Retinol Complex .25

by SkinMedica  
Price:
$60 - 1 fl. oz.
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Category:
Skin Care > Moisturizers (Daytime and Nighttime) > Moisturizers/Anti-Aging
Last Updated:
4/16/2014
Jar Packaging:
No
Tested On Animals:
No

Retinol Complex .25 is an exemplary retinol product whose fragrance-free formula is a lotion texture best for normal to dry or combination skin that's not too oily. Along with anti-aging superstar retinol (the ".25" in the name refers to the strength of this vitamin A ingredient), you're getting an outstanding mix of antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and repairing agents—all in packaging that keeps these beneficial ingredients stable and effective during use.

The claims of enhancing skin tone, texture, and resiliency while diminishing lines and wrinkles are absolutely true and 100% possible with this or other well-formulated retinol products. The great news is that SkinMedica did not merely formulate a one-note product. As effective as retinol is, skin needs more than one great ingredient to look and act younger and healthier.

Note: The strength of this retinol product is higher than most over-the-counter retinol products. If you decide to use this, follow usage instructions and pay close attention to how your skin responds, adjusting frequency of application as needed. Also, remember that it's imperative to protect your skin every day with a product rated SPF 25 or greater—any anti-aging routine must include daily sun protection or you simply won't get the results you want.

The strength of this retinol product is suitable for sensitive skin, and most with extra-sensitive skin won't want to use a higher-strength retinol product than this (but feel free to experiment with varying strengths to see how your skin responds).

Pros:
  • Treats skin to a broad range of proven anti-aging ingredients.
  • Packaged to keep light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable during use.
  • Great price for such a powerhouse formula that makes good on its claims.
  • Cosmetically elegant texture is pleasant to use.
Cons:
  • None.

Enhance skin tone, texture, and resiliency; Diminishes appearance of fine lines and coarse wrinkles.

Water/Aqua/Eau, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Glycine Soja Oil, Niacinamide, Polyacrylate-13, Squalane, Retinol, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-8, Dunaliella Salina Extract, Magnolia Grandiflora Bark Extract, Tocopherol, Tocotrienols, Ceramide 3, Bisabolol, Phytosterols, Squalene, Tocopheryl Acetate, Oryza Sativa Bran Cera, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Palmitate, Laureth-23, Trideceth-6 Phosphate, Sodium Hydroxide, Dicaprylyl Ether, Lauryl Alcohol, Polyisobutene, Dextran, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

California-based SkinMedica offers a range of dermatologist-developed skin-care products aimed at the symptoms of aging skin, such as wrinkles and skin discolorations. (Is there anyone whose skin isn't aging?) They also offer products to manage acne and for skin discolorations. Regrettably, the products for acne are a giant step in the wrong direction, and the skin-lightening options are paltry (although the latter do contain a potentially effective amount of vitamin C). So, as far as SkinMedica's anti-aging products (a subcategory labeled TNS) go, they are far more senseless than significant.

All of the TNS products contain an ingredient complex the company refers to as "human fibroblast conditioned media." Before we launch into a discussion of the technical aspects, let me point out that "human fibroblast conditioned media" doesn't really tell the consumer anything. Fibroblasts are connective tissue cells that secrete proteins that help generate new tissue (such as collagen). Collagen, as we know, is damaged by sun exposure and is depleted with age; the number of fibroblasts, which produce collagen, also decreases with age (Source: The FASEB Journal, 2000, pages 1325–1334). In the International Cosmetic Ingredient and Handbook, human fibroblast conditioned media is "the growth of media removed from culture of human fibroblasts and human keratinocytes [skin cells] after several days of growth." The handbook also mentions that the "media" used to begin the process are Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium mixed with Ham’s Nutrient Mixture F-12 and calf serum.

What are these media and mixtures, and what is their relevance for aging skin? Both the Dulbecco and the Ham media, which contain glucose along with varying blends of salt, minerals, and/or the amino acid L-glutamine, are used in laboratories to grow cell cultures and keep them stable so they in turn can be evaluated and/or used in experiments. Neither of these media have relevance for aging skin; they are merely the substrate on which these human fibroblast cells grow in a petri dish. As for the calf serum, we assume that it's a source of various growth factors. We make that assumption based on a comparative study published in the May 2006 issue of Dermatologic Surgery. In this study, the TNS (Tissue Nutrient Solution) mixture used in all of the NouriCel-MD products was detailed as containing "a variety of growth factors, including TGF-beta(1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and human growth factor (HGF)."

