The Flaccid Truth about NeriumFirm

matter with meOK, we admit it. When we first heard of a product named NeriumFirm (from the people who bring you Nerium AD) we thought they were getting into the erectile dysfunction market.  Another one of those creams to … well …  you know,  make some things work better.  We were wrong. What they claim to shrink and tighten are thighs, buttocks, abdomens, arms, but no mention of penises. Have they succeeded in creating another miracle? We hate to deflate that notion, but we are compelled to tell the truth. Even when the truth is embarrassing.

We don’t often review skincare products these days, but who could resist. Here we have a product containing an extract of cardiac glycosides (a known poison) claiming to do away with cellulite (what is that again?), dimpling (watch out Miranda Kerr), smooth and tighten loose skin (oh no, wait … just the ‘appearance” of loose skin –  not actual loose skin) and restore youthful contour, tone and texture. In other words, a liposuction in a bottle.  Lookie here:oh no-cellulite

A scientific breakthrough holds the answers to looking toned and smooth all year long. Following the historical success of the NeriumAD age-defying skincare line, Nerium International presents NeriumFirm Body Contouring Cream. NeriumFirm is a skin-tightening cream developed from the patented NAE-8 extract of the Nerium oleander plant. Its powerful antioxidant formulation has been clinically proven to reduce the appearance of cellulite and dimpling and to help smooth, tighten and firm the appearance of loose skin. NeriumFirm also helps restore the appearance of youthful contour, tone and texture.

Quite a feat, if it is true. But is it? As always, lets start with the logic, and an examination of the ingredients.  That should be the easy part, right? A sound hypothesis perhaps? Then we shall move on to the evidence.  is there any, and what quality. If you really force us to, we may comment on how it is sold, but only to make the point that it is not a hot seller at Target or CVS. Or any store for that matter, except maybe e-bay.  We will endeavor to explain why that might be the case.

Ingredients in NeriumFirmsharpei 3

NeriumFirm is the only contouring product on the market harnessing the power of the NAE-8 extract, the key ingredient in the renowned NeriumAD skincare line.

I believe that. What other company would be so cynical that they would add a known “massively oxidizing” chemical to a firming cream, for goodness sake? NeriumFirm contains five other key ingredients:clueless

  • Peptide matrix
  • Caffeine
  • White willow bark extract
  • Green tea leaf extract
  • Forskohlii root extract

