Meet The $550 Eye Cream Inspired By Contemporary Art

La Prairie

The list of communities touched by La Prairie reads like an artist's dream. The Guggenheim, Dia:Beacon, Art Basel — so on, so forth. "All these institutions and artistic homes share common, modernist aesthetics of simplicity and values of audacity and beauty," Francois LeGloan, president of La Prairie Americas, tells The Zoe Report via email. And in a world where skin care has become a multidisciplinary field, no one quite taps into the intersection of science and aesthetic quite like the luxury beauty brand. (Emphasis on luxury; the just-launched La Prairie White Caviar Eye Extraordinaire retails for a head-turning $550.)

Though the brand's methodical pace sticks out in a fast-moving beauty industry, as well; on average, La Prairie launches three to four products a year. This could be attributed to years of experience, weaving all the way back to a man named Dr. Paul Niehans — who founded Clinique La Prairie, nestled in the picturesque town of Montreux, Switzerland, in 1931. "He was a brilliant, boundary-pushing scientist who built a mythic reputation thanks to his research in cellular rejuvenation," LeGloan explains.

Then there was Niehans' celebrity clientele. "Marlene Dietrich, Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and even Pope Pious XII were all visitors to the Clinique La Prairie," LeGloan adds. And with fame came a demand for at-home products inspired by Dr. Niehans' work, for when you just couldn't jet over to Montreux.

Dr. Paul Niehans / Courtesy of La Prairie
Clinique La Prairie / Courtesy of La Prairie

"La Prairie first began its commercial enterprise in 1978," the president continues. "Our exclusive Cellular Complex — a powerful, enriching formula found in nearly all of our offerings — is derived from his rejuvenation treatments. This Complex is the most closely guarded secret of the La Prairie laboratories, and serves as an essential point of distinction for our luxury house."

The brand's art-influenced product design — "La Prairie draws inspiration directly from the Bauhaus German art school," LeGloan says — was cemented a decade later. "The French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle loaned her signature cobalt blue to our Skin Caviar collection for its 1987 debut: an audacious color for a ground-breaking product," he notes. "This bold milestone concretely and enduringly connected the brand to art at the very beginning."

Decades later, La Prairie works as a companion to the arts, having taken a lead sponsorship role for Art Basel in 2017 — to commemorate Skin Caviar's 30th anniversary, of course. "For each iteration of the fair, our team identifies an emerging artist whose values, aesthetic and métier complement the house of La Prairie and the upcoming product launch," LeGloan explains. "Most recently, we celebrated the introduction of White Caviar Eye Extraordinaire with an immersive light installation by a Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena built directly on Miami Beach."

Another event for the Eye Extraordinaire? A get-together at the Lovell Health House in Los Angeles, designed by the modernist architect Richard Neutra. There, Dr. Jacqueline Hill — La Prairie's Director of Strategic Innovation and Science — broke down the new eye cream's key ingredients for curious attendees. "Golden Caviar is at the heart of the illuminating and firming White Caviar collection," Dr. Hill explains over email, noting that the concentrated Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (aka Russian sturgeon) caviar extract "is rich in lipids such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, as well as sugars, amino acids and minerals."

But that's just the beginning. The Eye Extraordinaire includes signature La Prairie ingredients, similar to its exclusive and secretive Cellular Complex. One is called Lumidose, an easy-to-remember name for a synthetic tyrosinase inhibitor. "Lumidose lightens age spots more potently and faster than other melanin-reducing actives. This extraordinary molecule was identified as the single most powerful illuminating active following over 15 years of research that included screening over 50,000 ingredients," says Dr. Hill.

The White Caviar Eye Extraordinaire. / Madge Maril
Swatching the cream. / Madge Maril

This is where La Prairie's artistic practice comes into play. "The minimalism of Bauhaus, the disciplined aesthetic of contemporary architecture, the way light acts as a medium… we find inspiration everywhere," Dr. Hill notes. "Understanding the relationship between the face and light allows us to understand the factors that impede light. This in turn allows us to design a strategy to act on these factors by selecting relevant active ingredients to include in the formula we will develop, as well as by designing an application method and tools."

In other words, there's more in common between its eye cream and a well-designed house than you might think — though you'll never catch the brand ignoring one for the other. "From inception, the La Prairie ambition has been to bring beauty to women," adds LeGloan. "This is done not only by offering the most potent cosmetic formulas, but also by crafting beautiful objects and creating a highly aesthetic universe."