3Lab recently launched their “Super Cream”, a superior moisturizer that is heralded as a “super charged cream”, “the first of its kind”. The kicker is this 1.7 oz jar comes at the price of $875, or a month of rent in most American cities. And here we are at the conundrum: how much is too much?
Is there a limit where past a certain price range, the product’s claims and actual benefits do not match their price and merely match a marketing message? I had always capped this at La Mer with their antiquated yet universally renowned cream where Mineral Oil + Seaweed achieves legendary status worthy of hundreds of dollars due primarily to millions spent on ad campaigns.
3Lab’s positioning is different. It’s the unisex, futuristic science based line in a space of older, established brands with European names like La Mer and La Prairie. It’s packaging isn’t beautiful and it doesn’t sell on the promise of luxury but rather on the idea of packing in science based innovations to each product. In this case, the innovations stem from “smart technology” that delivers collagen and elastin producing peptides directly to damaged cells, a trademarked Nano-Claire GY hormone replacement therapy for skin, and similarly showy yet completely vague scientific ingredient terms like X-50 Anti-Aging Powder.
To the average customers, this translates into fancy, new science since the names and trademark MUST mean there is something good, right? Wrong. Having worked in this space, I can say most of the time when these names are used, they’re really just a marketing gimmick to give the impression of modern marvels but really they’re just a clever way to group 3-5 ingredients together that may be rather commonplace.
Let’s look at the ingredients list:
Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Chrysanthemum Indicum Callus Culture Extract, TrisiloxaneDimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Lactobacillus Ferment, Butylene Glycol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ceteareth-20, Silica, Methyl Gluceth-20, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Extract, Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture Extract, Sh-Polypeptide-7, Bambusa Vulgaris Stem/Leaf Extract, Croton Lechleri Resin Extract, Copper Heptapeptide-14 Panthotenate,Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Strobile, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Heptapeptide-15 Palmitate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Disodium Acetyl Glucosamine Phosphate, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Beta-Glucan, Lysolecithin, Lysophosphatidic Acid , Bisabolol, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Fruit Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Leaf Extract, Caffeyl Glucoside, Hydrolyzed Pea Protein, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-19, Squalane, Ceramide 3, Phytosterols, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Lecithin, Adenosine, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Peel Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG16/16 Dimethicone, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, IsomaltIsohexadecane, Polysorbate 60, Urea, Polysorbate 20, Glucosamine HCl, Sodium Phosphate, Dextran, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid/Glycolic Acid Copolymer, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Alcohol, Dimethiconol, Sodium Chloride, Tin Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA
Quite a bit to take in right? So skimming through a couple things are obvious. The first is that this is chemical galore. And I don’t mean it in a “natural is better” way (if you’re curious, EWG gave this a score of 5, with 8 ingredients unaccounted for including a silicone crosspolymer and a few botanical ingredients with incorrect naming which raises an eyebrow). I mean it in the… this is mostly texture controllers, emulsifiers, silicones and alcohols all of which manage the feel of the cream in the hands and on the skin but don’t actually work to IMPROVE skin, which is what you should be getting at $875 (although at this price, I’d argue that it should do a whole lot more than just improve skin) . The expensive ingredients and the ones that do the work are primarily natural extracts that can be found in many green products like Olive Oil, Fennel, Hops, Lavender Oil, Shea Butter (the source in this cream is not specified as organic which usually means it is not); and also a host of peptides (an orgy of hexa, hepta, tetra). Yet the first ingredients are Water, Glycerin, alcohol, Silicone, Hyaluronic Acid. All are cheap and not more effective than a grocery store moisturizer with the possible exception of Hyaluronic Acid, but still – $875 guys. This costs more than some light therapies done by professional dermatologists that provide immediate results and yet this is the ingredient breakdown?
I read this review from Harper’s Bazaar where the writer attested to the power of the cream due to its “overnight” ability to change the texture of her skin and also the fact that without it, “the magic spell gradually wears off”. All of which point to the effects as being temporary, mostly through the use of skin priming silicones and alcohols that give skin a superficial improved appearance that wears off since the improvements are not actually truly making a lasting difference.
Having tried a sample of this from Barneys, I was immediately reminded of the scent and texture of most products I had tried from lines like Clea de Peau and La Prairie – the alcohol smell, immediate tight yet satiated feeling when applied, the silicone slick. For all it’s claims of innovation, this is just like the old school luxury brands just with a different marketing angle. And at $875 for 1.7oz, don’t you deserve better?