THE BLOG
09/12/2007 12:15 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are Ultra-Expensive Creams Worth the Price?

I must hear this question once a day. People always want to know which is the best moisturizer and whether it is worth spending hundreds of dollars per ounce for the latest miracle cream. I personally stick to a basic skin care routine and supplement with products that have been scientifically proven to work but I decided that I should learn more about these ultra-expensive creams so that I can give a more informed answer.

After looking at the latest anti-aging creams available at Bergdorf Goodman, it is easy to see how Americans spent $44.6 billion last year on anti aging services and products according to Business Communications Company Inc. in Norwalk, CT. An ounce of Crème de la Mer at $110 seems like a bargain compared to a month supply of Re Vive Peau Magnifique at $1,500 or Sisley Paris' Antiaging cream at $410 per 1.7 oz jar. Granted, a lot of these creams contain sea kelp, caviar, peptides, growth factors, and vitamins which are quite rare or costly to make. La Mer claims that it takes three -- four months to distill its "miracle broth" while the Re Vive product contains several enzymes and growth factors which require molecular biology techniques to produce.

The problem is that no one knows the exact concentration of these ingredients in the cream or how effective they are at reducing the signs of aging. Consumers of these products rely on the manufacturer's proprietary studies, since cosmetic creams are very loosely regulated by government agencies such as the FDA. Since the FDA does not regulate cosmetics as rigorously as they regulate prescription medications, cosmetic products do not have to prove their efficacy in order to receive approval in the scientifically designed clinical studies that are required for the approval of prescription products. An anti-aging cosmetic cream can gain FDA approval if it "improves the appearance of wrinkles" whereas an anti-aging medication would have to "cure, mitigate, or prevent" the skin aging process.

Without blinded and controlled scientific studies it is impossible to know if these luxury moisturizers really provide miraculous wrinkle cures or if they seem to work just because using a good moisturizer every day can improve the appearance of your skin. One way to find out if an expensive cream is worth its extra cost for you is to buy some and apply it to only one half of your face for a month, while using a high quality moisturizer in the other half. If you can see a difference in the side treated with the expensive cream, then it might be worth the price. If not, stick to the drugstore brands with the same basic moisturizers but without the sticker shock. One last note, for the price of the ReVive Peau product, you could take away wrinkles a lot faster with a few shots of Botox and Restylane, both of which underwent rigorous scientific safety and efficacy testing prior to their FDA approval.