Creme de La Mer
As you can tell from the title, we’ll be looking at possible skincare dupes for the famous Creme de La Mer. And hopefully in future, I’ll be able to bring you guys more skincare dupes posts!
So with that said and done, let’s examine the Creme de La Mer more closely. This cream is legendary, and the ultimate definition of a cult product if there is one. From the ingredients list, we can figure out how the product works, and then, identify a few dupes, or if not dupes, at least similar products.
Ingredients Algae Extract, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Petroleum Jelly, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Extract, Microcrystalline Wax, Lanolin Alcohol, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Magnesium Sulfate, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Seed Powder, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake, Sweet Almond Protein, Sodium Gluconate, Potassium Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Gluconate, Magnesium Gluconate, Zinc Gluconate, Paraffin, Tocopheryl Succinate, Niacin, Beta-Carotene, Decyl Oleate, Aluminum Distearate, Octyldodecanol, Citric Acid, Cyanocobalamin, Magnesium Stearate, Panthenol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Citral, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Alcohol Denat, Fragrance
The ingredients list for this product can throw some people off at first because of the variety of plant extracts in the product, and not all of them add to its functionality. I know that some people love them, especially with the increasing preference for “natural” products, but for the most part, the effect of plant extracts on skin is often dubious, especially when presented in jar packaging, where any potential anti-oxidant effects may be lost with exposure to light and air. So when we are looking at possible dupes for a product like La Mer, it’s worth considering whether the plant extracts are actually functional ingredients, or just there for the marketing.
In the case of La Mer, the main plant extract is Seaweed (Algae) Extract, with a bunch of other plant extracts, being present only in what is probably very small amounts. But the science behind the benefits of seaweed extract are more tenuous than the company’s own marketing suggests. There is some evidence that an extract of Fucus vesiculosus, is a type of seaweed, might cause a decrease in skin thickness (which the authors then suggest might be useful for anti-aging purposes because “cheek skin, the thickness normally increases and the elasticity usually decreases with age”). There is also some evidence that the extract of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum, may have anti-oxidant benefits, which is useful for skin, but such benefits will quickly be lost if the product is packaged in a jar. So in short — seaweed extract may have some benefits by its antioxidant properties and ability to decrease skin thickness, but much of this benefit is lost in a jar packaging, which leads us to conclude that the workhorse ingredients behind the product’s ability to function have to be something else other than seaweed extract.
The ingredients which do have stronger science behind them, and are probably the workhorse ingredients, are unfortunately, the more unsexy ones: Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Petrolatum, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Microcrystalline Wax, and Lanolin Alcohol, which are either occlusives and emollients (like Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Lanolin Alcohol), or humectants (like Glycerin) or other functional ingredients like emulsifiers (Isohexadecane, Microcrystalline Wax). And none of these ingredients are particularly rare, either — in fact, quite a number of them are found commonly in drugstore products, as we shall soon see.
So when looking at possible dupes or similar products, what should we look at? Ideally, we would want very similar functional ingredients, like the Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Lanolin Alcohol, and Glycerin. We should also look for products with stronger occlusive and emollient properties, because the La Mer product itself is quite heavy on the occlusives and less so on the humectants. That would help us sieve out more similar products, even if there isn’t an exact dupe.
First, let’s look at the much talked-about Nivea Creme, which is famous in its own right as an alternative to the Creme de La Mer. Below are the ingredients for both versions of the product:
Ingredients (US Version) Water, Mineral Oil, Petroleum Jelly, Glycerin, Microcrystalline Wax, Lanolin Alcohol, Paraffin, Panthenol, Alcohol, Magnesium Sulfate, Decyl Oleate, Octyldodecanol, Aluminum Stearate, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Magnesium Stearate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone
Ingredients (European Version) (from Paula’s Choice) Aqua, Paraffinum Liquidum, Cera Microcrystallina, Glycerin, Lanolin Alcohol, Paraffin, Panthenol, Decyl Oleate, Octyldodecanol, Alumnium Stearate, Citric Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Magnesium Stearate, Parfum, Limonene, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellol, Linalool, Citronellol, Benzyl Benzoate, Cinnamyl Alcohol
I know some people may prefer one specific formulation of Nivea over the other, but either way, both versions are pretty reasonable alternatives for the Creme de La Mer. Both have the main occlusives and emollients (Mineral Oil, Lanolin Alcohol), humectants (Glycerin), and emulsifier (Microcrystalline Wax). So the functional ingredients are pretty similar! The main difference is that the US version has Petrolatum (another occlusive, and found in the La Mer), and Alcohol (which can dry skin out in large amounts, but doesn’t appear to be in the product in significant amounts). Both formulas also appear to be quite heavy on the occlusives, like the La Mer Creme, and there is a minor but beneficial ingredient, Panthenol, that appears in both the La Mer and Nivea Cremes. So yes, the Nivea Creme does live up to its reputation for being a good alternative to the La Mer version.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Another popular drugstore product in its own right, let’s now look at whether Aquaphor is similar to the La Mer Creme. The ingredients in the product are listed as:
Ingredients Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol
Again, there are definitely similar occlusives (Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Lanolin Alcohol) and humectants (Glycerin), as well as the minor ingredient Panthenol. And like the original La Mer Creme, this is also a pretty occlusive formulation. So yes, this is also a pretty good alternative as well. In fact, the simplicity of this formula, without the plant extracts and other secondary ingredients, means that ironically this might actually be better for sensitive skin than the La Mer product is, particularly for those people who might have skin that does not react well to plant extracts or fragrance ingredients present in the La Mer product, like Limonene or Linalool. This perhaps is the most stripped down of all the La Mer alternatives and is a good choice for sensitive skin.
Curel Intensive Healing Cream
Another drugstore basic that is a dry skin favourite, the ingredients for Curel Intensive Healing Cream are:
Ingredients (from drugstore.com) Water, Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Glycerin, Microcrystalline Wax, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glyceryl Dilaurate, Paraffin, Dimethicone, Cetyl PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide, Magnesium Stearate, Isopropyl Myristate, Magnesium Sulfate, Glyceryl Oleate, Ethoxydiglycol, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben, Butylene Glycol, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract, Propylparaben
Again, there are similarities in functional ingredients like the occlusives (Mineral Oil, Petrolatum), humectants (Glycerin), and emulsifiers (Microcrystalline Wax), and the formula is also quite heavy on the emollients too. The skinfeel and texture of the product might differ somewhat from the La Mer, but functionally, when you look at the main ingredients, this is also a pretty reasonable alternative.
Not just one, but three similar products, all at cheaper price points!
So there you have it! While there may not be a 100% exact dupe of the La Mer Creme, surprisingly, there are actually not one, but three products — all drugstore — that function very much like the La Mer Creme, with very similar functional ingredients, at much cheaper price points! Your preferences may vary, but my favourite out of all four products is probably the Aquaphor, just because it has the simplest formulation that is least likely to cause any sensitivities to flare up.