Creams of the Crop: Beauty’s Most Extravagant Splurges

It all started with Creme de la Mer, which urban legend had that Jennifer Lopez slathered all over her body with reckless abandon. Following suit, more beauty brands trotted out creams with supremely indulgent ingredients, including caviar, fine wines, precious metals, sheep placenta and more. These days, classic Creme de la Mer seems practically primeval compared to some of the high-tech claims touted in some creams. We gathered up some of the most wallet-busting splurges on the beauty counters and pinpointed what sets them apart. Will they give you that signature J. Lo glow? We’re not so sure, but you’ll have to see for yourself. At the least, the packaging is gorgeous and if it makes you feel great, bring on the creams with the eyebrow-raising ingredients and have at it! 

Creme de la Mer

Creme de la Mer

The Classic: Créme de la Mer Moisturizing Cream

Cost: $975 for the deluxe limited edition 8.5 ounce size

The legend: Dr. Max Huber set out to create a cream that would heal the scars he suffered during a lab accident. After studying sea kelp and bio-fermentation, he discovered what he dubbed the “Miracle Broth,” an ingredient that La Mer uses in all of its products, from lip balm to its classic cream.

Key ingredients: Miracle broth, declustered water and malachite, a semi-precious stone

The reality: La Mer’s ritual of warming the cream and patting it onto your face is time consuming (though relaxing). After sneaking tiny bits of it from our mothers’ vanities and splurging on it ourselves, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just a really rich moisturizer. We’re not sure what some of the high-flying claims even mean, or what “declustered water” is, but are sure that anyone who sees the tub (especially the gluttonous 8.5 ouncer) in your bathroom will be oohing and aahing.

La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare

La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare

The Platinum Standard: La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare

Cost: $1,050 for 1.7 ounces

The legend: Swiss company La Prairie offers some of the most pricey products in department stores (thanks to ingredients such as white caviar, sapphire and now, platinum). Their Clinique La Prairie is one of the most highly renowned skin research centers in the world — at least that’s what they tell us. The brand claims that platinum will protect your skin’s DNA, making it function more efficiently and feel younger.

Key ingredients: Platinum, “smart crystals”

The reality: What really caught our eye first is La Prairie’s packaging. The applicator spatula is meant to combine the chemical symbol for platinum with a sun and moon motif (There’s even a Swarovski crystal to symbolize light and radiance.). But we see think it looks more like a sci-fi weapon (against wrinkles, perhaps?). We admit it, we love our luxurious facials at La Prairie spa at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but the brand is known for having some of the most outrageous claims in the industry, too, so we won’t be taking this extortionately expensive cream seriously until there’s some science backing it up — from outside La Prairie’s labs, that is.

Kanebo Sensai Premier the Cream

Kanebo Sensai Premier the Cream

Secrets of the Orient: Kanebo Sensai Premier the Cream

Cost: $650 for 1.4 ounces

The legend: Nobody can spin a tale of tradition meeting technology like a Japanese company. Kanebo, a super-luxe line out of Japan, takes its beauty cues from the exacting ritual of the tea ceremony, where the art of tea has been elevated to a strict study with corresponding rules and guidelines. Kanebo’s system involves double everything for true efficacy: cleansing twice, moisturizing twice and massaging twice. Their prestige cream, Sensai Premier, claims to work on your cells’ DNA, keeping them at their peak for as long as possible.

Key ingredients: Silk proteins

The reality: Again, we’re suckers for packaging. This floating sphere made us want to hand over our credit card until we actually tried the stuff, which didn’t seem much more than a run-of-the-mill moisturizer. Maybe it’s the whole ritual, maybe it’s because we don’t have the patience for double-dipping every step of our nighttime skincare routine, but we have a hard time getting behind a ho-hum cream with so much marketing brouhaha behind it.

Lancôme Absolute L'Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir

Lancôme Absolute L’Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir

Rosy Outlook: Lancôme Absolute L’Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir

Cost: $350 for 1.7 ounces

The legend: Decades of research. Millions of roses. Lancôme says that their L’Extrait harnesses the power of the super resilient Lancôme rose, which they developed to harvest native cells from. Those cells lend their regenerative power to your skin, making it more firm, radiant and elastic. Each container contains over two million of those cells and the brand pulled out all the stops by hiring Julia Roberts as the face of the product.

Key ingredients: native cells from the Lancôme rose

The reality: You’re slathering your face with perfume. The scent of this cream was pleasant, but overbearing. While other old-school creams have perfume that dissipates, this rich lotion (We’re not sure why they call it an elixir..) had a strong rose scent that lingered long after we tested it out. All of Lancôme’s tests were also done in vitro, meaning it’s hard to prove that Julia Roberts got her ethereal glow from this cream and not Photoshop.

Dior Beauty L'Or de Vie Rich Creme

Dior Beauty L’Or de Vie Rich Creme

Go for the Gold: Christian Dior L’or de Vie La Crème Riche

Cost: $350 for 1.7 ounces or $295 for a refill capsule

The legend: The legendary Chateau d’Yquem boasts some of the oldest grape vines in the world, so Dior harnessed the polyphenols from those grapes (grapes are also a favorite ingredient of skincare brand Caudalie) and the waxes from the vines for an unparalleled formula. Dior also claims that the products are super concentrated, so you can use less product and still get maximum results.

Key ingredients: Miyabenol C, a polyphenol from the vines of the Yquem grape

The reality: While some of the other brands’ packaging looked like it came from the future, Dior’s L’Or de Vie line looks like it came from Marie Antoinette’s dressing table, albeit if she lived in the 1920s. The hefty gold and glass containers are actually refillable, so you can just buy the gilt pods when you’re through. We loved the smooth, rich texture of this cream and its light scent, and believe it or not, we really do think it made our skin glow after a few days of testing. Was it just optimism or the magic of the Chatea d’Yquem? We’re guessing a few glasses of wine would give you a similar sort of glow, if only temporarily.

Clé de Peau Beauté Limited Edition La Creme

Clé de Peau Beauté Limited Edition La Creme

The Light Fantastic: Clé de Peau Beauté Limited Edition La Creme

Cost: $750 for 1.7 ounces

The myth: Clé de Peau says that its products work overnight. That’s a stretch for sure, but with a pedigree that’s over three decades strong and a huge Japanese lab touting the benefits of their Neuro Skin theory, which claims that skin has a brain of its own and it needs to be stress-free and think for itself, it’s tough to not to be intrigued. All of their products are said to block negative factors such as pollution and UV rays and let your skin work at its best without stresses and harmful outside factors.

Key ingredients: 4MSK, a brightening ingredient that Clé de Peau uses in many of their skincare products, and retinol, which inhibits melanin activation and is actually clinically proven to combat wrinkles.

The reality: Clé de Peau is a luxury label that gets a lot of attention for its makeup and less for its skincare, which we think is a shame because we loved this cream. While it had a scent, it dissipated quickly and after application, our skin really did seem to glow (though not nearly as much as Amanda Seyfried, the brand’s spokesmodel, does in its advertisements). For collectors, this cream is available in three different colored, faceted inspired containers, which almost justifies spending the money on this moisturizer.

Photos courtesy Neiman Marcus


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Author:Christopher Luu for Fashion Trends Daily

Christopher Luu is a Fashion Trends Daily Senior Writer and Menswear Editor.