La Mer Radiant Serum

Reviewed by Marta on March 1, 2011


The formula for La Mer’s “miracle broth” – the secret sauce in Crème De La Mer – is as closely held as the recipe for coke. Study the invididual ingredients in a pot of Crème, however, and miracle broth turns out to be an unimpressive mix of seaweed and minerals, barely justifying the $150 price tag. The other day, La Mer launched The Radiant Serum ($290), which costs a hundred bucks more than the original Crème. Is it worth it?

I suppose that if you are spending $290 on a product whose dominant ingredient is water you’d be reassured that it wasn’t any old H2o. La Mer uses declustered water in The Radiant Serum, which is water that has been processed to single molecules that are supposedly more bio-available (easily absorbed by the body). Confusingly, there’s a conflicting theory that “structured water”, clustered into smaller or hexagonal shapes is more readily absorbed by skin cells. Needless to say, there isn’t any science backing up either (or any other supercharged water for that matter).

But there seemed, at first glance, to be a lot more to La Mer The Radiant Serum than designer water. It has far fewer fillers than your average department store beauty product and kicks in quickly with what seems to be an impressive array of botanicals. The problem is that there isn’t much evidence to support their active role in skin antiaging.

For example, bupleurum falcatum (also known as Chinese thoroughwax or sickle-leaf hare's ear). There isn’t a research pedigree on what it can specifically do for the skin, but studies on animals indicate that it contains saikosaponins that have anti-inflammatory effects. The same is largely true for St Paul’s wort (siegesbeckia orientalis).  More convincing is Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum), in which resveratrol has been isolated.

Not surprisingly, La Mer has focused on marine botanicals. But with them, too, the research is sparse and have been proven to be effective fungicides and not much else. Laminaria digitata, or Atlantic kelp, is rich in compounds that are of specific use in the cosmetic industry, such as polygalactosides, fucose polymers and ursolic acid. But this is according to a cosmetic company and I wasn’t able to corroborate it with another source.  A study (one of the few) on asparagopsis armata (a kind of red alga) showed it to be cytoxic. The most convincing is ascophyllum nodosum, which has been shown to be an antioxidant with radical scavenging capabilities.

There are a surprising number of ingredients that could be the cosmetic equivalent of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Crithmum maritimum is an antioxidant, comparable to vitamin E, according to one study. Other research has shown it to be cytoxic and suggested that its role in cosmetics should be as a preservative.  Another ingredient used by La Mer in Radiant Serum is tetraacetyl phytosphingosine, found to have an adverse effect on wound healing and leads to cell death, according to one researcher. Meanwhile, nordihydroguaiaretic acid was banned for consumption because it was found to be toxic, although it may have the benefit of zapping acne.

Way down the list there are a couple of interesting ingredients. One is a relatively new one called octadecenedioic acid. This seems to be a skin brightener that is used as a non-irritating alternative to alzeic acid. Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol manganese chloride also goes by the name of EUK-134 and is a useful antioxidant that prevents damage from UVB ray.

Although I must admit that La Mer’s The Radiant Serum is a serious looking anti-ager, there are simply too many ingredients that require a leap of faith. With so little hard evidence behind these actives, it looks as tangible and plausible as ‘miracle broth’. For $290, I would want some harder facts to stir the pot with.