“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” | BareFacedTruth.com

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

This old adage only applies when you know you are being fooled. If cleaver marketing with coined slogans and verbiage in involved, it is quite possible to be fooled over and over and not even know it.

BFT feels the skincare purchasing public has a right to know the facts, especially in cases where ethical and moral boundaries are possibly being violated. This may be one of those instances. Our opinion is there is sufficient evidence to raise the issue.

A recent encounter at July 2019’s The Aesthetic Show in Las Vegas renews BFT’s concerns about transparency in disclosing to the public the source of cell culture derived bio-signals in skincare products. Many people will not care a whit; others may care a great deal. It is for the latter group that BFT once again raises the issue.

For background, readers may wish to re-visit a prior BFT post from November 2016: http://barefacedtruth.com/2016/11/22/what-csc14-cells-actually-come-from-human-embryos/.

We wonder yet gain about the ethical moorings of the same company that is mentioned in the BFT post identified above. Before getting into the details of our concerns, a little review.

Intercellular Communication

The last several decades yielded important advances in our understanding of cellular biology and inter-cellular communication. All human cells, except red blood cells, are now known to participate in an extraordinarily complex cellular “language”, the words of which are the molecular bio-signals that activate corresponding cellular membrane receptors. Receptor activation in turn initiates a cascade of bio-chemical processes within the cell that affect protein synthesis and the up or down regulation of genes.

There are hundreds of identified “words”. These include growth factors, cytokines, chemokines, interleukins, interferons and others. As discussed abundantly on BFT, different kinds of cells secrete different patterns of bio-signals, and the cumulative effect of the pattern secreted by each type of cell has distinguishing characteristics.

The genetics of the cell type cultured are the primary determinants of what biosignals are produced in the laboratory. During our discussions about skin aesthetics on BFT, we have focused largely on whether or not a particular cell type secretes a net pro-inflammatory or net anti-inflammatory biosignal pattern. Our premise, of course, is that inflammation is a proven pro-aging factor, regardless of what causes it or what organ system is involved. Chronic inflammation, even when sub-clinical, is pro-aging. Period.

Cell Types cultured and Biosignals produced

Several kinds of cells are cultured to produce skin product ingredients. The cells most notably used as sources of biosignals for skincare are fibroblasts, and stem cells from fat, bone marrow, umbilical cord, placenta, and as we learned once again in Las Vegas, human embryos.

Human embryos? Apparently so, according to what your BFT host was told by one of the people at the Root of Skin exhibitor booth at The Aesthetics Show. If this reminds you of another brand of product that we profiled several years ago, it should, also from the same company.

Remember this one?

Provoque® – the next big thing – for a while 

Provoque®, the product that was the topic of the November 2016 BFT post, contained ingredients harvested from conditioned media of CSC14 cell cultures. That’s what Aivita Biomedical, the maker of Provoque®, were promulgating in their marketing materials. No where did they mention that CSC14 cells were, in fact, human embryonic stem cells donated by an anonymous couple who consented to their use for research purposes.

Ignoring the fact that BFT has issues with the particulars of the embryonic stem cell secretome (what the cells produce in culture), and their suitability for chronic use in skincare, Aivita Biomedical’s failure to mention the specific type of cells they use in their technology is troubling… again.

Our concern was and is simple, BFT considers it misleading to sell products containing human embryonic stem cell-derived ingredients without telling consumers, some of whom might have significant ethical concerns or objections.

If BFT readers Google Provoque®, interesting information emerges. LovelySkin.com states that Provoque Facial Serum has been discontinued. The Aivita Biomedical website still mentions the product and has a search function to find a physician reseller, which turns out to be a digital dead end. Instead of providing a means to find a reseller, the viewer sees a list of press releases from Aivita Biomedical.

What was Claimed that made ProvoqueTM Different or Unique?

ProvoqueTM contained the growth factors, cytokines and other substances produced by CSC14 cells. The article below was cited in the marketing materials for ProvoqueTM, creating the strong implication that the purported revolutionary cosmetic ingredient was is in it.

When we reviewed this article long ago, our observation was the purported conclusions could not be reached because the study design, a “vehicle controlled” study, was not the methodology used for the research described. Our opinion remains that the title is misleading, and the data does not support the conclusion. The article was nonetheless the focal point of the Provoque® marketing campaign.

