These luxury creams are quite an investment.
Encased in gold or containing it, nothing speaks luxury louder than a load of l'Or. Not surprisingly the shiny stuff is the metal of choice for pricey skincare, with prestige companies outdoing each other to raise the bar with their expensive offerings.
The skincare sector is finding it tough generally with consumers watching their spending, but at its very top end sales are holding up, reflecting the growing global market for luxury goods. Even in New Zealand there is a demand, admittedly small, for creams costing well above the average family's grocery spend.
Expensive skincare tends to fall into two categories, that sold on innovation, claiming the latest, or most outlandish ingredients or that sold on aspiration, a look and feel like an expensive car purring "you deserve me". The former is usually encased in high-tech silver and accompanied with a wodge of scientific-sounding speak, the latter in establishment-favourite gold promoted with rather less hype and a heightened but discreet assurance of excellence. Gold-class creams appeal to women who like a texture akin to silk and a container with the satisfying weight of a krugerrand.
Over the next few weeks, a certain group of ladies will be invited to come to their favourite cosmetic counter to consider trading up. What will be on show are this year's prestige models from industry heavy-hitters Estee Lauder and Lancome. Not content allowing the likes of La Prairie and La Mer to stake out the super-premium market, these prestige houses are promoting their own versions of a creme de la creme. They already boast a range of lines from entry level to anti-ageing, but like Shiseido and Elizabeth Arden earlier this year and Dior before them (with L'Or de Vie), they are launching ever more exclusive lines. Chanel will also extend its golden reach mid-year with a lighter version of its top-of-the-range Sublimage line.
Gold-class creams aren't as heavily advertised as main skincare lines, so those invited along to experience them are most likely already loyal, high-spending customers. Distribution for such goods is invariably limited, with just a few department store or larger pharmacy counters having a handful of creams at prices usually kicking in from around double the brand's next best offering. For those in the know there may be a sample to try or a facial to enjoy, or simply the lure of being first in line for something special.
This is the skincare world's version of the car dealer suggesting you take the new model Merc or BMW for a spin. Yes, the family saloon does the job, but sometimes more sumptuous surrounds are seductive.
1. Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Re-Creation Face $1550
This golden duo of a delicate day or night cream and a silky serum best absorbed overnight is served up on its own tray - after all you'll want to display it. Re-Creation is an extension of the existing Re-Nutriv range (which features day and night creams at $450), and there's an accompanying eye balm and serum set for $880. Estee Lauder is convinced there is a market for this cosseting care which draws on algal extracts and plant oils which impart a lovely skin feel. The company says Re-Nutriv appeals to women who want a simple skincare regime that is simply the best. Re-Creation also contains a glacial bio-extract first isolated in Antarctic waters which is said to strengthen and sustain skin by boosting its elastin production. (From Smith & Caughey's.)
2. Lancome Absolue L'Extrait $448
The double doors of its gold box open up theatrically to reveal a black and gold jar centre-stage with a drawer beneath containing a little ladle and the gospel according to Lancome. This exalts its regenerating ultimate elixir and advises on application techniques. The little book tells quite a tale of a rose chosen from 20,000 flowers and how its cells (synthesised now) will "extend their vital properties to enhance the natural potential of skin's stem cells". As a cream-elixir moisturiser this smells divine and the texture is unbelievably fine. (Stockists: Smith & Caughey's, Amcal Meadowbank, Life Newmarket, Albany and Takapuna.)
3. Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Premiere day cream $184
Day, night and eye creams comprise the capsule Premiere collection aimed at enhancing moisture in mature skin. To combat the slowing of skin cell turnover in aged 50-plus skin, the creams are a nutrient-rich mix of sea minerals, replenishing ceramides and gentle retinols to help hydrate, smooth and diminish discolouration. The addition of a sunscreen in the rich day cream is a bonus in what for this sector seems a steal. (Elizabeth Arden counters at Farmers and pharmacy.)
4. Chanel Sublimage La Creme $515
From July, Chanel is introducing a Texture Fine version of La Creme, opening up the luxury market for younger women or those who prefer a more featherlight finish than the deliciously dense existing cream. Both draw on extracts from the Madagascan vanilla planifolia fruit and flower, which Chanel says has regenerative properties. To use in tandem with the creams there is a Sublimage Revitalising Concentrate for $630. (Department store and pharmacy stockists ph 0800 957 352.)
5. Chantecaille Nano Gold Energising Face $830
Infusing yourself in gold definitely sounds excessive, but we haven't tried this one so can't vouch for the effect. The cream contains tiny particles of gold combined with silk in a mainly botanical base said to re-energise skin. The jury is out on nano, but the micro-particles are increasingly popping up in products. Chantecaille generally takes a holistic approach, eschewing parabens and aiming for aromatherapeutic appeal.
(From Mecca Cosmetica stores, ph (09) 360 8460.)
6. Shiseido Future Solution LX Total Regenerating Cream $477
Black gold from Shiseido, in this delicately scented cream which contains its patent-pending Skingenecell formula said to limit an age-accelerating factor in the skin. Green tea, star fruit and firming yeast combine in a cream with an exquisitely fine texture. (Shiseido counters.)By Janetta Mackay Email Janetta