Opinion: Is Crème de la Mer worth it?
I often get asked my thoughts about the famously ultra-expensive Crème de la Mer “miracle” cream. I find clients/consumers want the truth and inside scoop from a professional skin therapist versus a beauty counter salesperson. Over the years this brand has built quite the reputation for itself and as one of the most talked-about cult-favorite face creams. It’s known for being super luxurious and the “goal” skincare product for many people. As a consumer and product developer, do I think the hefty $170 an ounce price tag is worth it? And as a holistic esthetician do I think the ingredients are skin-friendly, effective or even beneficial for the skin? Let’s dive in and talk about some of the main ingredients in this face cream, shall we….
To start, here’s a look at the full ingredient list:
Algae (Seaweed) Extract, Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Microcrystalline Wax, Lanolin Alcohol, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Extract, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Powder, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Seed Powder, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Meal, Sodium Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Gluconate, Magnesium Gluconate, Zinc Gluconate, Magnesium Sulfate, Paraffin, Tocopheryl Succinate, Niacin, Water, Beta-Carotene, Decyl Oleate, Aluminum Distearate, Octyldodecanol, Citric Acid, Cyanocobalamin, Magnesium Stearate, Panthenol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Citral, Sodium Benzoate, Alcohol Denat., Fragrance.
Seaweed (algae) Extract
We know that ingredients are listed from the most amount of the product to the least on the ingredient deck. Anything below the 1% mark can be listed in any order. Among the 37 ingredients on this list, the first ingredient is seaweed (algae) extract. The brand claims it's a super fancy smancy fermented seaweed that is only harvested twice a year to create its "miracle broth." While it does have some wonderful anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying benefits, it’s surprisingly highly comedogenic. So if you have skin that is prone to acne, clogged pores or blackheads this cream may not be suitable for your skin. I will also note it is not a very expensive or rare ingredient and is found in all kinds of items from food to beauty products regardless of the harvesting process.
Some meh ingredients
In my opinion, petroleum, mineral oil, and paraffin wax when used in skincare are just meh. These ingredients don't do much for the skin besides forming an occlusive barrier on the skin. I will also add these are all very inexpensive ingredients used in a very expensive formula. For example, a 400-pound/7,168 ounce drum of mineral oil cost roughly $346.
Fragrance, so much synthetic fragrance. While it’s listed last on the ingredient deck, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a low percentage. A little known tidbit, any ingredient below 1% can be rearranged by the brand in any order within that 1% range. This makes it seem as if certain non-desirable ingredients are lower concentrations while more desirable ingredients are higher up and more towards the middle of the ingredient list. It's a completely pointless ingredient that is only there to “enhance” the user experience and/or cover the smell of chemicals that aren’t appealing. It is a known skin irritant and the #1 cause of contact dermatitis according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It’s also been shown to mimic estrogen, cause hormonal imbalances and trigger asthma/allergies.
Decyl Oleate is a fatty acid emollient ingredient, however, it can be pore-clogging. Lanolin alcohol (basically sheep skin oil) is highly comedogenic for the skin and an animal-derived ingredient if that is of importance to you. Speaking of animals, La Mer is not cruelty-free
There are also several potential fragrance allergens like Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Citral. While these ingredients are technically “natural”, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are skin-friendly or can’t cause a reaction.
"I swear by it, it totally works!"
Let's understand how the skin operates and why some people see it as "working." You put anything on the skin that is highly occlusive and anything underneath will be locked in and natural oil trying to come out will be trapped. Sure, this may not be a bad thing for an extremely dry skin type, but for most, it can be clogging. Not to mention you'd get the same effect with a rich night cream from the drugstore for under $10. I also think this is a bit of a placebo effect.
So back to the question I receive all the time. What do I think about this cream as a consumer, a holistic esthetician and product developer?
Ingredient wise, this is a pretty basic moisturizer formula and it doesn't contain anything exceptional or unique. This essentially is an extremely expensive barrier cream full of inexpensive ingredients. Seaweed extract, petroleum, mineral oil, a few essential oils and vitamins plus, numerous thickening agents and preservatives do not warrant that price.
I think what is mainly being sold here is exclusivity, luxury and people like seeing that fancy expensive face cream on their bathroom counter. In my opinion, it’s a very outdated formula, it may have been an advancement for the 1970s when it was developed. Nowadays there are plenty of formulas that are much more beneficial to the skin and have a significantly less expensive price tag. Simply it's not worth the price for the ingredients you receive. Skin wise, in the entire formula I think there are a handful of beneficial ingredients, however, the rest is fluff, fillers and pore-clogging ingredients. Plus, if you find value in using clean skin-friendly formulas along with being cruelty-free, this is definitely not one of them.
So, there you have it, I'm not convinced. There are better formulated moisturizers out there!