One of the authors of this article is CEO of Aivita Biomedical. The cells identified in the article as the type being cultured are CSC14 cells, easily determined as the NIH (National Institute Health) designation given to a certain strain of embryonic stem cells. Approval of these cells for research resulted from an application of a company domiciled at the same address and office number as Aivita Biomedical. That company, California Stem Cell, Inc., is involved in medical stem cell research. Their logos have an uncanny family resemblance and have had the same scientist as CEO.





From an Aivita Biomedical Press Release dated May 13, 2016

“Thanks to our unique in vitro culture system, PROVOQUE Facial Serum has over 25 stem cell-derived growth factors, which can help improve the appearance of the skin.” 

Was not Identifying and Naming CSC14 Cells as Embryonic Stem Cells Deliberate?

 It is possible to search the internet and learn that CSC14 cells are indeed of human embryonic origin but BFT can only envision a few (if any) consumers having ever done so. Does it matter that human embryonic stem cells are being cultured to create skincare products? For many people, this question is much less important than whether or not the product works.

If you do care, do you think the information being provided to the public by the company is frank and candid? Or deliberately intended to avoid revealing what for some people might be considered immoral, maybe even sinful?

BFT would be interesting in learning what our readers think.

Root of SkinTM MD also “Mum” on the Subject of Embryonic Stem Cells

Root of SkinTM MD (there is also a less potent consumer version) is the latest skincare brand from Aivita Biotechnology. As would be expected, Aivita Biotechnology’s website marketing understandably lauds their science team’s credentials and accomplishments. Nowhere, however, is the any mention of CSC14 cells as being the source of product ingredients. We assume the information we obtained from the Root of SkinTM exhibitor booth personnel is correct. Evidently, the company continues to culture embryonic (CSC14) stem cells to obtain their bio-signals – again without informing the purchasing public.

Aivita BioMedical has coined a new brand name for the science found within the Root of SkinTM products:


Now, all we have to do is try to figure out what this means. Quotes from their website hype the technology but in a cryptic and hyperbolic way that looks like the marketers had a field day thinking of superlatives.

Root of Skin™ is expertly formulated by world leaders in stem cell science and pioneers in regenerative medicine.

  • They harnessed decades of discovery in restoration and healing – leading to the ultimate discovery.
  • Root of Skin™ cracked the code to unlock the skin’s ability to renew itself, as if from day one.
  • Patented, proprietary, SourceCode Technology™ does more than just boost regeneration. It uniquely empowers your skin to renew itself like it does in its youngest and healthiest stage.
  • Root of Skin™ formulas contain the complete set of naturally occurring biological components relevant to skin rejuvenation. Providing everything your skin needs, and nothing it doesn’t.

Other Places, Other Brands

Aivita Biomedical is busy in the skincare market but its business doesn’t rest solely on the Root of SkinTM and Root of SkinTM MD brands. A series of news releases chronicles the eight sell-out successes of ROOT of SKIN™ on Japan’s QVC channel. The company is promoting its active ingredients broadly to companies for applications in their own skincare products. Mention has been made by the CEO that AiVita has been in discussions with nine other skincare firms who are considering incorporating the ingredients in their own brands.

Profits Pledged to Benefit Ovarian Cancer

Skincare products are evidently not the only focus at Aivita, being that it appears to be a follow-on or derivative company of California Stem Cell, Inc. The company also actively researches innovative immunologic treatments for glioblastoma (brain cancer) and ovarian cancer, as well as the use of stem cells in treatments for retinal disorders. The company website and literature states that “all proceeds from product (Root of Skin and Root of Skin MD) sales support AIVITA’s clinical development pipeline”, specifically their ovarian cancer research.

No one can reasonably be critical of such support for this important cancer research, and BFT applauds Aivita Biomedical’s use of skincare sales generated funds. We wonder, nonetheless, is this declaration in any way intended to take public’s eye off another issue – where does “Soucecode TechnologyTM The Ultimate Discovery” some from?

Could it possibly be from human embryonic stem cells? Some people will care a great deal if it is.

What do you think?


  1. Diya says:

    Great article, thank you both. I’m a long time user and fan of the Anteage serum and I love it! I have a question, I came upon this thing: https://augustinusbader.com/skincare. Any thoughts on this TCF8 technology?

    • drjohn says:

      Complete poppycock.

      “TFC8®, our proprietary Trigger Factor Complex. TFC8® comprises natural amino acids, high-grade vitamins and synthesised molecules naturally found in skin.” To which i say, so what? There is no credible evidence that simple nutrients slathered on skin does any good. If it did i would recommend simply applying your morninf protein shake to your face as well as drinbing it. Same thing.

