Tested on animals:Yes
Metacell Renewal B3 is an initially intriguing product from SkinCeuticals that ultimately fell short of its potential due to a potent array of fragrance oils and extracts. This lightweight gel-lotion formula would have been an option for any skin type to help treat signs of aging in skin, but, as we'll explain, we can't recommend it due to what we considered deal-breaker drawbacks—and our concerns are supported by published research.
Housed in a 1.7 oz. frosted glass bottle with a pump dispenser, this formula boasts a high percentage of niacinamide (5%) along with a few other less notable ingredients. We should note that even though SkinCeuticals chose to market this as a treatment for "early" photoaging (photoaging being another word for sun damage), niacinamide has many benefits for skin of any age.
At a 5% concentration, niacinamide has research supporting its ability to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation from sun-damage. That's an impressive list of benefits, especially when you consider these results could be seen in a little as three months of daily usage (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2007 and International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2004).
SkinCeuticals also calls out 2.5% concentration of a "tightening tri-peptide concentrate" (listed as tetradecyl aminobutyroylvalylaminobutyric urea trifluoroacetate), which has a striking name and ambitious claims to tighten sagging skin. Unfortunately, there is a rather unglamorous lack of published research to demonstrate that this ingredient has any benefit whatsoever for skin—all we could locate was ingredient data sheets from the manufacturer, which isn't very promising given these are akin to advertisements to entice cosmetic formulators.
With the attention-grabbing claims around this "tri-peptide concentrate," we expected to see published and comparative data demonstrating effectiveness as well as studies showing how this ingredient performed compared to other well-studied peptides and anti-agers (like retinol). Alas, no such luck—and this is an expensive gamble!
On an unusual note, the marketing also calls out the fact that this contains 15% glycerin among its anti-aging claims. Glycerin is a beneficial ingredient to help boost the moisturizing effects of emollients, as well as providing a nice slip and texture on skin, but it has no capability to improve photoaging; it's just a good skin-repairing ingredient.
Had this been just a 5% niacinamide treatment, it still would have earned a high rating given the amount of research showing the benefits of such a concentration. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, SkinCeuticals added a potent array of citrus oils and other fragrance ingredients. The scent of citrus is immediately apparent upon dispensing the gel-lotion, and it lingers on skin. Not only is such an array and degree of fragrance potentially irritating and inflammatory to skin (see More Info), but the bitter orange oil phototoxic potential!
Bitter orange oil, like many citrus oils, is loaded with a class of ingredients known as furanocoumarins (psoralen) and coumarins. These chemicals are the primarily culprits for causing a phototoxic reaction on skin when exposed to the sun—a reaction that potentially results in unsightly discolorations in skin (Journal of Food and Agriculture, October 2013 & Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 2007). Undoubtedly, such a potential result isn't the expectation when using a product intended to correct an uneven skin tone.
Ultimately, Metacell Renewal B3 failed to live up to its potential due to the needless inclusion of this specific variety of fragrance ingredients. Given the cost, you really shouldn't have to deal with such shortcomings. Though 5% niacinamide has impressive research supporting its benefits, we recommend looking to alternatives (like retinol treatments or other potent anti-aging formulas) that equal or surpass what you can expect from this formula—but don't share its potential risks to your skin.
If your goal is treating signs of aging, including photodamage, consider any of the alternatives on our list of top-rated retinol products.
Note: SkinCeuticals mentions this formula was developed using a "patent-pending inverse aqueous emulsion," but this is another way of referring to an oil-in-water emulsion, which is a common formulating technique in today's cosmetic industry. It simply means that water is suspended in oil, which has the result of creating a pleasing texture, as well as adding a range of stability benefits to the overall formula. This isn't a revolutionary quality, but the way they spun it does make it sound neat.
- Contains 5% niacinamide, which research demonstrates has numerous benefits for skin.
- Lightweight gel-lotion texture makes this an all skin-types formula.
- Packaged to protect its ingredients from light and air exposure.
- Highly fragrant formula.
- Contains bitter orange flower oil, which has phototoxic potential on skin.
Irritation from High Amounts of Fragrance: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).