Creme De La Mer Dupes: Ingredients Analysis and Similar Products!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Creme De La Mer is one of those iconic products in the beauty industry everyone's heard of. It is legendary, and the very definition of a cult product, and is often claimed to be a "miracle broth" that miraculously somehow helps in anti-aging. Despite its outrageously high price, or perhaps because of it, the buzz around this product is high - celebrities are said to use it, lots of blog reviews can be found raving about it, and those who spend the money on it claim that it definitely does work. It is the one and only Creme De La Mer, after all, and it is so unique that nothing can come close to it, and there aren't any products like it - or are there?

Creme De La Mer: A legendary product, with legendary hype (Source)

You guys know that I get pretty skeptical of such claims. It has been said that the humble ol' Nivea Creme is a dupe for Creme De La Mer - but of course, if you search the Internets, you'll find people saying that they don't see a difference between the two, and you'll also find tons of people who say that the La Mer version is still much better, and the plain ol' Nivea can't compare.

So with that said and done, let’s examine the Creme de La Mer more closely, and find out what exactly is in this "miracle broth". From there, we can figure out how the product works, and then, see if there are any dupes for it, or if not dupes, perhaps similar products. And the only way to begin this process is to get down and dirty with the Creme De La Mer ingredients list!

The Original Creme De La Mer: What exactly is inside?

So, we start off by looking at the Creme De La Mer ingredients, naturally. So much has been said about how amazing the product is, so I'm just going to cut to the chase. What is in this product to so many people fawn and obsess over?

Creme De La Mer: Basically formulated like an occlusive moisturizer (Source)

Algae Extract, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Petroleum Jelly, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Extract, Microcrystalline Wax, Lanolin Alcohol, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Magnesium Sulfate, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Seed Powder, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake, Sweet Almond Protein, Sodium Gluconate, Potassium Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Gluconate, Magnesium Gluconate, Zinc Gluconate, Paraffin, Tocopheryl Succinate, Niacin, Beta-Carotene, Decyl Oleate, Aluminum Distearate, Octyldodecanol, Citric Acid, Cyanocobalamin, Magnesium Stearate, Panthenol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Citral, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Alcohol Denat, Fragrance

The ingredients list for this product can throw some people off at first because of the variety of plant extracts in the product, and not all of them add to its functionality. I know that some people love them, especially with the increasing preference for “natural” products, but for the most part, the effect of plant extracts on skin is often dubious, especially when presented in jar packaging, where any potential anti-oxidant effects may be lost with exposure to light and air. So when we are looking at possible dupes for a product like La Mer, it’s worth considering whether the plant extracts are actually functional ingredients, or just there for the marketing.

In the case of La Mer, the main plant extract is Seaweed (Algae) Extract, with a bunch of other plant extracts, being present only in what is probably very small amounts. But the science behind the benefits of seaweed extract are more tenuous than the company’s own marketing suggests. There is some evidence that an extract of Fucus vesiculosus, is a type of seaweed, might cause a decrease in skin thickness (which the authors then suggest might be useful for anti-aging purposes because “the thickness normally increases and the elasticity usually decreases with age”). There is also some evidence that Algae Extract could have anti-inflammatory properties, and that the extract of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum, may have anti-oxidant benefits. Both of these are useful for skin, but such benefits, particularly the anti-oxidant properties, could quickly be lost if the product is packaged in a jar. So in short — seaweed extract may have some benefits by its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and ability to decrease skin thickness, but much of this benefit is lost in a jar packaging, which leads us to conclude that the workhorse ingredients behind the product’s ability to function have to be something else other than seaweed extract.

So if that exotic Seaweed Extract isn't the one giving all those miraculous anti-aging benefits, then what in the product makes it work? The ingredients which do have stronger science behind them, and are probably the workhorse ingredients, are unfortunately, the more unsexy ones: Mineral Oil(Paraffinum Liquidum), Petrolatum, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Microcrystalline Wax, and Lanolin Alcohol, which are either occlusives and emollients (like Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Lanolin Alcohol), or humectants (like Glycerin) or other functional ingredients like emulsifiers (Isohexadecane, Microcrystalline Wax).

