La Mer started with a scientist named Max Huber who suffered from severe burns during a laboratory accident, so he decided to create something for wound healing in an effort to regenerate his burnt skin.
Huber lived in California where he could examine kelp and other sea plants. He noticed that some of them grew up to 3 feet per day. He wondered if he could harvest this regenerative effect for the skin. He worked for 12 years and came up with 6,000 formulas until he finally found one. He came up with something that included sea kelp. It was the original fermented “miracle broth” that contained a bunch of different kelp extractions.
This is not a bad idea as fermentation has been used in skincare for years, and we know that it can give the skin great properties. However, what becomes problematic are the main ingredients. If there are bacteria in the cream, they’re going to be killed by the preservatives and the denatured alcohol in the product.
This doesn’t necessarily take away Max’s credibility because Max’s formula isn’t the one we have today. The one he created in 1981 had a trademark, and he began promoting it at dinner parties and giving samples to everyone he came across. He called it La Mer (the "sea" in French) as a tribute to the sea kelp he came across. Max believed in his products so much he told people to eat them and to rub them on their eyeballs. He said, “It’s great for your digestion and eyesight!"
He played the creams music, gave them sound baths, and flashed different color lights at them. He believed that it “gave them magical properties.” However, most studies on light and sound therapy are done on living organisms, not creams. Hubert was very eccentric, and he was absolutely zealous about his cream.
The Designer Ralph Rucci, also a friend of Huber’s, recalls when they first at an elite dinner party in the West Village around 1988. Rucci says, “Max become hypnotic telling his story (about discovering the creams). He had a small vial of Creme de la Mer at everyone’s place setting, and he told us all, “Put some in your mouth. Eat it. It’s great for your digestion” I had glasses, and Max said to me, “Do you have problems seeing?” Take a small bit of this, dab your finger in water, and put it in your eye. He went around the table performing these miraculous moments, and a cult formed. He was a dazzling, brilliant man with so much charisma, always the life of the party, the center of attention. Everyone thought they had found the fountain of youth when they found Max.”
But just 10 years later, Max passed away, and his daughter stepped in. However, she could not replicate the work, and Estee Lauder bought the formula 10 years later from the daughter after she couldn’t replicate the work.
Today, Andrew Bevacqua is the senior vice president of research and development at Mac Hubert labs. He started working at Estee Lauder in 1986, and he traveled to the “Miracle Broth” creme’s birthplace near Canoga Park, California. Bevacqua described what he saw upon walking through the doors.
“I saw all of these small pots with copper plates in them and wires coming out of them going into an amplifier. And you had this strange noise, bubbling and gurgling and there were all of these flashing lights. It was like The Twilight Zone.” To create what he called the “miracle broth," Huber fermented each batch of kelp in a fish tank for three months while continuously playing a soundtrack of sorts, the noise, recorded on a reel-to-reel, of the previous fermentation and exposing it to pulsed light. It was a process that I never could have imagined,” Bevacqua says.
Today, Bevacqua oversees this process, and La Mer tries to follow what Hubert created to a T. They even used Huber’s last known written notes, but just like Max’s daughter, they had a hard time replicating the process.
So, they decided to contact a psychic medium to talk to Max Huber from the dead.
They said Dr. Hubert’s paranormal advice taught them how to create the same miracle broth.
After the séance, Bevacqua reports that “he re-created the miracle broth as taught, but when the results were tested, both in vitro and on human skin, they didn’t rival the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potency of the original.”
The thing is - you don’t need to blast sound and light at a product for it to penetrate through the skin. So, could they be employing Mark Hubert’s story for marketing hype?
In 2018, they came under international pressure because they described the Creme de la Mer moisturizer as a "return: to Hubert’s original formula, but that wasn't true. This brand story was presented to Chinese consumers, and La Mer thought they could get away with it. So, how much are they romanticizing the story behind the brand to back up their prices?
On the Neiman Marcus website, the Creme de la Mer moisturizer 16 fl/oz is $2,500. The least expensive thing is a tiny thing of cleanser for $25. Then, their serum essence is $700.
What’s surprising is that celebrities get these highly-priced products for free so La Mer can reinforce the elite social status of having La Mer
When in reality, as we look at the ingredients, it’s very suggestive of Nivea and seaweed.
The first ingredient of moisturizer is algae which has amazing benefits for the skin, but the second ingredient is mineral oil which is really cheap. So, we're paying $500 for a 3.4 fl/oz. moisturizer???
As consumers, we have full autonomy to purchase what we want to buy and what we do not, but it’s important to consider everything, especially before we spend money that is equivalent to the average rent in L.A for 16 ounces of moisturizer.
For a video review of La Mer, click here.