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The Icon: La Mer Crème de la Mer, $275 for 2 ounces
The Research: After aerospace physicist Max Huber suffered chemical burns in an accident, he spent the next 12 years and 6,000 experiments developing this famous cream. That was more than 40 years ago, and the original formula hasn't changed.

The Ingredients: The thing that makes La Mer so special is the "Miracle Broth," a combination of fermented sea kelp, vitamins, and minerals that are suspended within the moisturizer. How, exactly, the broth works to revive the skin is a mystery -- even to the scientists who created it.

The Packaging: It comes in a simple white glass jar -- but keep an eye out for limited edition jars every year for World Oceans Day on June 8th.

Our Take: "I have used La Mer for 15 years, and I can't imagine not having it. I love everything about it -- the scent, the consistency, the way it smoothes into my skin. I don't use it every night -- it's too rich for that -- but I do use it a couple of times a week. It's the best at keeping my skin moisturized." -- Audrey Fine, Special Projects Editor

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Doctor-Designed: ReVive Intensité Crème Lustre, $375 for 2 ounces
The Research: ReVive was created by Harvard-educated plastic surgeon Gregory Bays Brown, MD, who wanted to help his patients achieve the dewy, glowing skin they could never get with surgery. The cornerstone of all ReVive products is Nobel Prize-winning technology called RES (Renewal Epidermal Science). Brown first began working with epidermal growth factor when he was treating burn patients and later came up with RES, which is a complicated cocktail of bioengineered molecules.

The Ingredients: Like all ReVive products, this moisturizer contains RES. But unlike most moisturizers, it contains enzymes to gently exfoliate the skin. It also has light-reflecting particles that make skin look instantly prettier.

The Packaging: A no-frills white and silver jar.

Our Take: "It feels rich without being too heavy. When I apply it at night, I notice that my skin looks better -- softer and brighter -- in the morning." -- Dawn Davis, NYC Beauty Editor

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Luxurious on purpose: La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, $425 for 1.7 ounces
The Research: It's the 25th anniversary of the Skin Caviar collection. (Skin Caviar Dermo Beads launched in 1987, and the Luxe Cream first hit shelves in 1998.) The fascinating part of the story is the way La Prairie "discovered" caviar as an ingredient: The Creative Development Group in Switzerland liked the way it sounded. The economy was booming, and they wanted to formulate a product that would be the epitome of luxury. Naturally, they thought of caviar -- the fact that it has incredible skin care benefits was secondary.

The Ingredients: The Caviar Firming Complex stimulates collagen production -- it's all about firming and lifting. This cream is also packed with antioxidants, an alpha hydroxy acid complex, and rich moisturizers.

The Packaging: A cobalt blue and silver jar that comes with a little silver "caviar" spoon. The matching silver box is substantial -- like a gift box.

Our Take: "I've tried this one a couple of times over the years. I always feel like I'm just getting fun, pretty packaging and that it doesn't really do much other than moisturize." -- Audrey Fine, Special Projects Editor

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Designer Appeal: Chanel Sublimage La Crème, $390 for 1.7 ounces
The Research: Chanel labs honed in on one specific plant -- Vanilla Planifolia from Madagascar -- and then developed a special, proprietary purification technique to harvest it.

The Ingredients: Rather than bombarding the formula with an army of different ingredients -- which can sometimes cancel each other out when it comes to benefits -- Chanel focused on one source. They blend both the fruit and the flower from the rare Vanilla plant to create something they named Enriched Planifolia PFA. It makes skin glow, improves texture, and firms.

The Packaging: A substantial black and gold jar features the iconic Chanel logo on the cap.

Our Take: "I tried it for a week and noticed a difference in the texture of my skin -- it's softer and feels more hydrated even a few hours after I apply the cream. And what can I say -- I'm a sucker for the C's." -- Dawn Davis, NYC Beauty Editor

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The Bank-Breaker: 3 Lab Super Cream, $875 for 1.7 ounces
The Research: It's common sense that a face cream isn't going to do much if it sits on your skin and doesn't absorb into your cells. That's why this product is all about the delivery system, which 3Lab scientists have dubbed X-50 and is basically a GPS system for your skin care.

The Ingredients: 3Lab spared no expense when it came to ingredients: They packed in all of the hottest -- and priciest -- ingredients available right now. The star is a peptide, Pantothenic Acid-Heptapeptide-Cu, which stimulates collagen and elastin production. The cream also contains rare Swiss apple stem cells (a powerful anti-ager) and Dragon's Blood extract (an anti-inflammatory).

The Packaging: The brushed-metal jar is minimalist -- especially in comparison to what's inside.

Our Take: "I just started using this one, so it's too early for significant results, but so far I'd say it's a nice light cream that leaves my skin feeling moisturized and a little more radiant. No collagen results yet, but that would be nice!" -- Beth Mayall-Traglia, Editor-in-Chief

I recently spotted a wildly expensive cream in a friend's bathroom. I knew exactly what it was, having researched it for a skin care story just a few days before, and I knew exactly how much she paid for it: A whopping $379.

Why did she spend so much on a jar of face cream? Wouldn't she rather buy a pair (well, half a pair) of Jimmy Choo's? She's 30 years old, single, and has a great job in advertising -- but it's not like she's got a ton of money to burn.

Fast forward a week and I find myself at the Lancôme counter at Saks Fifth Avenue for the unveiling of their newest moisturizer, Absolue L'Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir. I listen as the marketing director explains the research behind the cream, the rarity of the rose cells it contains, and the vintage-inspired packaging. I imagine artisans in France working tirelessly to make a beautiful jar of cream just for me.

I'm seduced by the moisturizer, ready to throw down my American Express card regardless of the cost. The price tag: $350.

Skip ahead to find out what makes some of the most expensive creams so special.

If you're skeptical, I don't blame you. There's a lot of hype that goes into selling any beauty product -- and that's particularly true when it comes to a crazy-expensive one. But a product can't succeed on hype alone, particularly when that product claims to transform your skin. At the very least it has to feel luxurious, smell amazing, and be beautifully packaged -- or else even a socialite on the daddy dole isn't going to buy it.

To find out if expensive creams are more than just nice formulas in pretty jars, I set out to uncover exactly what makes a spendy moisturizer so spendy. Here are six of the priciest moisturizers, and our editors' takes on whether or not they're worth the cash.
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