All of these ingredients are great to have in skincare - occlusives help to form a barrier on the skin to prevent water loss from the skin, emollients help the skin feel smooth, and humectants draw water into the skin. Emulsifiers help by preventing the product from separating - after all, this is a mix of water-based ingredients and oil-based ingredients. But, none of these ingredients really warrant a lot of hype about the product being a "miracle broth", and certainly none of them are particularly special or rare, either — in fact, quite a number of them are found commonly in drugstore products, as we shall soon see.

So how do we evaluate our dupes, then?

From looking at the ingredients list, we can quite confidently conclude that:
1. The whole marketing spiel about Creme De La Mer being a "miracle broth" that has major anti-aging benefits due to the magical Algae Extract is just that - marketing-speak, because although it could help in decreasing skin thickness and have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it's likely that when packaged in a jar, the benefits from the Seaweed Extract will be rendered useless.
2. The ingredients that instead do the job and form the bulk of the product are instead a bunch of occlusives (Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Lanolin Alcohol), or humectants (like Glycerin).
3. The formula of Creme De La Mer is quite occlusive-heavy. This can be seen by how far up the ingredients lists the occlusives are, as well as the fact that most of the key ingredients are occlusives. So the Creme De La mer is pretty heavy on the occlusives, and not so much on the humectants.

So when looking at possible dupes or similar products, what should we look at? Ideally, to get the closest possible dupes, in terms of product function, we would want:
1. Very similar functional ingredients, like the Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Lanolin Alcohol, and Glycerin.
2. Products with stronger occlusive and emollient properties, just like Creme De La Mer.

And with that, let's start our survey of potential dupes!

Creme De La Mer Dupe #1: Nivea Creme

Of course I had to take a look at this first, given Nivea Creme's fame for being an alternative to the Creme De La Mer. Of course, on its own, it's also much-loved as a cheap but very efficient moisturizer. There are two versions of the product, a US Version and a European Version.

Nivea Creme
Nivea Creme: An occlusive moisturizer long famous as a Creme De La Mer dupe (Source)

Ingredients (US Version):
Water, Mineral Oil, Petroleum Jelly, Glycerin, Microcrystalline Wax, Lanolin Alcohol, Paraffin, Panthenol, Alcohol, Magnesium Sulfate, Decyl Oleate, Octyldodecanol, Aluminum Stearate, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Magnesium Stearate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Ingredients (European Version):
(from Paula's Choice) Aqua, Paraffinum Liquidum, Cera Microcrystallina (Microcrystalline Wax), Glycerin, Lanolin Alcohol, Paraffin, Panthenol, Decyl Oleate, Octyldodecanol, Alumnium Stearate, Citric Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Magnesium Stearate, Parfum, Limonene, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellol, Linalool, Citronellol, Benzyl Benzoate, Cinnamyl Alcohol

I know some people may prefer one specific formulation of Nivea over the other, and certainly if you search the Interwebs there are people who are convinced that one version is somehow absolutely better than the other. But either way, both versions aren't that different from each other in terms of formulation, and both versions are pretty good alternatives for the Creme de La Mer. Both have the main occlusives and emollients (Mineral Oil, Lanolin Alcohol), humectants (Glycerin), and emulsifier (Microcrystalline Wax). So the functional ingredients are pretty similar!

The main difference between the two formulas is that the US version has Petrolatum (another occlusive, and found in the La Mer), and Alcohol (which can dry skin out in large amounts, but doesn’t appear to be in the product in significant amounts, and in any case, is found in the midst of an otherwise very heavy, thick product). Both formulas also appear to be quite heavy on the occlusives, like the La Mer Creme, and there is a minor but beneficial ingredient, Panthenol, that appears in both the La Mer and Nivea Cremes. So yes, the Nivea Creme does live up to its reputation for being a good alternative to the La Mer version.

Creme De La Mer Dupe #2: Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment is another popular drugstore product in its own right. It's cheap, easily available at drugstores, and is often recommended as an ointment for sensitive skin. It also has a surprisingly short ingredients list.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment: An simple, occlusive, non-irritating moisturizer (Source)

Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol

Again, there are definitely similar occlusives (Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Lanolin Alcohol) and humectants (Glycerin), as well as the minor ingredient Panthenol. And like the original La Mer Creme, this is also a pretty occlusive formulation, which is heavy on the occlusives and less so on the humectants. So yes, this is also a pretty good Creme De La Mer alternative as well.

