I have always been obsessed with luxury skincare, even as a teen. My first foray into the market was going to La Mer’s Tangs Orchard counter over a decade ago, purchasing my first Creme de la Mer after reading about it in a magazine. At the time, my friends thought I was crazy for spending about $300 for a moisturiser. And while that might not sound like a lot today, it was definitely considered a big splurge at the time.
With an array of products that cost anything from $800 to easily over $1,000 in the market, skincare that cost a couple of hundred sometimes almost seems like the norm to industry insiders. Take Cle de Peau Beaute’s Synactif Cream, for example, which was first launched locally in 2010 and went through a revamp in 2014. At $1,800 a tub, it’s no drop in the bucket. You could easily get a pair of Louboutins or Manolos for that price. La Prairie’s Cellular Cream Platinum Rare is not far behind, costing $1,750 for a bottle.
However, the brands tend to be able to justify the cost of the products. The Synactif Cream is so concentrated with active ingredients that only a half a pea-sized amount is enough for the entire face (it lasted me for four months instead of the regular two since only such a small amount was needed). The Cellular Cream Platinum Rare contains real platinum, which is the most precious metal in the world and is said to be about 30 times more rare than gold.
One of the priciest products I’ve ever come across, however, would have to be Dior’s L’Or de Vie La Cure. The three-month treatment set has about 30 years of research behind it and costs almost $3,000. It uses natural fertiliser composed of white-grape seeds and skin from the Chateau d’Yquem vineyard in Southwestern France. It supposedly helps restore cellular “fertility” by rejuvenating skin cells so they become more productive and work faster. Considered a limited edition product, each set is labelled by the year it is made and the quantity depends on the vineyard’s harvest for the year.
Luxury skincare has remained popular for a variety of reasons. For me, the most important one is definitely the efficacy. For the entire year I was using Cle de Peau Beaute’s five-step Synactif range, my eczema-prone skin remained calm and my overall complexion felt fresher and smoother. Whenever I get breakouts, scratches or irritation, I just need to smooth on some of La Mer’s The Concentrate for a few days and all my skin woes would be solved.
Another reason, I admit, is a fairly superficial one. Luxury skincare just seems to feel, well, more luxurious. From the bottle to the scent and the texture of the products, the entire experience is a pampering one. And rightfully so, after all, a percentage of the cost price often goes to packaging and marketing.
Curious if the reason why luxe skincare was so popular had more to do with marketing, I once passed a $500 moisturiser (without revealing to her the price) from an American brand to a teacher friend of mine who was complaining about how rough and dry her complexion was. After using it, she raved about how she felt her skin felt so much smoother and softer and even told me that for the first time, she understood what I meant when I told her that skincare should melt into skin.
Nicolas Chesnier, Sisley’s Asia Pacific regional managing director, makes no apologies for the cost of the brand’s products, which can go up to $880 for a moisturiser. “We are a premium brand,” says Chesnier. “Phyto cosmetology (using natural plant-based ingredients to create beauty products) is very costly, more so than making synthetic molecules because you are dependent on the harvest. But the benefit of being high-end allows you the freedom to search for a long time, and not to care about the price but the quality of results you get.”
And luxury skincare seems to not only be gaining fans, but also keeping them. For example, Cle de Peau Beaute has seen double-digit growth in sales for 2017. La Mer also launched their most expensive product to date last year, the Genaissance The Serum Essence at $980, which even had a waiting list one month prior to its launch.
But before you wave off this phenom as just an indulgence of uber rich heiress, think again. The customer profile of French brand Sisley tends to be made up of working professionals, while Cle de Peau Beaute’s consumers are a mix of homemakers, socialites, business owners and PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businessmen). The bulk of La Mer’s fans are also a mix of working professionals, as well as social ladies.
You might be wondering why everyday people would be willing to plonk down a significant part of their monthly salaries on skincare, which is not only perishable but often needs to be replenished after just a few months if used regularly. According to Alwyn Chong, managing director of Escentials Concepts, a luxury multi-label beauty store that prides itself on bringing unique and niche beauty labels to Singapore, it is because “beauty is not really about price.”
“It might also a cultural thing,” says Chong. “Asian women are always trying to find the ultimate cream and are willing to spend the money because they care more about their complexion.”
Also, Chong believes that unlike fashion, beauty tends to be more of a necessity, which is why it tends to be less affected by the economy. “Beauty is usually the last category product to go into recession,” he calmly said. “Unless it’s a very long recession, I don’t think beauty generally gets hit too much. We are a pretty resilient industry.”
Chesnier seems to echo this sentiment, explaining, “When we first launched Sisley’s Supremya la Nuit serum in 2009, it was just after the Lehman Brothers crash. People asked us why we would launch it then, especially when it is the most expensive product in our range. We told them because it was ready. And it was a big success from day one, despite it costing $880, which is not cheap.”
“I believe luxury skincare will continue to do well because in difficult times, people want to go for quality. Yes, it’s costly, but customers get something from it. The sense of quality for the price becomes more important in a crisis, because consumers want results,” shares Chesnier. “In the 10 years I’ve been with the company, I’ve seen growth every year. In fact, in times of crisis, we seem to be getting an even stronger increase in the market share.”
My personal take on it is that while I love me some Chanel and Dior, given a choice in lean times, skincare would be where I put my money in. After all, what use is a great dress or bag if you constantly look tired or haggard? At the end of the day, if you like luxury skincare and can afford it, go for it. If not, don’t fret. There are a ton of fantastic products today at more affordable prices you can choose from. I know I’m a fan of many drugstore products as well.
Main image: Showbit.com
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