How This $350 Moisturizer Reached Cult Status In Under A Year
Charting the rise of Augustinus Bader's The Cream.
by : Sarah Daniel- Sep 23rd, 2019
We know celebrities take prepping their skin before film premieres and award ceremonies very seriously, from getting high-tech LED facials and laser treatments, to juicing and getting to bed early (Jane Fonda sleeps 9 hours a night!). But there’s a new beauty product generating a lot of buzz among the red carpet set, that could also be behind some of the most enviable complexions we’ve seen at TIFF: Augustinus Bader The Cream.
Dr. Augustinus Bader, the brand’s creator and namesake – a bow-tie wearing 60-year-old German professor of applied stem cell biology and cell technology at the University of Leipzig – is suddenly being namechecked everywhere, despite not having any ties to the cosmetics industry. Since its launch just over a year ago, The Cream (there’s also a Rich version for dry skin types) has amassed an impressive group of celebrity devotees: Shailene Woodley and Carla Sozzani attended a caviar dinner during Paris fashion week to celebrate the cream’s first anniversary. Models received massages with it backstage at Victoria Beckham’s Fall 2019 show (the designer’s facialist Melanie Grant turned her onto it). Makeup artist Pati Dubroff signed on as a spokesperson, using it on clients like Margot Robbie, Diane Kruger, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas (ELLE Canada’s October cover star). And facialist Joanna Czech employed it to give Carey Mulligan, Joan Smalls, Lily Aldridge and Amber Valetta pre-Met Ball treatments.
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Charting what seems like the overnight success of this luxury moisturizer and its growing cult following is like playing six degrees of separation, but sub in Melanie Griffith for Kevin Bacon. The actor and her ex Don Johnson (naturally their daughter Dakota is also an AB acolyte) became early investors in the brand after Griffith had a medical treatment with the doctor. Griffith started giving it to celebrity friends, and those friends passed it along to other friends, resulting in a word-of-mouth campaign worthy of a business school case study that would make Tess McGill proud.
Eventually Griffith told Cassandra Grey who put it through her Violet Code vetting process, and Violet Grey became the exclusive retailer. “A few months after launching there, they told us it had a repurchasing rate close to 90 percent, and a lot of their customers were bringing their sisters, cousins, friends or mothers to the shop to buy it, or were buying for them,” says co-founder Charles Rosier, a financier turned beauty mogul, who met Dr. Bader through a friend.
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After that meeting, the two stayed in touch, but it wasn’t until a few years later when Rosier saw the work Dr. Bader was doing with burn patients firsthand that he had the idea to create a beauty product. Specifically he saw an image of a four-year-old girl with second and third degree burns, who, after a few months of applying a special hydrogel (a medical breakthrough resulting from Dr. Bader’s research), was scar-free with no skin grafting required. Rosier’s initial thought, he says, was that the science should be available to everyone, from parents vacationing with their children to the Red Cross working in conflict zones. His second thought: if it does this for burns, what can it do for wrinkles?
These days the standard in stem cell science is to cultivate stem cells and then reinject them in the body, says Rosier, which is equivalent to “adding a spoon of water to the ocean because our body never lacks stem cells.” What the body does lack in the case of a severe burn, or wrinkles that come with aging, Rosier explains, is the signals to wake up dormant stem cells to help the body heal perfectly. Basically using Dr. Bader’s wound-healing hydrogel is like bringing cell service to a remote area, reintroducing some of those signals to the body.
In order for Dr. Bader to continue his research, Rosier knew he would need more money, and so he hatched a plan: create an anti-aging skincare product that would incorporate a version of the wound gel technology (culminating in what the brand’s patented Trigger Factor Complex or TFC8, which is mixed with amino acids, vitamins and other skin boosters) and use that revenue to keep the doctor in the lab, and subsequently helping to share more of his work with the world.
What Makes It Different?
While its geographic roots have inspired comparisons to other German skincare brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm, Augustinus Bader is more often compared to another miracle cream. Dubbed Crème de La Mer 2.0 by some, it does share some similarities to its predecessor. For one, La Mer was born when its founder, German aerospace physicist Max Huber, sustained severe burns after an explosion in his lab, which he treated with a healing salve. “In some ways we’re a Google-proof version of La Mer,” says Rosier, alluding to the conspiracy theories around Max Huber and the origin story of his anti-aging cream, and the fact that there’s no doubt about Dr. Bader’s innovative research, patents and accolades in the scientific community.
Is It Worth $350?
Like La Mer, Augustinus Bader also has a triple digit price tag ($225 for 30 mL and $350 for 50 mL at holtrenfrew.com), which takes us back to that red carpet glow that only celebrities (and investment bankers, socialites, trust fund babes et al.) seem to be able to achieve.
“You can drink as much water and wear as much sunscreen as you want, but the most effective skin-care trick is being rich,” wrote Amanda Mull for The Atlantic earlier this year. But Augustinus Bader CEO Maureen Case, who previously worked for Estée Lauder on – wait for it – La Mer, says that The Cream improves the skin’s texture and appearance so much that people can wear less makeup, and a bottle can be used alone, rather than buying and layering 12 skincare products, K-beauty style. There’s some beauty math to be done, but depending on your budget, it could be doable.
The brand also recently launched a body cream. While it’s not a replica of the facial formula, it features similar ingredients, and harnesses Dr. Bader’s technology for glowing and smooth skin. In other words, one bod for sin, coming right up.
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