Beauty

7 weird and wonderful things you need to know about the world’s most iconic moisturiser

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Lucy Partington
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La Mer’s world-famous moisturiser doesn’t come cheap but it’s been around for more than 20 years, so they must be doing something right. Here are seven surprising facts…

Everyone’s heard of Crème de la Mer – it’s one of the most famous moisturisers in the world, after all. You might also know it as one of the most expensive, ranging from £120 to £1,520– but does it really warrant its price tag?

Stylist visited the Crème de la Mer lab in Melville, Long Island in New York to find out. And while we were there we uncovered some interesting (and surprising) facts.

Here’s what we learned… 

1) It was (apparently) created by a rocket scientist in the Fifties

OK, so not technically a fact, but the story of how Crème de la Mer came about is something of an urban myth in the beauty world. According to legend it was created by a rocket scientist called Max Huber, who is believed to have suffered fuel burns to his face but couldn’t find anything to soothe them. So, naturally, he did as all great beauty brand founders do and set about creating his own.

2) It took 12 years and 6,000 experiments to find the perfect formula

Clearly not one for a quick fix, Huber is said to have created the now-iconic cream in a fish tank in his living room. He used locally sourced sea kelp – hence the name Crème de la Mer, which translates as ‘cream of the sea’. He started selling it to his friends in 1965.

La Mer’s founder, Huber, reportedly created the iconic cream in a fish tank in his living room

3) That locally sourced sea kelp is the main ingredient in Crème de la Mer’s so-called Miracle Broth

And that Miracle Broth features in every product La Mer makes. At its core is the nutrient-rich sea kelp which is transformed, through a lengthy bio-fermentation process, into a super-powerful catalyst that aids skin renewal. 

4) The Estée Lauder Companies bought La Mer in 1994

They had tried to acquire it while Huber was alive but he refused to sell. His daughter gave in to temptation four years after her father’s death though, and the beauty conglomerate has owned it since – despite Huber taking the original recipe to his grave…

Miracle broth features in every product La Mer makes

5) …Which meant Estée Lauder was tasked with re-creating the formula

This is where things get strange. With no original recipe, Estée Lauder’s senior vice president of research and development, Andy Bevacqua – who still works there today – was given the challenge of re-creating the formula. No mean feat. 

After a few failed attempts, he finally nailed it by doing something that was originally overlooked due to a lack of scientific evidence: he played music to the sea kelp during the fermentation process. So even today, the recording (that apparently sounds like rumbling stomachs) is played to the tanks of fermenting sea kelp. The sound waves reportedly transfer energy in the broth making it more active. 

Each batch of cream takes up to three months to create

6) Lime tea is the second most important ingredient

Back when Huber was making it, he used 100% pure vodka – which makes it sound like our sort of cream – but these days that’s not permitted. Limes are hand-peeled to extract the antioxidant benefits from the citrus.

7) There’s a ridiculous amount of work that goes into each jar

Hence the hefty price tag. The kelp is harvested by hand and shipped (on ice) to NYC, where it’s turned into Miracle Broth. Then the lime tea is added. The entire process takes up to three months, and each batch of cream is hand-filled into jars (made of opal glass, obviously) within eight hours of completion, in a controlled room temperature. Phew.

Images: Crème de la Mer

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Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington is Stylist’s beauty editor. She’s obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she’ll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.

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