There isn’t a word in the beauty space I loathe more.
Back in the golden days of magazines, I constantly monitored the ‘splurge vs steal’ pages of many weeklies. And while I personally find the concept of a ‘dupe’ somewhat insulting, I’ve always been intrigued by and seek more affordable skincare substitutions whenever possible.
It is not my intent to persuade you that the Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream is a dupe for the La Mer Moisturizing Cream. However, if you aren’t looking to spend a lot of money (and you don’t need to call for an exorcism when you see mineral oil on the ingredient list) and want something healing, occlusive, and very moisturizing, then yeah, the Avène formula is pretty excellent.
First things first, the mineral oil drama.
On a press trip hosted by a brand that I will not name some years ago, an influencer went on a crazy rant about mineral oil being bad for the skin.
It’s not the most sophisticated ingredient. Far from it actually. And it’s also quite inexpensive.
But it’s not bad for the skin – ask any dermatologist.
I can’t say it’s a great ingredient for everyone. It’s definitely better for those with drier skin types or for anyone not prone to congestion. Let’s stick to the facts though, and mention that, mineral oil, on its own, cannot clog a pore. Period. Dot. The molecules in mineral oil are too large to penetrate the skin but since the product sits on top of your skin protecting its barrier, it can attract grime and pollutants (particularly during the day) which, in turn can result in a clogged pore. Lots of science, lots of logic.
Mineral oil is indeed a petrolatum derivative but it’s so highly refined and purified, it is neither toxic nor harmful. It also isn’t a carcinogen. Far from an elegant solo player, it contributes to the silky, spreadable texture of many products that feel rather luxurious. Case in point, La Mer.
Comparing… apples to oranges.
Much to your disappointment, I’m sure, I won’t be comparing La Mer and Cicalfate+ side by side since they these are completely different products, positioned in two completely different market segments (luxury vs. French pharmacy), though both do deliver on the promise of healing, moisturizing, and protecting the skin barrier. Both moisturizers feature mineral oil – the second on La Mer’s and third on Cicalfate+ ‘s ingredient list. To draw on each formula’s exclusivity: La Mer is known for their Miracle Broth (per this article in Byrdie: a mixture of sea kelp, vitamins and minerals, citrus oil, eucalyptus, sunflower, wheat germ, and alfalfa, all of which are fermented together) and Avène is powered by their healing Spring Thermal Water (which hails from a spring in the South of France, rich in soothing and anti-inflammatory minerals).
Why you need this multi-tasker
The beauty of Avène’s Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream lies in its simplicity. This one-and-done moisturizer is very specific in the way it works while covering a wide range of complexion conundrums. Think of it as the S.O.S. treatment for compromised skin. Your skin may be recovering from sun or wind burn, a stovetop burn, or any post-procedure healing or dryness is triggered by environmental factors resulting from travel or extreme cold. And of course, my favorite use – after my prescription retinoid Aklief, to prevent any potential flaking.
There is no added fragrance in Avène Cicalfate+ (vs. La Mer Moisturizing Cream). Both products contain Beeswax, a fantastic anti-bacterial and skin softening agent, which forms a protective barrier on the surface of the skin, but the similarity in the INCI list ends there. Cicalfate+ is very creamy and easily spreadable. Depending on your skin type, you may need a few minutes for it to fully absorb. Luckily, my combination skin loves it during colder weather and never looks greasy or shiny after application. Helpful tip: use sparingly.
Another well-deserved nod goes to the metal-lined tube packaging, making it an excellent travel companion, but don’t travel without packing the tube in your to-go bag. Murphy’s Law: your skin will freak out when away from your arsenal of products at home.
My all time favorite Avène products come from the Cleanance line (if your skin is easily congested, definitely give the emulsion a try) but I always have a tube of Cicalfate+ on hand. I don’t reach for it much during the summer months but the moment temperatures drop, I incorporate it into my night time routine following the more potent retinoids. You simply can’t beat the price. For those looking to indulge in the coveted La Mer moisturizer, I’m partial to the Soft Cream and Gel Cream formulas.