This is what nearly $1,700 worth of skin care looks like.
Four beautiful glass bottles in weighty, elegant boxes, each stamped with platinum, gold, or rose gold print. I just get happy looking at them lined up on my vanity, sort of like the way I did when I bought my first La Mer Crème de la Mer way back in the ’90s.
But that’s not the only thing Retrouvé and La Mer have in common. To wit: an interesting backstory (both founders created their respective lines for their own skin), loads of marine ingredients (algae, kelp), and beautiful packaging with a price point to match.
Retrouvé is the brainchild of Jami Morse Heidegger, the former owner of Kiehl’s (before she sold it to L’Oréal). It started out as Heidegger’s own personal skin care line, formulated for her by a cosmetic chemist she used to work with. She told him that cost was not an issue and to make her a line with the highest concentrations of the best of what was out there. (Side note: My dream come true.) Retrouvé is the result, a line of skin care that uses the high-end natural and science-backed ingredients, in the highest concentrations, produced in a high-tech, synergistic formulation that allows deep and effective delivery of the ingredients to the skin. Most of the products come in a thick, glass airless pump to prevent contamination. Right now, there are five products: one cleanser, one serum, two moisturizers, and an eye cream, each going for about $400. (There’s a new product coming out in April, which I’m testing now. Keep an eye out for the review!)
When we tested the products at a press event a couple months ago, I think the other editors and I were a little taken aback by how thick and balm-like some of the textures were. We’re talking like a Vaseline lip balm-like texture. But as I patted the balm onto the back of my hand (and yes, it felt incredibly rich), I was shocked to find that after about 15 minutes, the “balm” had completely disappeared, as if it had absorbed deep into my skin, leaving no greasy afterfeel and only super soft, smooth skin. It was pretty impressive.
The Revitalizing Eye Concentrate is similarly impressive. Just one drop out of the airtight, airless pump is all you need. It comes out like a rich oil, and it spreads like a dream. At first, I was worried that since it’s an oil, it would migrate into my eyes, causing all manner of stinging. Never once did this happen, even though one tiny pump sometimes felt like too much product for the eye area. (I spread it out to the temples, up to the brows, and down to the tops of my cheeks, that’s how much a tiny drop will go.)
I’m picky about my eye creams because I’m, ahem, older, and many of them on the market are just not rich, hydrating, or potent enough to keep my deeper lines at bay. This one checks all those boxes, and my eye area always feels hydrated now and the lines are softer. It’s also waterless, which means it doesn’t need preservatives. The ingredient list is also impressive: The first three are squalane (which I love for its ability to quickly absorb without a greasy afterfeel), cholesterol esters, and vitamin E. Other ingredients in the relatively short list include:
- retinyl palmitate (a mild retinol)
- Padina pavonica thallus extract (there’s the algae I was talking about — this one is from the Mediterranean and it’s been shown to boost the skin’s natural production of glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs, necessary for skin strength and elasticity
- tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, the stable, oil-soluble vitamin C (considered the analogue to gold standard L-ascorbic acid)
And despite its rich oil texture, I never have problems with my eye makeup with this eye treatment — it doesn’t interfere at all, contrary to what you’d think with something so rich. I’d argue that this eye treatment is even better than other eye creams that are loaded with silicones, which always make my eye makeup slip and slide all over my face.
I also just started using the Nutrient Face Serum, and this one’s a winner, too. It’s a lotion-y caramel colored serum that spreads beautifully on my skin. There’s not much of a scent; it just smells like what I would imagine unscented ingredients to smell like. (In fact, the line contains no dyes, artificial fragrances, parabens, silicones, petrolatums, and mineral oils.) After water, the second ingredient is the stable vitamin C, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Shortly thereafter, you’ll see:
- botanical extracts like pomegranate and white tea
- vitamin E
- resveratrol ferment extract
- ambiaty extract, a shrub from Madagascar that protects the skin’s dermal-epidermal junction.
- Laminaria digitata extract (a brown seaweed that binds water and provides a protective moisturizing barrier)
- Padina pavonica thallus extract
I love the Dynamic Nourishing Face Cream for its luxurious texture that is still surprisingly lightweight — it’s perfect for everyday. (Squalane and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate are high up on the ingredient list.) And the Intensive Replenishing Facial Moisturizer, considered the line’s pièce de résistance, is an overnight treatment packed with apple stem cells, marine extracts, and other skin rejuvenating ingredients for very dry skin. (The first five ingredients are cholesterol ester, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a stable vitamin E, squalane, and safflower seed oil.) Yes, it has the scent of something slightly sweet and fermented, and it does have alcohol denat. (the seventh ingredient), but for a formulation like this, overwhelmingly balanced out by so many rich botanical oils and extracts, I’m willing to overlook it. Both are packed with ingredients similar to the Eye Concentrate and Face Serum; in other words, very few chemicals and loads of nature-based and science-backed skincare ingredients.
No doubt, Retrouvé is pricey. It’s La Mer-pricey. It’s got a cult following, so it may eventually reach La Mer-prestigious. It’s certainly prettier than La Mer. But is it worth the price? So far, based on what I’ve seen on my own face, I definitely think it is. Will I re-buy (or buy, since what I’m using now are press samples)? To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll be able to buy after finishing my stash — as a beauty editor, I have a lot of other products I have to go through — but I definitely think it’s high up there on my list of skin investments I’m willing to make.
What’s the most expensive skin care product you’ve ever tried, and did you think it was worth the price?