Is La Mer worth the hype, or is it a case of skin-care magical realism? Back in July, I put my jar of Crème de la Mer to the test, applying a generous dollop of moisturizer every night for a week to see what would happen. Tldr; after seven days, my skin was at its brightest, clearest, and most even. Redness I typically experience in my T-zone faded away, and the bags under my eyes visibly deflated. This test justified keeping Crème de la Mer on my regular rotation.
While Crème de la Mer is La Mer's hero product, the luxury beauty brand has a wide assortment of products—all of which are formulated with its proprietary "Miracle Broth". The Miracle Broth is a fermented base that's made of hand-harvested kelp and takes three whole months to brew—it also contains a small amount of Miracle Broth from the previous batch before, which the brand claims is a way to tie each one back to the very original, which was created back in the early '60s by German rocket scientist Max Huber. (So, it's theoretically possible you're using a microscopic amount of the very, very first batch of Miracle Broth—kind of cool, right?)
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Max Huber claimed his moisturizer repaired severe burns he'd suffered after a lab accident, and that the formula not only had healing properties, but could aid digestion and correct eyesight (these claims haven't actually been proven, just so we're clear). A true champion of his own invention, it was said he'd even eat a spoonful of Crème de la Mer with his meals. Word quickly spread about the moisturizer's nourishing abilities, and it wasn't long before La Mer became a luxury skin-care staple people all over the world asserted could solve all kinds of ailments and issues.
After Huber's death in 1992, Estée Lauder acquired the company, and the line of products has since grown. Aside from Crème de la Mer, another one of La Mer's other beloved products is La Mer The Concentrate, a barrier serum that protects skin from harsh weather and pollution, and helps combat signs of inflammation and irritation.
Like all La Mer products, The Concentrate contains a concentrated dosage of the Miracle Broth. Its new formula (which was introduced in 2020) is said to have stronger antioxidants that help with defense against pollution and inflammation-causing agents. The new formula "introduced new antioxidant protection power through inclusion of our signature Lime Tea Concentrate, which was not previously a part of the formula," according to the brand via an email. It also contains the Stabilizing Ferment, which, like the Miracle Broth is a special brew that stars marine algae, and sea water that holds 73 different types of sea minerals that help rejuvenate skin.
So, is The Concentrate worth $210-$900?
A .5oz bottle of The Concentrate goes for $210, while the largest (3.4oz) will set you back $900. That's a lot to spend on skin care, so I wanted to spend some quality time with the serum and determine if it, well, worked. And beyond that, is this a serum worth spending over $200 on? While it depends on a bunch of factors (like skin type, concerns, and budget—for starters), my goal was to determine if it was at the very least worth it to me. And if that can help you, then awesome.
For some context on my skin type: I have oily-combo skin that's prone to blemishes, and if I leave it to its own devices, it tends to skew on the more blotchy side, which is why I depend on skin-brightening and color-correcting products (as well as medium-coverage foundations and tinted moisturizers). During the fall and winter it can get really dry if I don't swap all my lighter, gel or water-based moisturizers with heavy-duty formulas that provide more protection against the elements. While we're still experiencing hot weather in Los Angeles, it does tend to get dry (as deserts are known to do), and I'll typically spend my weekends out and about, so my face gets a fair amount of (SPF-protected) sun exposure.
I applied The Concentrate every morning and night: In the morning, I layered Bad Habits Daily Dose Multivitamin Moisturizer, a hydrating and brightening face cream, and an SPF 30 sunscreen from Trader Joe's on top to see how the serum played with others (I've found that some serums will cause pilling if paired with other products, especially if they're creamy), and switched between Ilia True Skin foundation and a tinted moisturizer by Nars. Application-wise, The Concentrate goes on velvety-smooth, leaving a matte finish behind. I also had no issues layering moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup on top—everything blended seamlessly, leaving my skin feeling quenched.
At night, I only used The Concentrate, since I was curious to see if it provided enough hydration on its own. And it did! While a lot of the serums I use tend to leave my skin looking glass-y (and sometimes feeling tacky, even), The Concentrate absorbs quickly, and leaves skin looking dry. However, it still provides a lot of hydration, and makes skin feel more elastic, smooth, and soft. I paired it with Crème de la Mer one night, which added another layer of moisture—something I think I'll do when the weather is colder and drier.
I have to note that the fragrance is strong. It's earthy and a little bit herb-y, and reminds me of a colognes and perfumes I gravitate toward—so I really like it. It's calming, modern, but not at all floral and powder-y, which is how Crème de la Mer smells to me. But if you like your skin care fragrance-free, just note that The Concentrate has a potent scent.
What were the results?
After a day of using The Concentrate, my skin looked a lot more even. Usually I have to wait until morning to see my skin care is taking into effect, but this formula almost immediately calms down any redness—literally seconds after application. My face felt extra soft and supple, and like I mentioned above, layering makeup on top was a seamless process that doesn't result in any pilling or cake-y-ness.
Three days in, my skin appeared brighter, and the two small blemishes on my chin reduced in size (TBH, I can't tell whether or not this is a direct result of using The Concentrate for a few days, or because they just dried up on their own—but it's worth noting).
Seven days in, I looked more closely at my pores (they appeared smaller) and fine lines around my mouth and eyes (still there, but more subdued), and overall complexion (noticeably brighter and clearer).
Is The Concentrate worth the hefty price tag?
Similar to Crème de la Mer, I feel like The Concentrate is a luxe investment and not necessarily an essential. But is it a beauty cabinet staple that can work for your skin? Depending on your skin type and concerns, I'd say, yes! It feels decadent, delivers results (for me, at least), and a little bit goes a long way—so even if you purchase the smallest size, you're getting enough to supply you for a few months.
All I can definitively say is that what I've experienced in one week is enough to convince me to keep adding one of these pretty green glass bottles to cart.
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