In fact, the simplicity of this formula, without the plant extracts and other secondary ingredients, means that ironically this might actually be better for sensitive skin than the Creme De La Mer product is, particularly for those people who might have skin that does not react well to plant extracts or fragrance ingredients. The La Mer product does have a bunch of such ingredients, like Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, and Citronellol, which are citrus extracts with a nice fragrance, but can be irritating for some skin types. So ironically, although Creme De La Mer is sold as a product that heals the skin and has anti-aging benefits, it can actually be irritating to skin instead! This perhaps is the most stripped down of all the La Mer alternatives and is a good choice for sensitive skin.

Creme De La Mer Dupe #3: Curel Intensive Healing Cream

Curel Intensive Healing Cream is another cheap drugstore basic that is a dry skin favourite. Let's check out the ingredients for Curel Intensive Healing Cream.

Curel Intensive Healing Cream: An occlusive moisturizer suitable for dry skin (Source)

Water, Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Glycerin, Microcrystalline Wax, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glyceryl Dilaurate, Paraffin, Dimethicone, Cetyl PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide, Magnesium Stearate, Isopropyl Myristate, Magnesium Sulfate, Glyceryl Oleate, Ethoxydiglycol, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben, Butylene Glycol, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract, Propylparaben

Again, there are similarities in functional ingredients like the occlusives (Mineral Oil, Petrolatum), humectants (Glycerin), and emulsifiers (Microcrystalline Wax), and the formula is also quite heavy on the emollients too. The skinfeel and texture of the product might differ somewhat from the La Mer, but functionally, when you look at the main ingredients, this is also a pretty reasonable alternative.

The Conclusion: Not just one, but three similar products, all at cheaper price points!

So there you have it - we have not just one, but three products, all with similar key occlusive and humectant ingredients, and all at a cheaper price point! These may not be a 100% exact dupe of the La Mer Creme, and for those who are used to the scent/texture/packaging of Creme De La Mer, they may find that the drugstore versions could have a different texture and scent, and certainly the psychology of using an expensive product can lead consumers into thinking that a more pricey product is better just because it is more expensive, even if the cheaper product is identical. So it doesn't surprise me that for some people, a substitute for Creme De La Mer is unthinkable. But for the rest of us who are looking for a product that functions much like the Creme De La Mer, all of these three products are good choices, with very similar functional ingredients, and at much cheaper price points!

Everyone's preferences may vary, but if I had to recommend one, my favourite out of all four products is probably the Aquaphor, just because it has the simplest formulation sans any irritating ingredients or fragrances, and thus is least likely to cause any skin sensitivities to flare up. But either way, if you choose any of the three La Mer dupes, you're choosing a good occlusive moisturizer with basically the same key ingredients as Creme De La Mer. It just goes to show that as far as skincare goes, you don't need to spend a lot of money to get an effective, well-formulated product!


  1. So interesting! I find this really informative but I imagine I'd be pretty upset if I purchased La Mer and then found this out lol

  2. I'm thinking what's so special about La mer is that it's a water in oil formulation. Most moisturizers these days are either oil/silicone in water emulsions or gels.
    Water in oil formulations are richer and provide a longer lasting hydration. La mer's formula is not a particularly innovative formula as far as water in oil formulations go but I'm not surprised people find it very different from their usual moisturisers.


  3. Discovered your blog via Fifty Shades of Snail and I am learning a lot. Thank you. Now this article makes total sense to me. So many people were raving about La Mer cream several years ago that I bought a pot for the dry winter season. But after a few weeks of using the cream my face got covered in tiny whiteheads. My dermatologist told me to stop using the cream as it was too heavy for my skin even though I have combination skin with very dry cheeks. It took me about two weeks of topical ointments to get rid of all that bumbs. Never again. Now I am into layering lighter Korean products which seems to work well so far. Sanna from Hong Kong

  4. People just don't seem to get it. A watch cannot work properly even one tiniest component is absent. Creams without the signature fermented sea kelp is NOT a dupe of La Mer. Fermentation process break down the molecules of the "nutrient" into smaller sizes so that it penetrates better. Which is why some skin care products that are dubbed as "miracle" involve fermentation process: La Mer. SK-II etc.. Moreover creams that having the same ingredients do not equal to same results, just like different people can produce different taste even with the same ingredients. Just saying what I thought. Anyway I love La Mer creme.

    1. I definitely agree. I have tried so many "dupes" but at the end of the day, none of them make my skin look like La Mer does. Yes, it is expensive. But it is much MUCH cheaper than all the money I spent on products that did not work and/or irritated my skin.

