It's been a thing I've heard for a long time now, but I simply thought it was some sort of slander campaign. I recently read an article in Boston magazine which said

"the active ingredient in an Oprah-touted skin cream from SkinMedica uses “foreskin fibroblasts” that are used to grow and cultivate new cells"

There are many articles who say similar things about many makeup products. The common denominator, is that foreskin, in some form or another is a common, and well-accepted ingredient in many makeups.

Another article from vice says:

From snail mucus to bee venom, the cosmetic industry is known for using off-kilter ingredients on its never-ending quest to bottle an infantile glow. The latest unexpected ingredient to tip into public consciousness is neonatal foreskin fibroblasts. That is, foreskins acquired from freshly-circumcised babies.

What truth is there in foreskins from human infants being used in cosmetic production? I'm specifically interested in whether they've been used in commercial products, available to the general public. I'm not interested about use in one-off runs, home remedies, or products which were manufactured in the distant past (50+ years ago.)

  • The main issue here is whether these cells are from a cell line, which is very likely and cell lines have been the source of similar arguments before. I couldn't find a reliable reference for this case in a quick search, so I didn't write an answer. The difference with a cell line is that those are reproduced essentially unlimited in the lab so there would not be foreskin in the cream but cells derived from a single foreskin harvested years or decades ago.
    – Mad Scientist
    Commented Jul 7 at 7:37
  • 1
    Such things happen but these are exceptional. I don't think that any human body part could be put into anything in any civilized country.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jul 8 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


Shortest answer: Yes, within the standard error for reporters reporting on science.

Short answer: It would be correct to say:

"some active ingredient[s] in an Oprah-touted skin cream from SkinMedica are manufactured use[ing] “foreskin fibroblasts” that are supposed to grow new cells"

Long answer: Quoting this review:

Circumcision is one of the most performed surgical procedures worldwide, and it is estimated that one in three men worldwide is circumcised, which makes the preputial skin removed after surgery an abundant material for possible applications. In particular, it is possible efficiently to isolate the cells of the foreskin, with fibroblasts being the most abundant cells of the dermis and the most used in biomedical research.

the cells exhibit rapid and continuous proliferation in the presence of serum

From your linked article:

[The] growth factors captured from the donated foreskin of a baby (just one can generate over a million treatments) are at their peak ability in promoting rapid cell turnover. Applied topically, they spur adult skin cells to regenerate. This is said to have a smoothing effect on the skin.”

Their use in TNS from SkinMedica appears to be confirmed by this review, though the journal is only IF 2.3 and I do not see the references they give obviously support the statements. However for these purposes I think it is confirmation enough:

The TNS product line includes TNS Recovery Complex and TNS Essential Serum. TNS products contain conditioned medium obtained from neonatal foreskin fibroblast culture[27][28].

Here is a description of something similar, link [28] in the above quote. Please note this is just here to support the claim it is used, I am not claiming this is sufficient evidence of efficacy.

A topical gel containing a proprietary mixture of over 110 growth factors, cytokines, and soluble matrix proteins secreted by human dermal fibroblasts was evaluated for safety and efficacy in the treatment of mild to severe facial photodamage. ... This study demonstrates that addition of a topical formulation of growth factors and cytokines to a basic skin care regimen reduces the signs of photoaging.

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    – Jamiec
    Commented Jul 10 at 7:57

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