Let’s start at the top with the term “peptide matrix”.  Now if you thought that means some actual peptides (a popular category of actives in cosmeceuticals) you would be logical, but you would be wrong. We thought the same. But then when you look on the label ingredients you see it is defined as “Peptide Matrix (Collagen, Elastin, Glycosaminoglycans)”.  Not a peptide in sight. Peptides are very small fragments of proteins. Not collagen or elastin (very large proteins) nor glycosaminoglycans (amino sugars). No self-respecting biochemist with even minimal credentials would ever call any of those constituents a peptide. So, once again, we are forced to conclude either an innocent mistake (ahem) or lack of knowledge / incompetence, or marketing manipulation. We report, you decide. collagen What about the “matrix” part?  The extracellular matrix (ECM) in our skin and other tissues is composed of an interlocking mesh of fibrous proteins and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). GAGs themselves are long unbranched polysaccharides (sugars, or amino sugars). They are important constituents of interstitial tissues in mammals, and largely responsible for maintaining hydration.  The best known is hyaluronate, which is the most prevalent constituent of  skin connective tissue, and a major product of dermal fibroblasts. While you can put matrix proteins in a bottle, matrix itself is far too complex. It contains many other components, cross links, etc. All-in-all, the term “peptide matrix” is a nonstarter, scientifically speaking. We are not necessarily opposed to including matrix proteins in a product, and they can be good moisturizers as they are quite good at holding onto water. But they are large molecules, and therefore not likely to penetrate if you merely slather them on normal skin. caffeineThe next ingredient is caffeine. This chemical (the “active” ingredient in coffee – well, it can make you more active) is widely used in slimming and firming creams, but for no sound reason. There is really no solid scientific evidence that it performs either purpose when applied to skin. The only studies documenting its usefulness in cellulite are seriously flawed  (I was a medical director for the sponsoring company of one of the two studies), and fail to distinguish between the effects of caffeine and multiple other ingredients including retinol,  tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine (THPE), carnitine, and forskolin.  What’s worse, in the classical first study published in 2001, weight loss wasn’t measured as a confounding factor.  Really bush league, that one. As respected colleague Paula Begoun points out, J&J had a product in the market which may have influenced the results of that study.  I would add to that insight that it came from a consumer products company in France that J&J inherited in some deal, and has no reliable track record in dermatologic research other than certifying oatmeal as safe to apply to skin.  If I had to guess, any effects actually measured were due to THPE (and contaminated by weight change). Or due to the fertile imagination of French cosmetic “scientists”. White willow bark is a folk remedy passed down through the millennia.  Salicin, the active ingredient in willow bark, is a salicylate, like aspirin. Salicin is famous for having caused the death of Ludwig von Beethoven. It seems he ingested large amounts of salicin before he died. His autopsy report is the first recorded case of a particular type of kidney damage that can be caused by salicin. So, here we have another chronic insidious poison being touted for skin. Roll over Beethoven! Now, you may have heard of another MLN selling skin products, called NuSkin. They have been in hot water with regulatory authorities, and courts, multiple times.  They are the beethovenones that popularized the idea that salicin is good for skin. They even hired some scientists to do some in vitro experiments.  I will now boldly tell you that these experiments were total and absolute crappola. This is one fine example of science distorted for a commercial purpose, with an incorrect interpretation of data in order to come to some “miraculous” conclusion.  I will explain briefly, but it could be the subject of a whole post. It is that bad. In one press release they claimed to have “discovered” this gene cluster. There is a cluster phrase in my mind right now, but it is not “cluster discovery”.  Let’s just call it “cluster gone amuck”. Suffice it to say, they discovered nothing. They chose (not discovered) a group of genes that have to do with matrix production (remember matrix is hyaluronic acid, GAGs, collagen, elastin, etc). Salicin increased to expression of genes HAS1 and HAS2 (both involved with the synthesis of hyaluronic acid or HA), and decrease the output of some other genes having to do with collagen breakdown. From this they concluded “salicin acts on youth genes”.   problem is, what they really “discovered” is a stress response.  In response to just about any kind of stress, biochemical or mechanical, fibroblasts and the cells that support them crank up the genetic machinery to make more HA & other matrix proteins. It’s a survival mechanism.  Salicin probably works really well (since we know it is a known toxin to kidney cells). Although I have proven in the past that these same genes are upregulated by spitting into your cell culture. Saliva alone is enough to perturb these cells to make matrix. There are other experiments by the NuSkin folks I won’t bother with. Let’s just call it “MLM Science” (MLM in this case= multi-level malarkey). I do find it interesting that Nerium International has decided it needs more than one potential toxin in its latest concoction. Nerium oleander was not enough? Green tree extract contains some helpful chemicals, and is antioxidant. Ho hum. Forskohlii root extract is another folk remedy, and may help weight loss when taken by mouth (weak evidence) but has no demonstrated benefit in changing anything when applied to skin.


“I wonder if any of the chemicals in here are flammable?” (Lead Nerium formulator)

Here are the label ingredients: Water, NAE-8 Proprietary Blend (Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Nerium Oleander Extract), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Peptide Matrix (Collagen, Elastin, Glycosaminoglycans), Caffeine, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Isohexadecane, Ceteareth-20, Polysorbate 80, Sorbitan Stearate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Dimethicone, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Coleus Forskohlii Root Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Disodium EDTA, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate.

zeroClinical Proof for NeriumFirm

Now, I would love to tell you about the clinical trial, but I couldn’t find one. maybe one will show up. There is a “user ” trial, which means only subjective measures, no objective measures.  In other words they gave a group of women some free product, lots of attention and praise, invited them to some do, and ask them “so, did you like the product”.  I’m worried for them that even with that low bar they couldn’t get 100% of the women to say “yes, we absolutely loved it.” Then they have some very strange before & after pictures with ABSOLUTELY NO CHANGES to the eyes of this highly experienced observer.

NeriumFirm Body Contouring Cream in Summaryb a

They include (why??)  the trademark poisonous substance (Nerium oleander extract)  proven (by parent company Nerium Biotechnology to be a “massively oxidizing” chemical & cell killer (and is used to treat cancer)  and then add a second (kidney) cell killer and a collection of largely unproven and uninspired ingredients. The rest of tge ingredients list is sadly deficient. Amateurish. Cheap stuff. The so-called clinical trial  is an opinion survey. The before afters are either ludicrous or impossible to see change. They want to charge $90 for this product? You could take out everything but the green tea extract and make it a better toner product. In which case it should sell for $15. In fact, here is one with green tree and about 15 other proven ingredients which you can buy from Paula for $16 The emperor has no clothes.  But he still runs naked in the street. Won’t somebody please tell him to stop embarrassing himself? NeriumFirm?  Flaccid as a marionette without strings.


The science switch is on the off position.  Caveat emptor.on off


  1. Marie Kwan says:

    You are mentally ill. People know that about you.

    • drjohn says:

      And they would know that how? Because that’s what Nerium says? We invite any of you have heave heard these or any similar types of things about the barefacedtruth docs at Nerium events or from Nerium people to contact us and let us know dates, places, and whom is speaking. Let’s just be open about this … it’s the fair and right thing to do. No more lurking in the shadows … that’s evil. Anyone willing to be forthcoming & honest?

