Michael Todd True Organics

Knu Anti Aging Face Lift Cream

1.70 fl. oz. for $ 150.00
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By far the Michael Todd True Organics product we're asked about the most is this Knu Anti-Aging Face Lift Cream. Aside from being overhyped, it is an overall disappointing formula. It contains a blend of beneficial ingredients, emollients, and antioxidants alongside potent irritants that can have a pro-aging effect on the skin. This isn't a face-lift in a jar (but you knew that, right?), and the amount of irritating ingredients it contains is problematic. Speaking of jars, Michael Todd True Organics recently upgraded the packaging for the Knu Anti-Aging Face Lift Cream to an airless jar, which is helpful in keeping what beneficial ingredients that are present protected from light and air exposure. However, that's not enough to save this formula—read on to find out why.

The array of citrus extracts present contain potent allergens (such as the fragrance ingredient limonene) that can cause a phototoxic reaction when skin is exposed to the sun, risking discolorations/brown spots and worsening red marks from breakouts (Source: www.naturaldatabase.com). We'll go out on a limb and assume that more dark spots and skin damage isn't what you're hoping for when shopping for anti-aging products—no matter how much they cost!

If you're wondering about the hyped snail secretion (Helix aspersa extract) in the formula—just about the only benefit it has for skin is as a moisturizing agent. There are some data to support its use as an ingredient in burn ointments, but that's not going to stave off wrinkles or somehow lift sagging skin, plus there are other far more well-established ingredients to heal burns than this.

Sadly, there's more to be concerned about beyond the citrus and fragrance (see More Info for additional details on why fragrance is such a problem for skin)—this moisturizer also contains the controversial ingredients DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) and epidermal growth factor (sh-Oligopeptide-1).

First, let's take a closer look at why DMAE bitartrate, also known as dimethylaminoethanol, is controversial. DMAE research has conflicting results in terms of its anti-aging effectiveness and subsequent risk to the skin. It seems to offer an initial benefit that improves the skin, but these results are short-lived and eventually give way to destruction of the substances in skin that help build healthy collagen (Sources: Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, November-December 2007, pages 711–718; and American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, volume 6, 2005, pages 39–47).

Interestingly enough, Michael Todd True Organics found this ingredient acceptable, but indicates numerous times on their website and product packaging that parabens (which have plenty of global safety research data) are somehow a health risk. Talk about cherry-picking the research!

Turning to the epidermal growth factor (EGF), there's research showing it to be helpful for wound and burn healing (Sources: Journal of Controlled Release, April 2007, pages 169–176; and Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation, March–April 2002, pages 116–125), but there's also research showing that its effect is no different from that of a placebo, meaning it may not be effective at all (Sources: The British Journal of Surgery, February 2003, pages 133–146; and Wounds, 2001, volume 13, number 2, pages 53–58). EGF can have anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin (Source: Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology, January-April 1999, pages 79–84), although it also can promote tumor growth (Source: Journal of Surgical Research, April 2002, pages 175–182). Now that's a case of mixed results!

In general, the potentially frightening consequences of growth factors come into play when they are taken internally; for example, in some cancer treatments. At certain concentrations and lengths of application, growth factors (there are many kinds, of which EGF I one) can cause overproliferation of skin cells. This overabundance of cells causes problems, one result of which is, ironically, cancer.

No one is exactly certain what happens when EGF is applied to healthy, intact skin, but there is concern that repeated application can cause overproliferation of skin cells, and that's not good. (Psoriasis is an example of what happens when skin cells are overproduced.) Reassuringly, most researchers believe that topical application of growth factors has zero benefit, other than looking impressive on the label and allowing cosmetics companies to charge exorbitant amounts because the implication is that you're getting something revolutionary.

As for the AHA ingredients in this product, the pH of the moisturizer isn't within the range needed for them to exfoliate, so this is not an exfoliant and moisturizer in one.

This product is not only absurdly expensive, it's a waste of money and a potential problem for the skin. Nothing in this moisturizer can lift or tighten sagging skin, at least not to an extent that'll have you canceling that appointment with a cosmetic surgeon. The multiple factors that contribute to sagging cannot be addressed by skin-care products alone, so relying on skin care to stop sagging isn't the answer—especially when sunscreen isn't part of the plan, as is the case here. See More Info to find out why products claiming to lift sagging skin cannot do that.

  • Contains some beneficial ingredients for dry skin.
  • Potent fragrance ingredients put skin at daily risk of irritation.
  • Contains the controversial ingredient DMAE bitartrate.
  • Amount of citrus oils puts skin at risk of a phototoxic reaction if exposed to sunlight.
  • Ridiculously expensive for the limited benefits (and irritating formula).
  • Cannot lift or tighten sagging facial skin.
More Info:

Irritation from 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 to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin. (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135 and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22.)

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

The creme de la creme of age-defying skin treatments, Knu is a fast-acting anti-aging cream containing MICHAEL TODD true organics advanced proprietary blend of Epidermal Growth Factor, Tri-peptides, plant stem cells and snail serum complex in a base of 70% organic ingredients with no added water, dyes, artificial fragrance, parabens, sulfates or other harsh chemicals. Clinically proven ingredients heal, repair and speed cell renewal while providing antioxidant protection against further damage. Gently firms, lifts and tightens facial sag almost immediately while reducing density, volume and depth of wrinkles and loss of elasticity over time to transform skin texture to appear more youthful looking.

Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Juice, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Glycerine (and) Butylene Glycol (and) Carbomer (and) Polysorbate 20 (and) Palmitoyl Oligopeptide (and) Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (Matrixyl 3000), Glycerine (and) Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 (Syn-Coll), Copper Tripeptide-1, Sh-Oligopeptide-1 (Epidermal Growth Factor), Gluconolactone, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Oat Beta Glucan, Organic Glycerine, Helix Aspersa Extract (Snail Serum), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Culture Extract, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Salix Nigra (Black Willow Bark) Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Organic Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Extract, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii ( Shea) Butter, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Panthenol (VitaminB5), Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), Glycine, Sorbitol, Isomalt, Phospholipids, Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate 60, Cetyl Phosphate, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Oil, Disodium EDTA, Dehydroacetic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerine.


Several products contain a good range of anti-aging ingredients; products are packaged to keep the light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable during use; good moisturizing mask.


Many of the products are highly fragrant and/or contain fragrant plant extracts or oils known to be irritating; several of the serums contain the exact same ingredients, just listed in a different order, which makes things needlessly confusing; in a line full of anti-aging lotions and potions; no options with reliable amounts of ingredients proven to treat dark spots, red marks from acne, or breakouts; the claim of aloe being special for skin is overinflated.

What do the popular hair accessory line called SCUNCI (aka "scrunchy") and the natural-themed skin-care brand Michael Todd True Organics have in common? Both are associated with a man named Lewis Hendler. Hendler founded SCUNCI in the early '90s and sold the company to Conair in 2005. Then, in 2008, Hendler acquired the little-known Michael Todd True Organics skin-care brand.

As we understand it, there really was someone named Michael Todd who played a role in the brand's history, but there's no mention of the real Michael Todd to be found on the company's website. We did find a press release explaining that he is or was a model and actor, but that's about it. Hendler is the brand's public face, along with a few lesser known celebrities.

This Florida-based company has captured the attention of many consumers due to its claims of using natural and organic ingredients coupled with active anti-aging and anti-acne ingredients (all of which, by the way, are synthetic, which is just fine for skin, just not as "all natural" as the company wants you to believe).

Like many natural-themed lines, Michael Todd True Organics promotes some of the most absurd and misleading information imaginable about skin and skin care. A big onedirectly from the owner himselfis that everything we put on our skin is absorbed into the body cosmetic ingredients go right past the skin and into the bloodstream. If that were true (it isn't, thank goodness, but we'll get to that shortly), then moisturizers couldn't moisturize, exfoliants couldn't remove the top layers of dead, dried skin, and sunscreens would not prevent sunburns or tanning. Most skin-care ingredients do their job by staying on top (or at least in the top layers) of the skin, not by being absorbed into the body.

In essence, if absorption into the body were true, then even Hendler would have to admit that his own products (many of which contain problematic ingredients like neem oil and/or lavender oil, which are toxic when ingested) would do little for the skin because as soon as you apply thempoof! They're in the body, just like as soon as you swallow food it's on its way to your digestive system.

The truth is that skin is a very good barrier, and that it's difficult to get cosmetic ingredients to penetrate much past the uppermost layers, much less into the bloodstream, as almost all cosmetics chemists will tell you. The good news is that keeping skin-care ingredients, such as moisturizing agents, skin-repairing ingredients, sunscreen actives, and antioxidants, in the skin's outermost layers is really helpfulit means that the skin's surface (its first line of defense) has a better chance of remaining healthy, smooth, and better able to protect itself against environmental damage. But assuming everything we put on our skin did get into the body, thinking that natural ingredients are safer is wrong; there are hundreds of problematic natural ingredients that could cause serious health problems if they routinely got into the body.

Michael Todd True Organics is big on promoting what their products don't contain, including water, which is bizarre given that water is one of the most natural ingredients on earth. But, more to the point, these products absolutely do contain water in the form of aloe juice; aloe is 99.5% water (Sources: Indian Journal of Dermatology, volume 53, issue 4, 2008, pages 163166; and http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/6.html#Js2200e.6). You're not really getting a more concentrated product simply because it's based on aloe rather than pure water.

What's important to know is that there are good and bad natural ingredients, as well as good and bad synthetic ingredients. Seeing a preponderance of natural ingredients on a skin-care label is no guarantee the product you're considering is better or safer than one that contains natural and synthetic ingredients.

The Michael Todd brand also avoids the usual group of ingredients that have been given an undeserved bad rap, such as parabens, sulfates, triclosan, mineral oil, and synthetic fragrances, all of which we discuss elsewhere on our website (A quick summary: None of the aforementioned ingredients are dangerous for skin. If you still are concerned, don't think for a minute that this is the only line that leaves them out!)

What Michael Todd's product information doesn't tell you about is the extensive amount of research that shows how problematic the fragrant oils and plant extracts that they include in their products are. The irony is that the ingredients they brag about not using are comparably better and, yes, safer for your skin! That's not to say that this brand's products are unsafe; rather, it's to illustrate the point that synthetic ingredients aren't automatically evil, and that all-natural ingredients are not angelic.

The company definitely ups the beneficial ante with ingredients like retinol, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and vitamins (all synthetic by the way), but these great ingredients are surrounded by not-so-great ingredients, many of which are overly fragrantand the research is clear: Fragrance isn't skin-caring in the least.

Sadly, what you get with almost the entire Michael Todd line is a mixed bag. Product after product contains a frustrating mix of beneficial and problematic ingredientsand many of the products pose a strong risk of irritation, especially those with numerous citrus oils, and irritation is always bad for skin, whether the source is synthetic or natural.

For more information on Michael Todd True Organics, call 772-343-0222 or visit www.michaeltoddtrueorganics.com .

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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