The World’s Most Expensive Moisturizer?

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According to the October 29, 2007 issue of Life & Style magazine, Jessica Alba, Victoria Beckham and other stars love La Prairie products, like La Prairie Jeweled Skin Caviar Luxe Skin Cream, because they “refresh skin and keep it luminous”. The product is $350 per 1.7 ounce jar or $2000 for the limited-edition 1.7 ounce jar (shown above) which is nestled in a tub encrusted with 2400 Swarovski crystals. La Prairie Jeweled Skin Caviar Luxe Skin Cream even comes with its own certificate of authenticity. But the question is, based on the ingredients and independent scientific research, is the product worth all the fuss?

Skin caviar

According to LaPrairieCaviarLuxe.com, caviar is an ingredient that has long been reserved for the rich elite. According to some aestheticians, caviar is effective in skin care because of its cellular structure, which is strikingly similar to that of skin: 50 to 70 percent water, with a similar percentage breakdown of lipids and trace elements. “When you put caviar essence on your skin, you’re giving back life to the cells because of the cellular consistency between skin and caviar,” says one expert. “If you were to graft skin to skin, you would renew the skin. It’s that simple.” But maybe not; according to the National Institutes of Health, skin grafting is effective in part because, through a surgical procedure, blood vessels are established in the new skin, not purely because of chemical composition. It does not seem, then, that applying caviar to your skin is all that similar to a skin graft.

In addition, there are no independent research studies in any scientific journals that validate claims about caviar. According to Paula Begoun, caviar is proven effective in skin care only as an emollient and water-binding agent. As such, based on current research, don’t buy a skin care cream purely because it includes caviar as an ingredient!

What about the other ingredients in La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream?

Although an ingredient list could not be found, La Prairie Jeweled Skin Caviar Luxe Skin Cream contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) in microspheres “that penetrate down to the deepest portions of the epidermis”. La Prairie is amongst the first brands to incorporate microspheres into its formulations, as reported by Kaur et. al. in 2007. However, there are many alpha hydroxy acid treatments that are effective in the epidermis in fighting fine lines, dryness, and other signs of photoaging without being packaged in microspheres. The advantage to microsphere delivery of AHA is instead that it may reduce irritation, according to independent research in a 1999 Italian study by Perugini et. al. In the study, it was found that packaging microspheres with a glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid)/lipid molar ratio of 5:1 was effective in modulating alpha hydroxy acid release. Therefore, packaging AHAs in microspheres may reduce irritation from glycolic acids (a great idea for sensitive skin!), but has not been shown to increase AHA efficacy.

In addition, many at-home treatments with alpha hydroxy acids have been associated with formulation-derived irritation and less efficacy when compared to other options, like 0.05% all-trans-retinoic acid (tretinoin, a retinoid).

So, is it worth the money?

In my opinion, no (especially not in the jeweled $2000 jar, which is no different in composition than the non-jeweled $350 version).  La Prairie Jeweled Skin Caviar Luxe Skin Cream is revolutionary because it contains microspheres of alpha hydroxy acids that deliver alpha hydroxy acids to the skin, in both patch delivery and timed release application. The use of microspheres means that users can experience the benefits of alpha hydroxy acids with reduced irritation. Fortunately, companies like L’Oreal currently devote about $600 million of their annual $17 billion revenues to research on nanopatents, so hopefully they will come up with a more affordable microsphere delivery system for alpha hydroxy acids soon!

The product’s claims on caviar are currently unsubstantiated by independent research. For far less than $350, there are many creams that contain more beneficial ingredients than glycolic acid; for instance, 0.05% tretinoin (as found in prescription Retin-A) was independently shown in a 1999 study in the journal Dermatology to be more effective than 10% glycolic acid. Therefore, unless your skin is extremely sensitive AND you really want to experience the effects of alpha hydroxy acids in a time-released microcapsule cream, save your money on this one. Product rating: 6/10 (revolutionary microcapsules of AHA, but they are the only proven ingredient, and the cream is highly overpriced for its inclusion of caviar, which has no substantiated research backing it!)