Remember when spending $350 on an anti-aging face cream was gawk-worthy? Well, prepare for sticker shock … price tags like that are now considered bargain basement with the proliferation of tricked out power potions selling for upwards of $1,800.
"Many of these luxury creams have solid essential ingredients, and that certainly helps drive up the costs," says Dr. John Layke and Dr. Payman Danielpour, co-founders of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Group and Beverly Hills MD (their cosmeceutical skin treatment line with an average price of $100). As is the case with the majority of luxury goods, the margins are also colossal. "It's similar to designer clothing," adds Layke and Danielpour. "High-ticket skincare products may start with better/high quality raw materials, but there's also image coupled with costly advertising" that's at play in driving up prices.
Brand name recognition triggers value in the minds of many consumers, whether it's for fashion, spirits or cars. And in a town where youth is revered and image is everything, the possibility of a smoother, more glowing complexion, tighter skin and fewer visible wrinkles from the confines of a four-figure, 8 ounce jar of scientifically advanced goodness is quite seductive.
Coming in at a whopping $1,800 for a 30 ml glass bottle is JK7 Rejuvenating Serum-Lotion by biochemist Dr. Jurgen Klein and his wife, botanist Ulrike Klein, the original founders of cult favorite, Jurlique from South Australia. For those who are fans of natural, luxury skincare, JK7 is the Holy Grail — the self-proclaimed "First Natural, 100% Organic and High Performing Luxury Skin Care." Dr. Klein uses his personal harvested extracts, and everything is entirely handmade by him without the use of any chemicals.
But does a higher price mean better results? While it's tough to deny the spellbinding allure of skincare as pure as JK7, an architectural bottle of legendary, line-smoothing La Prairie, or Celestial Black Diamond Cream by 111Skin (utilizing black diamonds believed to have formed in space), Dr. Nancy Samolitis of Facile Dermatology + Boutique believes there are also many effective anti-aging ingredients that are both more affordable and have the science to back them up. "I see great results with Vitamin C, Retinol and Glycolic Acid," she says. "Spend the money on in-office treatments and for your home regime, complement with more economical skincare (meaning less than $200) that also offers data from controlled clinical trials."
Dr. Harold Lancer, who counts Beyonce, Scarlett Johansson and Victoria Beckham as fans of his eponymous skincare collection, recently entered the $1,000 club with his Lancer Legacy Youth Treatment. He attests that ingredients are one thing, but it's actually the "cookbook" (the way the ingredients are put together) that makes the difference. "The price is a combination of the quality of the ingredients, how they're assembled, in what stages, and in what concentrations — Legacy has the most complex chemistry of any product I have ever developed, it's like an orchestra — there are at least 20 different active ingredients," he says. "Even the simple humectant (the moisture cumulating ingredient) is designed to be an active ingredient."
According to dermatologist, Dr. Tess Mauricio and colleague, Elliott Milstein, senior vp of product innovation at Ferndale Pharma Group (a pharmaceutical manufacturer), certain anti-aging, proprietary ingredients can be costly on their own, such as Platinum Peptide Complex found in La Prairie and Methyl Aminomethyl Cyclohexyl Carboxamide HCL (dubbed "MACC-PD") in Cle de Peau. "At the same time, many of these creams also contain other common, less expensive ingredients that are effective, and found in plenty of other affordable products."
At Facile, the products range from $30 to $200. "A little goes a long way because they're concentrated versus a diluted version you would get from the drugstore," says Dr. Nancy. On the other end of the spectrum is ultra budget-friendly The Ordinary, a completely unfussy line of skin treatments currently making waves. "They offer very clean, clinical formulas for under $20," she adds.
Still, the sexy promises of a decadent luxury cream are tough to resist, especially the ubiquitous "collagen forming" tagline. Although Dr. Ben Talei of Beverly Hills Center for Plastic and Laser Surgery, who transforms some of Hollywood's most famous faces, is skeptical of any product that makes these claims. "Statements like 'collagen forming' are completely false," he asserts. "Nobody can show that, it's strictly imaginative."
Of course this is Hollywood, and splurging on lavish at-home treatments after a little doctor supervised fine-tuning is often the norm. If a $1,000 concoction imparts a jaw-dropping glow, elicits compliments galore and boosts self-confidence (whether it's a placebo effect or not), who's to judge? Here, five dream creams giving new meaning to extravagance …
Price: $1,800 for 30 ml
Promise:The "world's most expensive anti-ageing/well ageing serum and most expensive skin care lotion on the market; worth more than the equivalent weight in gold." Said to "promote healthy cell growth from below the skin barrier and wrinkle depth reduction, enhancing the life-force of the skin."
"The purest and most precious organic essential oils on the planet," including jasmine, rose, myrrh, narde, chamomile, neroli, Hawaiian and Australian Sandalwood, ylang ylang, a careful selection of the globe's rarest, high- performing natural JK7 Signature Extracts, and natural substances with proven organic healing herbs.
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Promise: "Transforms all signs of aging."
Platinum Peptide Complex — "Helps fight visible signs of aging while providing an invisible veil that helps maintain moisture, promoting long-lasting hydration."
Climate Activated Moisture Matrix — "Adjusts to changing humidity and skin temperature for continuous hydration."
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Promise: "Featuring over 30 high quality ingredients sourced from around the world, revitalizes the appearance and feel of the skin and minimizes the appearance of signs of aging."
Youth GF Complex — Peptide blend of advanced factors, amino acids and vitamins that "nourishes and revitalizes the skin."
Firming Mesh Complex — Infused with Peruvian tara fruit extract and ceramides "improves the look of skin elasticity and firmness while reducing the appearance of the effects of environmental stress."
MitoSmooth Compound — From macro-algae, "it helps soften the appearance of deep lines and creases."
Sativus Bright Compound — A proprietary blend of precious saffron and sake that "helps reduce the appearance of dark spots and brighten the skin."
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Promise: "This restorative and highly concentrated treatment combines technologically advanced ingredients with ground-breaking medical research to target ageing."
Black Diamond Microspheres — Transport active ingredients (vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and collagen to the deepest layers of the skin, targeting cells for regeneration."
Arbutin – Brightens skin
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Promise: "Intensive moisturizer that visibly improves the contours of the eyes, mouth and jawline for a more vibrant, uplifted look."
Omni-Directional Lifting Complex — "Helps build collagen and increases contour and lift."
MACC-PD — "Supports skin detoxification and purification."
Vitamin C – Brightens
Chai Hu Extract – Firms
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