They didn't specify the origin of the human growth factor in the TNS blend, but it is presumably a component of the lab-grown fibroblast cells. Regardless, the results of this single-blind study involving 31 participants indicated, according to NouriCel-MD, that topical products with growth factors promote better results on aging skin than topical vitamin C. However, they don't mention anything about the effects of other ingredients or of a cocktail of ingredients. All in all, this study is completely meaningless. Even more disappointing is that the improvements were not tremendous, and—here's the kicker—the results were measured based on a physician's assessment of before and after photographs, and on the participant's self-assessment. Who knows if the photographs were doctored, or even if the lighting or the subject's pose was different at the end of the study (a slight tilt of the head or change in lighting can easily make wrinkles more or less prominent). In the end, this isn't a study you should take seriously, and the only other published research on this ingredient complex was authored by Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick, who—Surprise! Surprise!—is the dermatologist behind the SkinMedica line (Sources: Dermatologic Therapy, September-October 2007, pages 350–359; and Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, April 2003, pages 25–34). That's sort of like a tobacco company writing a report concluding that smoking isn't actually as detrimental to health as common thinking suggests!

Moreover, Dr. Fitzpatrick admits that "More double-blind and controlled studies are needed to confirm the preliminary clinical effects of growth factor products, and more controls on product quality and stability need to be established." Now that's an understatement!

As it turns out, the human fibroblast conditioned media/TNS complex present in all of the NouriCel-MD products is a cocktail of growth factors, none of which have a history of safety when used as part of a daily anti-aging skin-care routine on healthy, intact skin. For detailed information on human growth factor and other growth factors, please refer to the Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary on the Home page of this Web site. For now, all that can be reasonably concluded is that there are too many unknowns about topical use of growth factors to deem it advisable to look for this group of ingredients when shopping for anti-aging products.

Conceivably, it's a promising field, but your skin doesn't need to be the guinea pig for what may prove to be problematic with ongoing use. The vast majority of research on topical application of growth factors (most notably human growth factor and transforming growth factors) has focused on wounded or diseased skin (think diabetes, ulcers, and skin cancer); essentially, skin that needs to be healed, which is an area where naturally occurring growth factors in the human body work on their own accord. This research is not related to applying growth factors to otherwise healthy (albeit wrinkled or discolored) skin; wrinkles are not wounds, nor does their formation over time have anything to do with how the skin heals itself when cut or ulcerated.

Although SkinMedica tries to establish medical credibility by advertising that its products are available only through dermatologists and dermatology professionals (the latter a term that is open to interpretation, thus allowing non-medical retail sales), the reality is that any consumer can purchase these products from a variety of non-medical sources. As it turns out, despite the concerns described above for the NouriCel-MD products, there are several outstanding options to consider from SkinMedica, so you may indeed want to indulge.

For more information about SkinMedica, call (877) 944-1412 or visit www.SkinMedica.com.

By the way, SkinMedica's pharmaceutical arm produces such prescription products as Vaniqa, NeoBenz Micro (benzoyl peroxide), and EpiQuin Micro (contains 4% hydroquinone). Any physician can prescribe these products if necessary to address your skin-care concerns (or, in the case of Vaniqa, unwanted hair).

Member Comments

Summary of Member Comments

  1. How would you rate the results? (4 = Best)

    4 / 4 Best
  2. Was this product a good value? (4 = Best)

    4 / 4 Best
  3. Would you recommend this product? (4 = Best)

    4 / 4 Best
Page of 1
  1. sasha s.
    Reviewed on Tuesday, September 02, 2014
    • Value
      4 / 4
    • Recommend
      4 / 4
    • Results
      4 / 4
    So far so good
    • I wanted to start using a retinol product, but was a little afraid because I have sensitive skin. So far, this product has worked well. No irritation or dryness.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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