Behind the hype of Crème de la Mer

Liv Tyler reportedly uses it on her spots and Mariah Carey is said to slather it on her babies as nappy rash cream. So what is it about Crème de la Mer — and why does it cost €200 a tub? We ask the experts.

Behind the hype of Crème de la Mer

JESSICA Alba adores it, Nicole Richie says it’s worth every penny, Liv Tyler uses it on her spots and Mariah Carey reportedly slathers it on her babies as nappy rash cream.

Crème de la Mer (CDLM or ‘La Mer’) is perceived to be top dog of facial products with women happy to spend hundreds of euro on moisturisers, lotions and serums containing the ferociously guarded secret ‘Miracle Broth’.

Well, if it’s good enough for devotees Victoria Beckham, Sharon Stone, Heidi Klum, Halle Berry and Madonna... but hang on a minute, is it any good? What’s in it? Where does it come from? And how is it made? The Californian coastline is home to Pacific sea kelp, known for its healing properties, which is harvested and combined with narcissus oil to make the ‘Miracle Broth’.

It was first discovered during the experiments of Max Huber, a NASA aerospace physicist whose face and body had been burned in a chemical explosion. Huber spent 12 years conducting more than 6,000 experiments in which he fermented sea vegetables to make a topical treatment to soothe his skin and soften the scars. Within a decade, Crème de la Mer was on the market and persuading women to part with the price of a holiday for a softer skin.

Dr Tina Alster is Crème de la Mer’s Global Skincare Advisor. She also happens to be one of the top dermatologists in the world, founding director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, a clinical professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington and affectionately known as the ‘Queen of Laser’.

So, is she a believer? “I was not a believer at the beginning,” she admits. “But this was the one brand all my patients asked about. I used to say ‘well, you know, it’s quite expensive but try it if you want.’” And then she started using it. “With my laser clinic, I treat a lot of scars, not just burns, so I am always interested in wound healing, so when La Mer came to me, it was a nice marriage because their Concentrate (€280 for 30ml) is my go-to product.

“The Miracle Broth in the Concentrate is a great healer — not just for face, I use it on my face, neck, chest and hands. It really does repair the skin and for my patients who can afford it, I tell them to use it after laser surgery. Typically, the redness lasts two to five days but with this, the redness will be gone in one to two days,” she says.

So, if you’re planning laser anytime soon, it comes highly recommended, but why should the average Irish women lash out for it? “It actually minimises inflammation, and if you have a tendency towards rosacea, it’s great, which I think most Irish do — that ruddy complexion that’s also very sensitive.

“All that sensitivity is inflammation in the skin and this is a great anti-inflammatory without having to put on topical steroids which, as a physician, we don’t like people to use as hydra cortisone thins the skin,” says Dr Alster.

And what else should we be doing to protect that cursed, Celtic, sensitive, angry skin of ours? “If there’s one thing Irish women know about — it’s weather,” she says.

“You have it on both sides with Irish skin, because you have the dryness in the winter which obviously increases irritation, and then in the summer, you have a tendency to have rosacea, which involves blood vessels and sensitivity.

“Irish skin, yes, it’s angry. It’s just bad year-round for you girls!”

And our biggest problem? “The sun. More than anything else — especially as you are all so fair in Ireland.

“People always say ‘I was born with these freckles.’ No, you weren’t. It’s the first exposure to the sun that gave you your freckles. It’s a form of child abuse, in my opinion, but I do know a lot of people who are emotionally attached to their freckles. They ask me to get rid of their wrinkles but not their freckles — but I remove all of them.

“People get chronic sun damage on one side from driving and sitting near an office window. Outside of summer and if working indoors, you don’t need a separate sun block, one in a moisturiser is fine. In summer, a lightweight one used after the moisturiser is vital.”

Sun damage isn’t the only Irish skin concern, warns the Queen of Laser, a TV regular on Oprah.

“You want to cleanse; but scrubbing is bad particularly for people with sensitive skin because it removes all the oils. All you’ll do is create little micro cuts in the skin and that creates portals for bacteria to get in, leading to more acne or other sensitivities.

“So, cleanse with a cream cleanser rather than a scrub or a gel cleanser. The only time to use a gel cleanser is if you have really oily skin; or if you have combination skin. In the summer use a gel. In the winter, a cream.

“If you wear a lot of make-up, use cotton pads or a sonic care brush that vibrates the dirt out. I am a great believer in the sonic brush (Clarisonic) but if someone doesn’t want to make the investment, get cotton round pads — ‘swispers’ we call them in the USA — as a nice way to remove make-up. You don’t necessarily have to buy a make-up remover if you use cream cleanser as there should be enough oil in that,” she says.

Dr Alster also warns against repeat buying: “As we get older, something you use in your 20s you really shouldn’t be using in your 40s or 50s. A lot of women come to me in their 40s and they have been using the same moisturiser since they were in college.

“Dermatologists are better at handling skin and what you can do for different areas but the first line of defence is skincare,” she reiterates.

Hang on, isn’t guzzling gallons of water the best thing for skin? “Cleansing from inside out? No. The amount of women who say to me: ‘I don’t want to put anything on my skin because I take vitamins and drink loads of water.’ “That’s great but the best way to care for your skin is from the outside in — not the inside out! “The best way to hydrate the skin is to put the right products on the skin,” she says, holding the bottle of CDLM’s The Concentrate up in front of her ridiculously youthful face and waving it at me.

Dr Tina Alster on:

¦ New skincare regimes: “In-stant improvements are just initial hydration. A month is a good time to start noticing some changes as cells turn over and naturally exfoliate every 30 days.”

¦ Exfoliation: “I hate scrubs. Sonic brushes are the safest way to exfoliate and are a game changer in how people will cleanse their skin in the years ahead.”

¦ Chemical peels: “Can be useful, but only in a controlled dermatologist setting.”

¦ Starting a good skincare regime: “University age, if not earlier. Most people I see are late 20s starting to see crow’s feet; or in early 30s with the start of sun damage. Adult acne is also a big problem, usually hits in the 30s but on fairer Irish skin may start earlier as it’s a rosacea issue.”

¦ Sun care: “Keep well protected from the sun. Use sunglasses for the freckles near the eye and make everyone wear them in the car — even kids — as the sun not only causes wrinkles, but cataracts.”

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