La Mer brings luxury touch to the makeup counter


Plain old foundation just won’t cut it anymore. This was La Mer’s thinking, too, and on Oct. 3 the brand will bring its first major makeup collection to market.

The 50-year-old company’s signature Creme de la Mer is getting pigmented counterparts in the form of a foundation that’s being introduced in 18 shades to start, concealer and an ultrafine loose powder — which all contain the brand’s patented, proprietary Miracle Broth and reportedly deliver the same skin-care benefits of the main collection.

La Mer is just tapping into what’s becoming a booming segment of beauty.

This focus on makeup containing skin-care benefits — or skin care containing pigment, depending on which brand you ask — will only heighten, according to Martin Okner, managing director of SHM Corporate Navigators, a consultancy firm that works with many fashion and beauty companies. He projects that it’s primed to soon become a billion-dollar subcategory for skin care (or the color category — again, depending on who you ask).


There has been chatter about the influence of hybrids for years, but its penetration of the market is starting to grow at a faster pace than ever. In 2015, The NPD Group said products with an emphasis on complexion preparation, which it defines as CC creams and primers, drove $490 million in retail sales, growing at a rate of 58 percent in two years.

However, Okner believes the definition of this sector to be more broadly defined.

“There are makeup and sun products that have the benefit of skin care that aren’t captured in these numbers. I’d actually estimate to be a little bit higher, and based on the growth trajectory, sales could grow to $800 million by next year.”

A trifecta of industry goings-ons could be attributed to this: antiaging products are no longer resonating with consumers they way they used to, women from Millennials to Baby Boomers are seeking a single product in lieu of a multistep routine to save time and consumer expectations have risen. Traditional foundation that provides no benefit beyond coverage is less desirable than something that say, could help plump the skin or reduce wrinkles.

Hybrids are successors to the phenomenon of alphabet creams, which are primed to eventually replace traditional foundation and supplant skin care. The category is hotter than ever, and if anyone knows this, it’s It Cosmetics, which was acquired by L’Oréal this summer for $1.2 billion. The company’s hero product is Your Skin but Better, a full coverage CC Cream formula that not only has an SPF of 50, but doubles as an antiaging serum that contains antioxidants, collagen, peptides and hyaluronic acid.

La Mer is definitely not the first prestige or luxury brand to enter the space. La Prairie added color to its Caviar range last year and Sisley introduced Sisleÿa Le Teint Anti-Aging Foundation earlier this month, which contains the benefits of its most potent, antiaging Sisleÿa L’integral cream. Lancôme, Amore Pacific, Guerlain and a host of others all offer similar makeup products with treatment properties, but the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.-owned company’s entrance into crossovers might be the loudest of late.

La Mer has invested heavily in its new Skincolor de la Mer collection from product development to marketing and now, the launch – and a financial source said the range could do up to $50 million in retail sales in its first year. While Sandra Main, global brand president of La Mer, declined to give figures, she said the goal is for makeup to comprise almost 10 percent of the business. The range will be carried in all doors where La Mer is sold, or 1,700 doors spanning 70 countries.


You do the math. La Mer, which is said to have surpassed the billion-dollar mark in 2015, could soon do more than $100 million in sales from its makeup line.

During an interview at La Mer’s headquarters in New York’s SoHo neighborhood earlier this week, Main, along with Loretta Miraglia, corporate senior vice president of global product development and innovation at La Mer, the two were in unison about one thing: the company’s authority is still the skin-care business, but hybrids are the future.

“Consumers are so sophisticated that they do expect multiple benefits in a product. It’s no longer, ‘This product will do one thing’ – it has to serve you in multiple ways before it’s worthwhile,” Main said, noting that although the company plans to aggressively promote the range, it will never replace skin care.

For her, it’s a way to capture a new consumer: either one who favors makeup over skin care, one who can now buy into the brand with $110 foundation instead of cream that can most more than $300 — or both. It’s also a way to service La Mer’s existing, loyal consumer base.

This isn’t the brand’s first try at makeup, though. There was a range that launched in 2001 with extremely limited distribution — it was carried in just 23 of La Mer’s points of sale — with no marketing muscle put behind it. According to Main and Miraglia, it faded into the background after several years. There were additional efforts as well, albeit small, in 2009, and in 2011, a Perfecting Skin Tint was added to La Mer’s permanent collection.

Miraglia credited the rise of BB Cream for allowing the hybrid skin-care movement to happen.


“It was one of those things that wasn’t right yet. From an adoption standpoint, people were so deeply interested in skin care that they didn’t understand what a hybrid was, but then the BB creams hit in 2009…and all of a sudden people started realizing that makeup can do wonders for your skin,” Miraglia said.

She explained that The Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation works like a skin-care product, and even after someone takes it off at night, it’s still making their skin better. The more you use it, the better results you see.

Main interjected that the explosion of digital and social media heavily influenced consumer adoption of crossover products as well — starting with bloggers on YouTube educating their subscribers about alphabet creams.

This time, the makeup line is being rolled out at almost the same time as the Moisturizing Soft Lotion that it’s a pigmented compliment to. The Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation retails for $110 and comes in with 18 shades; the concealer, $75, comes in four shades and a translucent powder with a radiant finish retails for $95. Two brushes, one for foundation and one for powder, are also part of the launch and retail for $70 and $80, respectively. Packaging mirrors La Mer’s existing branding with the addition of rose gold accents.

Some even believe that hybrids will one day eradicate the need for regular foundation all together, including Dr. Macrene Alexiades, a New York-based dermatologist and scientist who spent years formulating her 37 Actives collection until it contained 37 active ingredients (it’s since been enhanced and she’s upped it to 50).

She said that souped-up, high-performance hybrids “will completely eliminate regular, old foundation.”


Last year, she introduced a 37 Actives High Performance Anti-Aging Treatment Foundation — the pigmented version of her original 37 Actives High Performance Anti-Aging cream. Despite the inclusion of various antioxidants, peptides and resveratrol, she insisted that the $165 product is a “full-on, luxury foundation and concealer that’s free of unwanted ingredients.”

Dr. Whitney Bowe, a New York-based celebrity dermatologist, shares a similar view to Alexiades-Armenakas.

“At some point, the other foundations that are simply foundations will be phased out,” Bowe said. “There will come a time when people will expect more from a foundation than just coverage. They are looking for skin-benefiting ingredients.”

With the exception of SPF, which she called a “beast unto itself,” that is. A hybrid product can do many things, Bowe explained, but it’s going to be a while before a crossover will allow for people to eliminate the SPF step from their routine.

For Lily Garfield, founder and chief merchandising officer of Cos Bar, hybrids are best suited to a more mature consumer.

Even though much emphasis in beauty has been placed on catering to Millennials, these products — which are formulated with a slew of active ingredients — are more applicable to a Baby Boomer, she said.


“Forget the price, a 25-year-old doesn’t need it. Because of the ingredients that are in it, part of that will sit on top of her skin because she has such tight pores. It’s [the product] not going to go anywhere; it’s just to look heavy on her skin,” Garfield said.

She strongly believes that any prestige skin-care brand has to have a foundation today.

“It’s the final step in treatment because you’re getting that last step that will give all the benefits of the brand and at the same time, give the skin a very soft luminosity and younger look,” Garfield said. “That’s what a top foundation needs to do.”