'This $29 moisturiser is supposed to be better than the $300 La Mer original. So I tried it.'

In the early days of my newfound obsession with skincare, I only assumed higher price tags equated to better results. So, still living at home with my parents with no rent or bills to pay (ahhh, the simple life), I thought it would be wise to spend all my savings on the beauty product A-list celebrities were using: La Mer's iconic Crème de la Mer.

Yes, I agree with you — I was probably a little young and clueless at the time, but I had dreams that forking out more than $300 for 30ml of this cream every month or so (alongside a La Mer serum, cleanser and other items — RIP to my bank account) was only going to result in long-term skin benefits. If it's good enough for J-Lo and Beyonce, it must be damn incredible, right? 

Obviously, I very quickly realised my wallet simply couldn't keep up such high standards and I panicked as I searched far and wide for cheaper options that worked as well. It was a tough time.

But if Miley Cyrus has taught me anything (besides that I was not blessed with the confidence or skills to twerk), it is that you can have the best of both worlds. In this case, I learned I was able to still treat my skin to amazing products all while saving money. 

Since then, I've tried many dupes of the OG La Mer cream and while all have come with great skin benefits, none have particularly wowed me. That was until I got my hands on K-beauty favourite Illiyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream while on my recent trip to Seoul.

This cream has garnered a huge cult status in the skincare world and is backed by thousands of five-star reviews, with users claiming it's even better than Creme de la Mer. So, is it worth the hype? 


Here's what happened when I got my hands on it.

What's in La Mer's Crème de la Mer?

I should probably point out that, aside from price, I have nothing against La Mer products and actually think they're beautiful formulas. If you have the budget to afford it, treat yourself!

But if you've never looked into the range, all those claims about La Mer being expensive are very much facts. Currently, the cult moisturiser retails from $175 for a petite 15ml pot to $2,200 for 250ml (sorry, no extra zeros have been incorrectly added).

Watch: Diamond lips on You Beauty. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Given you're spending at least $340 on 30ml of cream (let's be real, 15ml isn't going to get you very far), you'd expect it to be made with flecks of gold that are guaranteed to do life-changing things to your skin.

So, what's actually in it?

As the name suggests, the OG La Mer cream favours the skincare benefits of marine-derived ingredients. At the very top of this list is algae extract (aka seaweed), which is abundant in minerals needed to hydrate, revitalise and tone skin. Then, there are hydrating ingredients like glycerin (pulls moisture in), petroleum (prevents moisture from escaping) and mineral oil. Lime tea extract, which is packed with antioxidants and helps prevent free radical damage, also makes an appearance.


But there's really nothing game-changing in it for you to be splashing your entire pay cheque on. In fact, we previously spoke to leading dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour from Bespoke Skin Technology, who revealed an apparent downside to this cream.

"Their website states that Crème de la Mer contains methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone — which are two preservatives that should be avoided," Dr Armour told Mamamia

"They are a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis and have largely been removed from skincare. This is a nourishing moisturiser. But that's about it."


Given this information, La Mer's ultra-rich cream helps hydrate and plump the skin (bye, wrinkles!), while fixing problems like oil production, acne-causing bacteria and inflammation.

All of these happen to be benefits the Illiyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream provides, too — for a much, much lower price.

So, what makes the Illyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream so good? 

The patented Ceramide Skin Complex is what has earned this product its cult status. Put simply, ceramides hydrate the skin from deep within and gently (but mightily) reinforce the skin barrier. These ceramides actually appear as tiny capsules that are visible in the cream's consistency but when applied, instantly break down and absorb into the skin.  


To stress just how well this cream works, the Korean beauty app HWAHAE conducted a test on the Illyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream — and let's just say the stats are impressive. We're talking 100 hours of lasting hydration and a 91.4 per cent improvement in the skin barrier in just three days; and a major reduction in sensitivity and dead skin cells.

Plus, the formula is free from animal-derived ingredients, mineral oil, artificial colours, fragrances, parabens, triethanolamine and imidazolidinyl urea. In other words, it's great for even super-sensitive skin types.

How much is Illyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream?

The Illyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream retails for $33 on Australian K-beauty stocking Lila Beauty, and one tube contains a whopping 200ml of product… Quick maths tells me you can get around 2400ml of this product for the price of one 30ml Crème de la Mer. Just sit with that for a second.

The verdict.

For context, I have sensitive, combination skin that can look great one week but then be completely horrible (read: a rogue breakout) the next. But it's during the cooler months when I experience the most skin issues. My habit of sitting in front of a heater all day long and then proceeding to stand under a burning hot shower right before bed means my skin is prone to dryness. As a result, my skin overcompensates for the lack of hydration by producing more oil, which leads to more clogged pores and breakouts... Fun!


When I first got my hands on this product at Olive Young (a store kind of like Sephora) in Korea, I was a little bit confused as to whether I had been charged for the right product. This huge tube for such a small price? Surely not. I walked out feeling like I had practically made money.

For such a low price, I wasn't expecting anything mind-blowing and I'm glad to report that I was wrong. I squeezed a pea-sized amount onto the back of my hand and was instantly amazed at how thick it was.

I gave it a sniff to see if it had any strong fragrance. Nothing. Another tick from me.

Then, I began to apply it gently over my skin… and wow. Just, wow. 

It was thick but spreadable. 

It was instantly cooling and hydrating, kind of like spreading a smooth layer of the creamiest Greek yoghurt over my face. 

I noticed all those ceramide beads quickly absorbed into my skin, leaving my complexion looking glossy, similar to how my face looks immediately after removing a moisturising face mask.

I also proceeded to slather more of the cream over my dry elbows and knees before heading to bed for the next eight hours. 

The next morning, I kid you not, I woke up to notice my skin flaunting a natural glow. Even after washing my face under hot water, my skin looked and felt like it was hydrated. After applying my usual morning skincare products, I finished with another pea-sized amount of the Illyoon cream (of course, followed by sunscreen) to see if would sit well under my makeup. More amazed, my colour-correcting cream and concealer glided on perfectly and stayed on all day. 


It gave my complexion the perfect balance of hydration, without looking oily. In other words, yes, it gave me Hailey Beiber's glazed doughnut skin.

After two weeks of religiously using La Mer's budget-friendly counterpart, the dry patches around my mouth completely subsided, I was experiencing fewer breakouts (since my skin was no longer producing all that extra oil) and I found myself cutting back on the amount of other serums and essences I was using.

As for my dry elbows and knees? Those were also fixed. I'm now curious to see what it can do for cracked heels...

The takeaway.

To me, this is more than just a cream. It's a soothing moisturiser, an overnight face mask, a fixing balm (with similar results as the coveted La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5+ Balm Cream), an incredible makeup base and an all-over body cream. Best of all, you can slap it on from head to toe and not feel bad about wasting product or cash. 

See? You can have the best of both worlds.

What's your favourite savey moisturiser? Share with us in the comment section below!

Feature Image: Supplied.

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