Daily Question: Is Creme de La Mer Worth It?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care

Dear Nicki,

A lot of celebrities swear by Creme de la Mer.  But what I want to know is, does it work?  and if so, how?


Dear Amanda,

The major strengths of Creme de la Mer are two-fold: lactic acid and a slew of hydrating ingredients.

Of course, Creme de la Mer doesn’t actually list lactic acid as an ingredient.  Instead, “sonic chemistry” (ultrasound waves) are directed into the cream to ferment the algae, accelerating the rate by which algae produces lactic acid (Japanese Journal of Applied Physiology, 2004).  Lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid, is the only ingredient that is FDA approved for the treatment of dry skin as prescription Lac-Hydrin.  Lactic acid also refines, clarifies, and exfoliates the skin in a similar fashion to glycolic acid, but milder, such that it does not thin the skin (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1996).

The second major strength of Creme de la Mer is its slew of hydrating ingredients.  Sea kelp, the main ingredient, is a water-binding agent; lecithin is a natural moisturizing factor; and magnesium, potassium, sunflower oil, and wheatgerm are natural absorbents.   Magnesium and calcium salts have also been demonstrated to accelerate wound healing, which may help to explain why the creator of Creme de la Mer reported that it healed his wounds (Archives of Dermatological Research, 1999).

With all due honesty, Creme de la Mer has two other strengths:  One, Esteé Lauder Companies bought the rights to Creme de la Mer in 1994.  Given the success of all of the various companies owned by Esteé Lauder, I would bet their expertise might have a liiiittle something to do with the lasting popularity of Creme de la Mer, wink wink.  Two, Creme de la Mer has a high price tag.  In most industries other than skin care, a higher price tag is associated with better ingredients, formulation, craftsmanship, research, etc.  For better or worse, skin care is different, because the major companies with large budgets for research and development also can mass-produce, leading to some products by brands like Neutrogena (Johnson & Johnson) and Olay (Procter and Gamble) that have more optimized and higher technology formulations than some $100-and-up products.  Of course, “cheaper is better” is not even safe to say, because I’ve seen some real doozies in the drugstore as well.

My honest opinion is this:  Does Creme de la Mer work?  Yes.  However, you can get the effects of lactic acid for pennies per application with creams like Am-Lactin, with 12% lactic acid and Azfasst, with 6% lactic acid and 2% clarifying salicyclic acid.  I personally find the effects of Creme de la Mer to be startingly similar to lactic acid with another hydrating cream, like AmorePacific, applied over top.  Yet if money is not an object and luxury and effectiveness is what you seek, it’s hard to beat Creme de la Mer – hence its popularity with movie stars and supermodels.

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Ingredients in Creme de la Mer

Seaweed (Algae) Extract, Mineral oil Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Extract, Microcrystalline Wax, Lanolin Alcohol, Sesame Seed Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Magnesium Sulfate, Sesame Seed, Medicago sativa (alfalfa) seed powder, Helianthus Annuus (sunflower) Seedcake, Prunus amygdulus dulcis (sweet almond) seed meal, Sodium Gluconate, Potassium Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Gluconate, Magnesium Gluconate, Zinc Gluconate, Paraffin, Tocopheryl succinate, Niacin, Beta-carotene, Decyl oleate, Aluminium distearate, Octyldodecanol, Citric acid, Cyanocobalamin, Magnesium stearate, Panthenol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Benzyl salicylate, Citral, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Alcohol Denat., Fragrance (Parfum).

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