon’s office.  Their products contain top-of-the-line ingredients, and a price tag to boot.  Their #1 flagship ingredient is TNS, which I’ll talk about more in a second.  This line, and TNS Essential Serum in particular, is well known, top-rated and a part of the daily skincare routine by just about any certified dermatologist/plastic surgeon/medispa professional out there.

The science behind SkinMedica’s TNS

Major contributors to both intrinsic (meaning the actual aging process we all go through as part of our biology) and extrinsic (meaning things like diet, improper care and damage that humans expose themselves to) aging are splotchiness and freckling, wrinkles and loss of collagen.  You can read my post about drinking collagen to learn more about the role and effects of losing collagen here in my blog.

SkinMedica has done research that founded and brought to the commercial pharmaceutical landscape the importance of stem cell and human growth factors into topical skincare.  TNS includes a patented and to some, shocking and confusing ingredient called Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media.   This ingredient, which is sourced from discarded neonatal tissue (i.e. foreskins…and here’s usually where the confusion/shock/intrigue/distain sets in) is housed in chambered solutions that allow it to function and generate as our natural bodies would.  This growth factor and other cytokins mimic the skin’s natural production of elastin and collagen synthesis to promote younger-looking skin over time.

As also stated in my post about collagen, there is speculation on how much penetration these molecules have due to their large size.  There is agreement that it can penetrate pores and hair follicles, but that they function at their best after skin has been compromised i.e. microneedling, a strong peel, or laser, to get deeper and get more of the benefits of the technology.

Unlike many skincare products out there, this one has been proven in multiple clinical studies, and as mentioned, is THE choice for doctors and specialists to have access to just about anything in the world to choose from.

If you want to learn more about growth factors and clinical studies, you can find sourced information from the NIH here.

Ingredients

This SkinMedica product dispenses in a dual chamber, so that you get two different “sets” of product that you mix together.

I’ve already mentioned the Human Conditioned Fibroblast Media which is the differentiator in this product, but it also has an impressive array of vitamins and extracts.

Here’s the info from SkinMedica’s website:

Chamber 1:

TNS Recover Complex – Human Fibroblast conditioned media. A physiologically balanced, naturally secreted and stabilized growth factor blend that helps improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone and texture.

Chamber 2:

APS Corrective Complex made up of peptides and antioxidants like green tea, vitamin E, alpha-arbutin and hyaluronic acid.

Full list of ingredients: Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, Water/Aqua/Eau, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Unsaponifiables, Alpha-Arbutin, Isoceteth-20, Arachidyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Dimethicone, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Dipalmitoyl Hydroxyproline, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Ergothioneine, Hydrolyzed Sericin, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Leaf Extract, Saccharomyces Ferment Lysate Filtrate, Aminobutyric Acid, Phytosterols, Tocopherol, Tocotrienols, Squalene, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax (Oryza Sativa Cera), Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Polysorbate 20, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Steareth-10, Steareth-20, Butylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Xanthan Gum, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Parfum/Fragrance, Hydroxycitronellal, Linalool, Coumarin, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Isoeugenol

Packaging & Application

The packaging that this bottle comes in is top notch.  It’s a presentation, as it should be with a $280 MSRP price tag. It has SkinMedica’s signature taupey-gray color with the silver chromatic lettering.  While the box it comes in is substantial, I wouldn’t call it or the bottle the product comes in as beautiful.  SkinMedica wouldn’t compete with a Lancôme or other products that spend a lot on marketing and packaging.  It’s straight-forward and appropriate, but you know you aren’t paying for a beauty bottle on your counter.  I care more about the science than the look of packaging, so that doesn’t bother me.  But, if you like to be delighted with your packages, this one may leave you wanting more.

The chambers are also a bit annoying.  Over time, the two products can misfire so that you get more of one product vs. another.  I end up having to store it upside down, or forcefully tap it on it’s top to get the chambers to work properly.

I dispense a shockingly strange color of white and bright orange onto the back of my hand, dollop them around a bit to mix them up, ad put it on my skin.  I’m a terrible baker, but I envision when you use a spatula device to layer in whipped egg whites – scoop and flip gently. The look, nor the smell will take you anywhere close to organic or botanical.  It’s a kick you in the ass real-deal “if you don’t like it oh well” type of thing.  It smelled to me like whatever chemicals they use in a Port-o-Potty.  I can’t even make that sound any more refreshing.  I’d turn my head and “whiff.”  Not my favorite. At all.

But dammit if it doesn’t work, and then you have to suck it up on the painful price tag, it’s faulty mechanics and it’s awful smell because your face glows, your skin is tighter and your wrinkles less.  And such is life.

Final Assessment

This is a supreme luxury treatment and is right for the right type of consumer.  This is prime for someone in your 30s or 40s (who can afford it) before you start to see the full signs of aging.  This is a bit overkill for anyone younger.  I’d suggest a drugstore or Sephora-like buy of the beautycare basics an exfoliant, moisturizer, retinoid and sunscreen for that age range.

There are other products that will do great things for your skin.  But, they won’t do great things like this.  Growth factors are the future of pharmaceuticals, but they also have their risks.  It’s new and groundbreaking, but it is also not tested over time.  I also maintain that no topical product is a replacement for surgery or injections, so you have to be realistic about what it can do for you.

For now I’m going to hold my breath and wait until my local spa has it on sale.  For $281 MSRP for one oz, that is a bit of like breathing in smelling salts (or Port-o-Potty chemicals) and feeling like you need to go o confession each time you press “buy.” But I’ll give it a ReadHead best and save my pennies to purchase this little dose of the fountain of youth.

Consumer warning: this is a product that is certified to be sold at licensed skincare professionals only.  You buy at your own risk from Amazon and other sellers.  In my opinion the savings is not worth the risk.

Overall: 5/5

*Certified ReadHead Best

Packaging: 3/5

Price: $$$$$

Have you used SkinMedica TNS? Drop us a line in the comments.