      • chris says:

        yo dr. john…
        my friends are being suckered into this bulls*** in chicago now. i’m lucky to have found your blog. the reason its hard to find this blog is because of the copy & paste SEO strategy they have running with their brand partners. maybe people should start copying and pasting this blog… and maybe you should employ some stronger SEO techniques, (no offense) you’ve done some good stuff SEO wise… but the URL “nerium-part-2″ should be “nerium-scam” or something that may be searched. same with your title tag. Your H1 and H2 tags should be mentioning the scam as well. You could throw a couple hundred bucks at google, and raise this site to the top. Heck, take up a collection to pay for google adwords. you’ve done some great work, more people need to see this stuff.

        • drjohn says:

          We don’t have the time or knowledge to do those things. We rely on folks like you to spread the word. Thanks!

    • chris says:

      poor marie…
      you should take a trunkload of your nerium to the scientology center, and never leave.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Personal and petty attacks such as this are a terrible representation of your brand. Your attitude speaks volumes about the cult-like practices of Nerium.

  2. Hatchetwoman says:

    They are now touting NeriumFirm as a solution to the excess skin from serious weight loss. I’m not kidding. See healthy theresa dot nerium dot com. They claim skeptics are welcome …

  3. Justwondering says:

    I stumbled across your site while looking up info on Nerium. The things you say about it are quite interesting. I’m curious if you’ve written/researched this Itworks! craze that has recently become just as popular? I didn’t know where else to contact you, so I’m hijacking this post. Thanks!

    • drjohn says:

      Looks like a product line with a whole bunch of botanical extracts in it. Some quite good ones, mostly just same old. So lots of antioxidants, but really nothing more potent or modern than that. But nothing toxic looking on the label either. Mind you, not much different than what you can buy at Target. Not leading edge science, to be sure. We will do a post soon using a skin care pyramid recently published on one of our dermatology journals. Helps to make sense of classes of ingredients in terms of potency, low to high science, evidence base, and that sort of thing.

  4. spadirector says:

    I think your article is very useful and your sense-of-humor is simply very, very intelligent, even though you balance the knowledge and non-nonsense facts with some less academic banter. I’ve been in this business forever and I totally agree this product is worthless. People like this only because it apparently is sold through a pyramid scheme, meetings like tupperware or something, world of mouth and just high enough price to give it airs of high-end quality, total BS…..Thank you so much for informing and doing this important job.

  5. Trish says:

    Wow. I was just surfing the net looking for some info on Nerium. Is your entire blog dedicated to defaming this product? I am a realist and more than willing to look at both sides of a story. But I’m a bit hesitant to take your content seriously. You are biased.

    • drjohn says:

      Did you bother to look around? Lots of other content. Oh, but wait. You were told by your Nerium handlers how to respond to any criticism … go after the whistleblowers.

      • Leo says:

        No, we call you cuckoos and don’t waste our time. This company is like no other. I usually don’t reply to these posts and we definitely are not told to go after whistle-blowers. You have no idea of the class and respect behind this company

        • drjohn says:

          We have heard what they call us behind closed doors, and sometimes in public, and it is far worse than “cuckoo”. You clearly have no idea of the complete and utter lack of class or even basic human decency of this company.

    • Shel says:

      He’s biased by science and facts, apparently. Things that are sorely lacking when it comes to the internet and Nerium.

  6. Terri says:

    I just saw Nerium’s latest pictures pushing their Firm product that Hatchetwoman is talking about. Anyone with functioning brain cells would know that the results they are showing could not be achieved without a visit to a licensed plastic surgeon. I honestly don’t understand how Nerium brand partners can be so delusional (or so dishonest) that they can sell this crap.

  7. Sue says:

    GOD I love this website!!!! I can’t get enough of your wisdom and honesty! The world NEEDS more of you! We are long time “Paula followers” and now you . . .

    You absolutely ROCK! Keep up the GREAT work!!!

  8. jackie says:

    Great info, stellar wit! I really wanted this product to work…boo-hoo, it didn’t. Seriously, it gave me a rash on my tush. I wonder which fancy toxin-matrix did that? Keep up the debunking, I’m a fan.

    • drjohn says:

      Toxic tushitis. I think I read about that in last month’s Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

  9. Marla says:

    I am 59, and have deep wrinkles around my mouth. They are softening and fading! Visable results! I used my Iphone to take my before pics. No special lenses, no tricks. Same with my progress pics. I wish I could post, because the results are remarkable. Everyone make their own judgement, but my “proof” is me.

