Michael Todd True Organics

Knu Anti-Aging Serum

1.20 fl. oz. for $ 150.00
Expert Rating

Expert Reviews

Community Reviews



Brand Overview

Just like Michael Todd's Knu Anti Aging Face Lift Cream, its serum counterpart contains a mixed bag of beneficial and problematic ingredients, all at a price that will leave most people with a serious case of sticker shock.

This aloe-based serum (aloe is 99.5% water, so listing aloe as the first ingredient is really just another way to make it sound more concentrated when it really isn't) begins well with some good skin-repairing and water-binding agents, but the snail secretion ingredient is a joke, as there's no research proving it has any effect on signs of aging. How this ingredient got any hype as an anti-aging ingredient is a testament to just how crazy the cosmetics industry can be. It reminds us of anti-aging in the '80s, when thymus extract from young calves was said to be the surefire fix for wrinkles (in case you're wondering, it wasn't).

Although this serum contains a bevy of helpful (or potentially helpful) anti-aging ingredients for all skin types, it also contains fragrant citrus extracts and fragrant oils, including lemon, lavender, and neroli oils. Although all three pose a strong risk of irritation, you should know that lemon oil also puts the skin at risk of skin discolorations when applied without sun protection. Also, as we explain in the More Info section, lavender oil is a problem even in small amounts.

If the risk of irritation and discoloration from the fragrant oils isn't enough, we also need to be concerned about the controversial ingredients DMAE and epidermal growth factor.

First, let's take a closer look at why DMAE (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).

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). It 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, for some cancer treatments. At certain concentrations and lengths of application, growth factors can cause an overproliferation of 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 an 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.

In the end, this serum is one we cannot recommend. Check out our list of Best Serums for picks that are not only formulated without irritating ingredients but also less expensive.

  • Contains some very good anti-aging ingredients, including several peptides.
  • Lightweight, hydrating texture is suitable for all skin types.
  • Highly fragrant formula poses a risk of irritation, especially when applied daily or applied with the equally problematic Knu Anti Aging Face Lift Cream.
  • Contains controversial ingredients DMAE and epidermal growth factor.
  • Overpriced given the mixed bag formula.
More Info:

Daily use of highly fragrant products: 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).

Lavender oil: Research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application causes skin-cell death (Source: Cell Proliferation, June 2004, pages 221–229). Lavender leaves contain camphor, which is a known skin irritant. Because the fragrance constituents in lavender oil oxidize when exposed to air, lavender oil is a pro-oxidant, and this enhanced oxidation increases its irritancy on skin (Source: Contact Dermatitis, September 2008, pages 143–150). Lavender oil is the most potent form, and even small amounts of it (0.25% or less) are problematic. Although it's fine as an aromatherapy agent for inhalation or relaxation, it is a must to avoid in skin-care products (Sources: Psychiatry Research, February 2007, pages 89–96; and www.naturaldatabase.com).

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

KNU serum is a concentrated anti-aging serum made from 70% organic ingredients, including healing aloe vera and anti-oxidant cranberries, green tea and seaweed combined with our advanced proprietary blend of powerful ingredients clinically shown to accelerate repair and heal the skin. Reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of premature skin aging while at the same time providing anti-oxidant protection against future damage.

Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Juice, Isopentyldiol, Helix Aspersa extract (Snail Serum), Lactic Acid, Arbutin, Beta Glucan (Oat), L-Arginine, Phospholipids, Sh-Oligopeptide-1 (Epidermal Growth Factor), Butylene Glycol, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Glycerin (and) Butylene Glycol (and) Aqua (and) Carbomer (and) Polysorbate-20 (and) Palmitoyl Oligopeptide (and) Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 (Matrixyl 3000), Glycerine (and) Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-5 (Syn-Coll), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Culture Extract, Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Laminaria Japonica (Seaweed) Extract, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan), Butylene Glycol, Isomalt, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Benzoate, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Flower Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Organic Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), Sodium Phytate, Benzyl Alcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid


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.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our terms of use here.