Max Huber Research Labs is located in the bucolic setting of Melville, N.Y., about an hour’s drive from Manhattan. You could coast right by this nondescript building without having an inkling that the world’s most sought-after face cream is being made inside.

Developed in the ‘60s by Dr. Max Huber, a NASA aerospace physicist, la Mer’s “miracle broth”, touted as a top-notch moisturizer and wrinkle smoother, is an admixture of sea kelp, vitamins, minerals, fruits, nuts and berries. In his search for an aid to help him heal his own scars, the result of chemical burns to his face and chest, Huber traveled to France for thalassotherapy treatments. Later, he applied this knowledge to more than 800 experiments during a 12-year period before he created La Mer.

As Craig Tadlock, senior principal scientist at Max Huber Research Labs, will tell you, knowing the La Mer formula was only the first step in duplicating the cream once Estée Lauder bought the company from Huber’s daughter in 1991.

“We got five gallons of the broth, some technical instructions and the formula and we thought it would be easy to recreate,” recalls Tadlock. “Once we got here, we mixed up all the ingredients, and the smell was horrible. We eventually figured out that we should ventilate the lab during the fermentation phase!”

Because only freshly harvested sea kelp is used in ,b>La Mer, Huber duplicated natural sea conditions, such as light and sound, that were similar to those that algae thrive on in their natural environment. However, unlike the free-thinking Californian, the very proper East Coast scientists at Estée Lauder were not keen to play whale music to a bunch of kelp. “Eventually we got a very strong recommendation to go for light and sound. And it worked,” adds Tadlock.

Today it takes three to five months to make each batch of La Mer. In Canada, Holt Renfrew has been selling the brand since 1996. Waiting lists cause some clients to stock up, like one woman who spent $10,000 at the La Mer counter at Holt’s Bloor Street store. Huber himself was such a believer that not only did he use it on his body but he also ate spoonfuls of it a day. Could she be following the lead and spreading it on her morning toast?