3Lab Super Cream: The Price of Beauty

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?



  1. November 8, 2014 / 8:11 pm

    I know there are people who can afford the price tag, but it (the price) mostly makes me laugh. Thank you for the honest review.

  2. November 8, 2014 / 9:56 pm

    When you’d tweeted about a “$900 product review”, I was wondering (with shock) if it’s a cream worth $900. I’d say this review is worth more than the price of this cream 😉

  3. Cindy V
    November 8, 2014 / 10:07 pm


  4. November 9, 2014 / 4:04 am

    Interesting breakdown. Its crazy price and can be ridiculed.

    But the delivery mechanisms can not be understood by looking at the individual ingredients. Skin care science is not as straightforward as that. That being said, i would love to read a scientific paper on what breakthrough they have had with developing this product. Such progresses are published in most fields, but are trade secrets in this field.

    • November 9, 2014 / 7:10 am

      Well not trying to ridicule this, just providing a realistic summary. I’ve been trained at Neiman Marcus on this line and similar ones so when I get these ingredients lists sent over it’s easy to look for patterns and figure out where the marketing is and where the actual performers are.

      I agree that skin care science is not so straightforward and did not mean to imply that it is. A mix of certain variations and forms of alcohols with certain botanical ingredients and peptides may indeed improve penetration. However the ingredient quality I judged still stands that it isn’t worth the $875 since the improved penetration is just delivering something that can be had for way cheaper (botanicals and peptides – these are STILL the active ingredients). And breaking down the first few ingredients is important because as much as 75%-90% of a formula is determined by the first 5 ingredients, so for a $875 cream isn’t it worth looking at the majority of what one is paying for?

      There isn’t a published paper on their breakthroughs and what is interesting is the reliance of trademarking names which typically implies a synthetic trade secret that also does not need to be properly disclosed to test for efficacy.

      I believe real costs went into developing this product. They had to contract with a lab, do lots of testing and development, file trademarks on names. This is all a lengthy and costly process. However, from my experience of working in the industry and having been trained by similar brands, I can say the ingredients are not worth the price and will not actually deliver astounding results reflected by the price.

      Even without buying into my analysis of ingredients, I also supplied a albeit short real world experience of having used a sample and confirming my suspicions based from the ingredients that the results are temporary rather than lasting, achieved from texture enhancers that can achieved with solid primers.

      • November 9, 2014 / 7:21 am

        Absolutely !

        i have long given up on a few of these products. Like Chanel bags that cost 5k but cost 20% of actually produce. Face oil blends in the natural skincare world, cost a fraction of the cost. They seem to price them a certain way just because they can.

        Cost, demand, supply, etc. I see what they are doing.

        Glad you are doing some analysis. I agree with you on: knowing about cost and worth is definitely important.

        The point i was trying to make in my previous comment: price aside, talking about inefficiency of the product goes beyond analyzing list of ingredients or using a small sample. Am an big data researcher. Am trained to think this way. Cant help it.

        • November 9, 2014 / 7:24 am

          I was fortunate to receive a full sample from Barneys so I used a full sized jar which lasted 2 months of use to back my analysis. But you’re welcome to gather more data, and you should try this yourself!

  5. Grace
    November 9, 2014 / 7:53 am

    I wanted to say as an avid beauty reader, you strike me as one of the most in depth, analytical and educated writers there are! I’m not sure why someone critiqued you but I found your knowledge of ingredient breakdown really useful coming from your background.

    • November 9, 2014 / 3:37 pm

      Thank you Grace! I thought it would be more helpful to focus on what’s in this bottle of $875 cream to help readers understand more about what this ultra luxury product is ultimately made of since there is a lot of curious its surrounding that. The ingredients are shrouded with relatively vague terms and protected terminology so I think it’s hard for the average customer to figure out but having been trained in this, I thought I’d break it into more digestible parts which is why the majority is about the ingredients.

  6. Laura
    November 9, 2014 / 3:57 pm

    Spot on! Great work! Thank you.

  7. julietlovesart
    November 10, 2014 / 5:26 am

    If I could afford $800+ dollars a month for skincare, you better believe I’m going to be using it on facials, lasers, light therapy, etc.! Thanks for always breaking things down so honestly!

  8. November 10, 2014 / 4:49 pm

    As usual great breakdown, and honest review. You’re one of my favorite educating beauty reads. I’m definitely not shelling out money for a product like this.


  9. November 11, 2014 / 7:43 pm

    I second the bravo! I was hoping I would get to a point where you described yourself sampling it and love that you brought in the Bazaar review. Its a shame how us editors will saw just about anything for instant gratification.

  10. November 12, 2014 / 4:26 pm

    Not worth the hype or the cost. Thanks for always being honest with your reviews. So Pure Skincare

  11. Kaycee
    October 27, 2016 / 9:13 pm

    It’s ironic that you refer to la mer as and established European brand when I was born in Long Island New York

    • November 6, 2016 / 10:34 am

      Please forgive me for the oversight in mixing up La Mer in there as I know Huber was born in Europe. I’m not sure what is “ironic” though about this mistake. I suppose what’s ironic is you taking the time in pointing out this rather trivial detail that doesn’t really add to the conversation on the product being discussed through a comment riddled with typos.

      • Andrea
        December 1, 2016 / 11:24 am

        Hey Lady, I just wanted to say KUDOS & THANK YOU for your informed, honest review about this product. I was also fortunate to get a full sized jar of this cream. And just as you described, “the slick”. I stopped using that cream at night. I HATED the slick it left behind. And me being Black, TRUST me, a little grease does NOT scare me one bit. As a matter of fact, we Black women thrive on grease/any thing super moisturizing, that keeps that “ashiness” that forever plagues us at bay. I just could NOT get used to the sticky, slick left behind feeling of this cream, that I still have a full jar just sitting there. The only reason
        I have not tossed it out, is because I was brought up in a culture, that you did not waste any thing. So that super expensive cream, will be packed into a barrel of stuff, I’ll be sending to Jamaica pretty soon. Oh well I’ve gone back to my 100% East Africa Shea Butter (Shea Natilotica), it’s a bit pricey, and harder to find, compared to its counterpart, the West Africa Shea Butter, it delivers, so I’ll stay using it. Yours is The Best review of any product I’ve read, keep it up!!!!

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