    2. I have to agree. You can have the same or similar products but ingredients aren't the same amount or in the same order changes the cream in a completely different way.
      I thought la mer smelt and felt like sudocrem until I researched it and don't have the same ingredients at all.
      Look I'm not rich and had to buy 15ml jar and brought a gift bag that is normally free just to test the products and they aren't lying.

      I have really dry skin and crem de la mer was brilliant and the treatment lotion which I got free with buying my 15ml creme de la mer....(not by buying the gift bag)
      I'm 37 years old and trust me I've been through a lot of trauma and this has helped me.
      I should be paid for this but I'm not.
      Seriously, it is good. Just get the cheapest one and try it for so long and if you like it then brilliant, if you don't then don't buy again.
      No harm no foul so to speak.

  5. I still find that using a soft oil like olive oil, on it's own in small amounts and with the right application and gentle rinse after is the best.

  6. Hi! Any leads on a la mer dupe that are cruelty free? None of the above three fit into that category- thanks!

  7. I used nivea for bad face skiing sunburn, it worked really well, for the pain at least. My skin still peeled though. Now I use creams with oils in them to create a moisture barrier. Without this barrier skin gets dry really fast. My skin is very dry but at 60 now I have very few wrinkles and those are hardly noticeable. I rub the oil cream into the wrinkled areas to "iron" out the wrinkles and penetrate. I do this after a face wash of plain very warm water to open the pores and gently use a wash rag to exfoliate. Yves Roche Riche Cream has oil based ingredients and is cruelty free and formulated for mature skin. It can be somewhat greasy, use sparingly. All of their products are plant based and reasonably priced. Coconut oil by itself works very well too.

  8. I wonder if Aquaphor can be used under makeup.

    1. @Em Smith: It can, in the sense that there's nothing in it that might interfere with makeup, but it probably would be extremely aesthetically inelegant, e.g. it might feel too heavy or oily, so that may not be a good idea. If you have some lying around it miiiight be worth a try, maybe? Hope this helps!

  9. For me, it's the fragrance. I'd be happy to use one of the others if it smelled the same. But I love La Mer because of how it smells. Ugh. At first, I wasn't crazy about the occlusive and humectant ingredients because I was more interested in letting my skin breathe. If anyone knows how to dupe the fragrance that would solve my quest.

  10. I use LaMer and I have also tried using Nivea instead .. they cant be compared. I know that LaMer is quite pricey, but I would gladly pay the money for the results. At the end of the day it just comes down to each person's individual skin and philosophy on cosmetics. I don't think LaMer is for everyone, but it is the perfect solution for some people.

  11. I use LaMer and I have also tried using Nivea instead .. they cant be compared. I know that LaMer is quite pricey, but I would gladly pay the money for the results. At the end of the day it just comes down to each person's individual skin and philosophy on cosmetics. I don't think LaMer is for everyone, but it is the perfect solution for some people.

  12. long before estee lauder bought la mer and ruined it by changing it into just another white, whipped oil skin cream, it had another formulation. It broke down quickly and you were advised to keep it cool, even refrigerate it, and keep it in a dark place. The consistency was unique- it got a little waxier and stickier as you rolled it in your hands and dotted it on your skin. After it had been opened a while it would separate into a greasier and watery-er , 2 consistency blob in your jar. I loved it. I have never used anything that was so great for my skin. It even seemed to heal small skin irritations. I have never seen or tried anything that is like that product, ever again.

    Because people that knew the original loved it, and because the myth- or real- story of its origin as a burn salve invented by a nasa scientist to ease his burned skin was so intriguing, the moniker "miracle broth" was retained up until the present for use in advertising, even though the new, estee lauder product had standard department store cream ingredients.

    I often wonder where that original recipe is, whether it couldn't be resurrected for use in hospitals, and why estee lauder would ruin such a unique product. Of course, they are still selling it for hundreds of dollars for the smallest jars, so it does not matter to them. Most likely, when they bought it they just wanted to remove a competitor.