  10. Bill says:

    Very informative blog that you have written mostly as opinion. I say that because no where in your blog did I see that you prove or disprove a product by doing your own personal testing. So it leads me to ask, wouldn’t everything that you have written be an opinion that you have formulated for yourself instead of science?

    • drjohn says:

      Its the other way around. If i tried the product that would be an opinion. If I compare what the company says about it (what’s in it, why it should work, etc.) and compare that the what is widely published – that would be science. Opinion yes, but opinion based on summation and interpretation of extensive, peer-reviewed, legitimate science.

  11. Kelly says:

    Great breakdown of the product! Applying humor will always entice me to read the entire piece. I actually gave NeriumAD the full 90 day trial with before and after photos. They were good photos (photography is a hobby of mine that I occasionally make extra money from shooting weddings) and I did my best to use the total absence of facial expression. I used an app to show the photos side by side…and nope. No improvement whatsoever! If anything, I’d redeveloped a texture problem that had been solved by my previous product line *sigh*. I’ve exercised good skin care technique since my Mom gave me my first Clinique products when I was 14. I’m now 50 and no one ever believes me when I own my age. The first Nerium introductory party I went to, there were a couple of women there who said they’d seen a difference, but added that they’d done nothing more than wash their faces as their skin care regime prior to trying NeriumAD. At the time I thought “well duh! Anything with moisturizing ingredients would make a difference on thirsty skin”. No thirsty skin here, so nada.

  12. Stacy says:

    Thank you for this. I’m a longtime Paula fan. I’ve used her products and followed her advice for years. Recently my Facebook feed is blowing up with testimony and pictures of this miracle NeriumFirm. I knew it was bogus!

    • Leo says:

      You just need to try it before you listen to someone. Then come back and repost. They give you 30 days free trial. IT is that awesome!! What you see all over your facebook is real!! Don’t knock it until you try it. Then you can bash away all you want if you weren’t happy

      • drjohn says:

        TRANSLATION: ignore all the universities and medical journals and textbooks and doctors with degrees in medicine and science. They are “cuckoo”. Just buy it (preferably from me so I can make money). Even though we charge you for it, let’s call it free. Just try and get your money back and see how we respond. Lots of fine print. Lets all use the word happy while we extract dollars from your purse or pocket, because that is what we really sell. Except of course for those poor suckers who lose money on the proposition. But they are just bashers. Let’s call everyone who disagrees a basher.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Normally I’d say “gee okay I’ll give it a try, after all – it’s easy to find free samples of the stuff”. But in this case, you must understand that I am VERY reluctant to rub a cell-killing poison all over my face without proper evidence suggesting that it is safe and effective. And by proper evidence, I mean a peer-reviewed study specifically addressing the anti-aging properties of the Oleander leaf. I will happily re-consider my position if you could please send us such a study. Thank you!

  13. Jenifer Dimacali says:

    Who cares what your scientific review says when people have pictures that prove that it works for them? Why break down every ingredient? If it works, it works! Lol

    • drjohn says:

      Jennifer, I am going to hold my tongue and allow our faithful readers to comment on your logic and its consequences in the real world.

    • Cynthia says:

      It WORKS? At what cost to your health? This is why clinical studies are important, duh! Consider the long-term effects, and remember you’re rubbing this garbage on the most vital organ – your SKIN. I ordered Nerium AD before doing any real research on it. Not brilliant. I rubbed it between my thumb and forefinger and not only did it stink (which I realize is aesthetic and a matter of opinion), but my fingers were numb for over 7-hours. The sensation was kinda like rubbing hydrogen peroxide between your fingers. The skin of the face is much more sensitive… and close to the BRAIN. You ABSORB this toxic mixture into your dermis and cells… nerium oleander is commonly used for skin cancer so, like chemo, it kills cells. There is little in the way scientific proof to substantiate their claims. And why is that? Finally, this is a company that hooks you into an Auto Delivery Plan of product, and coaxes people into a Pyramid Scheme by offering “free” product if you bamboozle three of your friends to buy under you (nice way to create enemies). Thankfully, I have learned my lesson, kicked my vanity to the curb and cancelled the same day it arrived. Think about it.

    • sj says:

      Every single before/after picture I’ve seen is a case of obvious lighting differences, facial tension, and picture settings. Some even go as far as makeup and photoshop.

  14. Cheri says:

    Dr. John, Have you nothing better to do in life than bash a product/company’s science? Try reading up on the science and researching our own medical spa doctor and then we’ll talk…perhaps, if you can reveal some iota of emotional intelligence.

  15. Kara says:

    Omg I love this site. First off I tried to exain this to my cousins two of them sisters who sell this. I ask them for their pics and guess what I get crickets nothing response. Your better off using natural oils. Also if you baked yourself through your teens and twenties in a tanning bed then your screwed.

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