La Mer Creme and Nivea Creme in front of a white and blue background

This high street cream is just as good as La Mer’s £2k moisturiser, and it’s only £10

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Is Nivea really a dupe for La Mer’s £2k cream? We investigate.

I’ve been writing about beauty for a decade, it takes a lot to really woo me, and even more to earn a spot in my beauty routine. Crème de La Mer is one such product that’s never quite made it, with or without its hefty £2,155 per 500ml price tag.

The price is a huge barrier though, considering we’re currently drowning in a cost-of-living crisis and battling a recession. I don’t know a single person in real life who actually uses Crème de La Mer; I’ve only ever seen celebrities or influencers using it on Instagram. For something so inaccessible, high-end and expensive, you’d expect it to perform miracles, or impress at the very least (it’s never agreed with my skin).

“It smells and feels exactly like my dad’s Nivea!”, I remember exclaiming to a colleague one day, dismayed and exasperated with my fresh breakout after being so excited to try La Mer for the very first time. For context, my skin is oily but dehydrated and dry, acne-prone, and I’m no stranger to eczema flares. In short, my face has a lot going on so my standards are high and my skincare needs to work hard.

Read more: Are celebrity beauty brands really worth buying?
a woman applies cream to her face in a mirror
Nivea vs La Mer
So, what’s the ingredients list like?

Upon first inspection of my freshly opened pot, I was hit with the most delicious scent. Crème de La Mer smells like – and I mean this in the least creepy way possible – a baby’s head. It’s comforting, fresh, clean and nostalgic. So far, so good. Except, for many with ‘problem’ skin, artificial fragrances are a cardinal sin. They can irritate and lead to itching or redness.

And how about the consistency?

Next, I examined the texture. It felt luxurious if I thought about the price tag – it was thick and cooling, similar to a cold cream – but if I closed my eyes and forgot about the money, it felt like… well… Nivea. The smell, too, smelt like Nivea. I was so convinced, so confused, that I turned to Google for an explanation. Was I missing a trick? This cream that costs more than my monthly rent surely could not remind me of Nivea? This is the moment when I realised I wasn’t alone in my thoughts.

What do the reviews say about La Mer?

One Reddit thread from four years ago sees angry users saying things like: “It really felt like a Nivea or any other tub moisturiser”, “I could win the lottery and I’d still find 101 better ways to piss money down the drain,” and “I have tried some samples but I wasn’t really like, oh my god, this is life-changing.”

Clearly, this cream has been divisive to a Marmite-like degree for quite some time. Throw in the fact that La Mer still isn’t cruelty free (in 2024?) and that its marketing uses vague terms and claims like ‘miracle broth’ and ‘youth-renewing’ in a beauty landscape where consumers are smarter and more informed about ingredients than ever, and it just seems a little out of touch. So, when I saw a viral TikTok video directly comparing La Mer to Nivea in a lab setting, I wasn’t surprised at all.

Read more: Meet the ‘Soho House’ of skincare
@regimenlab Is Nivea actually Creme de la Mer in a different box?! 😱 We tested it and… the results are very interesting! #regimenlab #nivea #lamer #skincaretest #skincaredupe #skintok #skincareobsessed ♬ That Couch Potato Again – Prod. By Rose

Nivea vs La Mer – why are the two so similar?

“I think Nivea is actually Crème de La Mer but in a different box,” begins the video, which then shows each formula being swatched side-by-side. The video delves into each product’s ingredients too, showing them to contain 18 of the exact same ingredients. The Nivea formula only has around 20 ingredients full stop, while La Mer’s formula boasts a much bigger list of added plant oils and preservatives. “Crème de La Mer has the same base as Nivea,” the video claims. “The main difference is in the fermented algae broth. It also has some additional botanical oils, seed powders and vitamins.”

We then see each formula being tested on the “relative hydrating and water loss reduction capabilities”. The increase in skin hydration after using both creams was near-identical: La Mer saw an 11% increase in skin hydration, while Nivea actually pipped it slightly at 12%. Both creams scored -16 on the amount of water loss from skin after use.

The conclusion

While it’s true that they might differ in performance on other untested benefits and ingredient lists alone don’t paint the full picture of a products formulaton (we don’t know percentages, for example), La Mer’s Crème de La Mer and Nivea’s iconic Crème moisturiser cream for face, hands and body are pretty much exactly the same when it comes to hydration and water loss and feel identical. So I’d say you’re safe to spend your hard-earned pennies elsewhere and save yourself up to £2,145

Words: Humeara Mohamed

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