  13. Wow that is some very useful info!

  14. Jesus christ. Are you for real. How uneducated are you? You boast about how wonderful petroleum is in skincare? That shit belongs under a car, not on the skin. But then you have concerns about the effectiveness of plants???? YOU ARE A MORON! It is sad that in an age of information and technology you are this ignorant!!! OMG!!! It's shocking. Do you not realize the La Mer is nothing but a scam.. petroleum and its byproducts cost less than $1 per litre. This entire cream is nothing but cheap fillers.. it is toxic sludge in a jar sold for astronomical prices and you're all too dumb to understand. i cannot believe people fall for this shit!!!! I wouldn't put this toxic crap on my skin even if someone paid me!!!!

    1. Someone is a total jerk. What is wrong with you Brit? Disagree but not all the hate. Its skin cream. Should not syary world war three.

  15. Are YOU for real. I understand your opinion and kind of agree with you especially about the petroleum products not being good for skin. However, your anger and talking so ugly to peoplejust because you disagree with them is terrible. Get a grip.

  16. After reading your article about possible "Dupes de la Mer (ha, ha), I just wanted to weigh in with my two cents but first, a couple of observations. To Louis Lee who posted how much he loved Creme de la Mer. I'm assuming that you have a constant flow of cash that would allow you to pay such an exorbitant amount of money for this basic cream (how much of that seaweed broth is in it anyway? They never say). For a young person, you're pretty dang lucky to afford this - the majority of us would have to use money that should be used for a better purpose, like food, rent, bills...etc..So kudos to you. For Britt who had to spew vitriol all over the page and try to belittle someone who more than likely knows about petroleum and other similar chemicals - chill out! I know a lot about other natural brands that don't contain nasty chemicals, petroleum, petrolatum, mineral oil and so on. Their price point is better than "Creme" but it's still up there for a lot of women and men and it's still taking a bite out of your budget.
    I have found a perfect dupe for "Creme" on Etsy and yes, it's made with an exact dupe of the seaweed broth and the cream itself doesn't contain any nasty chemicals, oils, and petroleum products. The price? $46.21 CAD and the best part is that it comes in a glass container with a pump/fine spray.
    Hope this helps!

  17. SweeatPeach Bellini....please share :)

  18. Finally someone has enlightened online La Mer shoppers like myself!
    So let me contest to all you said and AGREE 100% with you!
    My dear husband gave me as a gift this precious, sought after and highly regarded Creme De La Mer!!!! You can imagine my excitement!
    I have used the entire container in record fast time considering the size, the price and all. And checked my skin every single day! Took pictures every day at the same time and DIDNT SEE ANY AMAZING RESULTS! Yes for this kind of money I do expect amazing results in record fast time!!!!!!
    To my surprise I also find out that my skin didn’t really get any amazing benefits from this product it was not already getting it from a much much cheaper ones like NIVEA! Yes I use it in a winter because my skin gets so dry! I use European version send from Germany and the end effect is same!!!!!
    Imagine my disappointment and dissatisfaction in the end! In my personal opinion this product is NO BETTER than a baseline NIVEA cream. Your skin will be soft and moist And that’s IT. Your wrinkles will still stay same and no, there won’t be any glow and awe! I already had this from the skincare I was using!
    As you can imagine I have Never said to my husband what I really think of La Mer ... and I know for sure I will never buy this product again!
    And to those who are in doubt. Get Nivea and see if there is any difference in result between them!!!!!
    I am European! My grandma was religiously using Nivea cream all her life and her skin was always baby soft, not wrinkle free! But baby soft! That’s why I use it too!

  19. At its price point I cannot afford La Mer, however when I visited my family my mom gave me some Moisturizing Gel de La Mer to take with me.
    Instead of opting for everyday use I have decided to keep it mostly for emergencies like skin growths, stubborn blemishes and scars - and it works very well and very fast. It even cleared an ingrown hair bump on my dog's ear.
    I have used Nivea crème as a moisturizer comparison - once Nivea is absorbed the skin goes back to being dry and at times is even worse off afterwards.
    I cannot afford La Mer but there is no cream that works like La Mer does. Otherwise I'd be all over it.

  20. I would like something with aloe to mix with my Aquafor.

  21. Pristine Beauty has a cream that has a wonderful and very effective natural version of Creme De La Mer. The reviews are amazing and it is concentrated in a 5pz air tight glass bottle!

  22. A woman in England did a trial of using De La Mer on half her face and Nivea on the other. At the end of the trial? Guess what side won? It's all hype and marketing BS. Same deal for those stupid Canada Goose coats - way over priced and hyped. People are sheep.

  23. La Mer is crap. If the second ingredient is Mineral Oil that is crap....


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