      Then there is the ridiculous claim that it “stimulates stem cells” by “mobilising the body’s own biological wisdom to regenerate and heal” & “The stem cells found in skin lie dormant, awaiting an activation signal”. This is made up stuff. We see this all the time. They want to use the words stem cell, but are clueless about the actual science, So they make the stuff up. Like the snail snot people. One year it was a peptide, the next year it was a stem cell stimulator. Total crappola.

      Of course, I can tell you some ways that stem cells might get stimulated in skin. How about we apply poison ivy? That mobilizes them. They are trying to defend against a toxin.
      So if you really want a potent “stem cell mobilizer” go to the poison isle at your local hardware store. (please note I am being facetious and do not try this at home).
      Enough quackery in skin care!!!

  2. Patricia Lilley says:

    I have enjoyed reading this article from start to finish. The raw honesty is so damn refreshing. Please continue to publish articles like this. I was researching Root of Skin after seeing a commercial and found it odd they were not specific on ingredients. Now I think I know why. I agree that these people should let consumers know the basic details of the stem cell research involved in their products.

  3. DrGeorge says:

    Just finished looking at the Root-of-Skin website. Nice glowing nebulous verbiage devoid of any details about the basics of their stem cell science, and especially the type and origin of the stem cells they culture. Without further clarification, we continue to wonder if their cells are the CSC14 cells we mentioned in our previous BFT posts, which, as regular BFT readers know, are true actual human embryonic stem cells donated long ago by the parents of the embryo. They were grandfathered by the George W. Bush administration for use in scientific research. From writings within the last parental donation consent for CSC14 cells we obtained through public online sources, mention was made about use by parties (also involved and affiliated with the company that produces the Root-of-Skin brand) in “Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and possibly use of CSC14 in future research programs.” The language also made it clear the parental consent could not be withdrawn and that the cells might be used “for research or for the treatment of others.” We wonder if that was ever intended to mean helping people contend with the signs of aging skin. We are quite certain it was not. Legal use? Perhaps. Ethical use? You decide.

  4. Trish says:

    I am using AnteAge products and I can not find any clear information about the interaction of growth factors and other skin care actives. Is it true that acidic skin care products (AHA, BHA, Ascorbic acid) destroy growth factors? I need to use acids for acne and wonder if it is true. Would it help if I wait for some time after the acid application so that it deactivates and then I apply growth factors? Also would it be ok to use both growth factors and peptides at the same time? Their benefits are different and I do need both. And if I do use both what should I apply first – peptides or growth factors? I read that using too many signaling actives at the same time can “confuse” skin. Would it help waiting between the applications? Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge!

  5. drgeorge says:

    We have never tested GF and cytokine activity or structural damage to these biosignals at low pH levels, so the following is informed guesswork. Normal mammalian physiologic pH, and therefore the range in which GF/cytokine actually function in vivo, is roughly 7.4, or slightly alkaline. If we assume topically applied biosignals optimally function in this range, anything deviating from this number is likely to reduce efficacy and perhaps cause structural damage to the signaling molecule. The greater the deviation, the greater the negative effect. The normal pH of skin is around 5.5, or slightly acidic, although it can fall in a broad range from pH 4.0 to 7.0. This, of course, is the pH on the skin surface. Slightly acidic pH enhances adhesion of resident skin microflora, a good thing. Penetrating into deeper skin layers and pH approaches the 7.4 number. Alphahydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric, citric, mandelic) are water-soluble and have pH of 3 to 5 in use. Betahydroxy acids are more lipid-soluble, enhancing penetration into the skin. They also have pH levels of 3 to 5 in use and the classic example is salicylic acid. They are more “aggressive” in use. Polyhydroxy acids have larger molecular size and hence are less able to penetrate the skin. They include gluconolactone and lactobionic acids and are less likely to cause irritation.

    A general rule, based more on deductive reasoning and not published scientific data, is returning the skin to a more physiologic pH prior to application of GF and cytokines is a sound rational approach.

    The skin functions following the application of biosignals and peptides with a simple “stimulus-response” action. We don’t buy the argument that the skin gets “confused” although application of biosginals with opposing effects may be counterproductive. A good example is our contention that the body normally operates with many, many biosignals creating a physiologic “millieu”. The best example being how conditioned media from different types of cell cultures may provide a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory net response.

    Hope this is helpful.

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