This French Face Balm Is 5x More Affordable Than La Mer (and Even Better for Sensitive Skin)
As much as I’d love to have a tub of coveted Crème de La Mer on my bathroom counter, my bank account and I can only dream about that level of luxury. At $380 for a 2-ounce jar of the famous moisturizer, it's at the tippy top of my beauty wish list—emphasis on the "wish."
Fortunately, I can achieve my opulent, French-girl dreams with Avène's Retrinal Ceramide Lipid-Replenishing Balm ($76), an affordable dupe that's better on my skin and my bank account. The new balm promises to do everything La Mer does—deeply hydrate skin, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and strengthen the skin barrier from the inside out—for a fraction of the price. But is it *actually* a worthy La Mer competitor? The answer is yes—here’s why.
Key ingredients: ceramides, bakuchiol, thermal spring water
1. It has derm-beloved moisturizing ingredients
The Retrinal Ceramide Lipid-Replenishing Balm (says that five times fast) has a decadent, creamy texture that forms a nourishing cocoon over dry, thirsty skin while replenishing it with ceramides, which are lipids naturally found in skin. These lipids, or natural fats, are key for combatting dryness, keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.
“[Ceramides help] preserve the barriers of the skin and lock in moisture as well as shield the skin from pollutants,” Sheel Desai Solomon, MD, a Cary, NC dermatologist, previously told us. “They're popular in cosmetics because they help smooth skin.”
In the balm's case, the ceramide cocoon quenches skin for hours (up to 48, to be exact). Combined with niacinamide, which is a brightening form of vitamin B3, and the skin barrier is supported and ready for whatever is thrown its way.
2. It contains bakuchiol to help firm and smooth skin
No shade to La Mer, but the Avène Retrinal Ceramide Lipid-Replenishing Balm actually backs up its skin-smoothing and -firming claims with its star ingredient: bakuchiol. “Bakuchiol is a plant-based alternative to retinol. In limited clinical studies, bakuchiol twice daily appears as effective in reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation than retinol daily,” says Elyse Love, MD, FAAD, a NYC-based board-certified dermatologist. “It’s a great option for those with sensitive skin as it is gentler and better tolerated than retinol, and can be used daily.”
According to Dr. Love, bakuchiol helps firm and smooth the appearance of skin by boosting collagen production and offering antioxidant protection—all without the irritation caused by traditional retinol. What’s more, early reviewers say the balm really does work at smoothing skin. One shopper said it even made her wrinkles “disappear": “Been using this now for over a week religiously and my skin looks better than ever,” she writes in a 5-star review. “My face skin is so soft. Wrinkles are fading away,” echoes another shopper.
3. It does an even better job at soothing irritated skin
A key ingredient found in every Avène product, the brand’s thermal spring water is what the “miracle broth” is to La Mer products. It’s the reason why the Lipid-Replenishing Balm feels so calming when applied, and why your skin will feel as softer than ever once absorbed.
“Avène Thermal Spring Water is known for its long history in helping to heal sensitive skin and is the only thermal spring water bottled directly at the source in a totally sterile environment,” explains Dr. Love. “This guarantees a pure formula, which consists of unique soothing, calming, and softening substances, most notably aqua dolomiae, a microflora specific to Avène Thermal Spring Water.” It’s everything dry, sensitive skin could want, really.
Plus, the beauty of the Avène balm is how seamlessly it can be incorporated into your skin-care routine. It's rich enough to give you the moisture you want, but can also be worn during the day if you need. “I recommend following the cardinal rule of applying your skincare from thinnest to thickest of consistency,” says Dr. Love. For me, this puts the Lipid-Replenishing Balm as the final step in my evening routine—and my skin absolutely loves it.
Alright, so you've got dermatologist-approved ingredients, a burst of smoothing bakuchiol, soothing thermal spring water, and a way more affordable price tag... what else?
Well, I find the Retrinal Ceramide Lipid-Replenishing Balm’s packaging is better too. The top portion of the tub is actually a pump that squirts out just the right amount of product (a little goes a very long way), and has a twist-lock for mess-free storage—genius! The jar ensures your "dosage" is just right while making sure you're not wasting any product by taking too much out of the jar. It's truly the little things...
Suffice to say that before you shell out the cash on a luxury French cream, remember that Avène’s Retrinal Ceramide Lipid-Replenishing Balm has that je ne sais quoi for a much more reasonable price. Get yours on the Avène site, here.
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