In today’s beauty market, it’s easy to feel bombarded by the endless streams of new skincare products promising even more advanced formulations, groundbreaking technology, and revolutionary results. But there are some products that have remained cult-classics across generations, with tried-and-true formulations that have remained virtually unchanged since their invention, a testament to the fact that they really work.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair
10 bottles of Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair are reportedly sold every minute around the world, making the serum an undeniable skincare “holy grail.” But Advanced Night Repair is also legendary for its many historical “firsts” in the beauty market. Introduced in 1982, Advanced Night Repair was the first ever serum to launch on the commercial market, the first skincare product to include hyaluronic acid, the first product to use an apothecary-style brown bottle to protect the formula’s active ingredients, and among the first to identify and target the link between DNA damage and visible skin aging. Today, it remains a global best-selling, multi-award winning product that features the same signature brown glass bottle packaging as the original release.
From HK$830, available at esteelauder.com.hk.
Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream
In 1930, Miss Elizabeth Arden created the iconic Eight Hour Cream as a soothing skin protectant for her racehorse’s bruised legs, before realising how versatile the product was for humans, too. The product’s name was coined by an Elizabeth Arden client who used the balm on her child’s grazed knee and witnessed the wound magically heal “eight hours later.” Over 90 years later, the award-winning, multi-tasking salve remains a cult beauty staple for makeup artists and beauty patrons alike. Today’s Eight Hour Cream has remained true to the original formula with Vitamin E, petrolatum, and salicylic acid, arriving as a thick, rose-tinted balm that can be applied as an intense moisturising agent, an instant soothing balm, or a glossing highlight on eyes or cheeks.
HK$207, available at net-a-porter.com.
La Mer Crème de La Mer
Crème de la Mer is one of the most coveted luxury moisturizers on the market with a high price tag and a mythical backstory. The legend goes that La Mer’s founder, Dr. Max Huber, suffered severe burns in a lab explosion in the 1950s and spent the next 12 years studying the regenerative properties of nutrient-rich kelp. After more than 6,000 experiments on natural ingredients and fermentation, Dr. Huber created a hydrating, skin-soothing, cell-renewing elixir he named Miracle Broth, which became the signature ingredient of all La Mer products. The first jars of Crème de la Mer were sold in 1965, and upon Dr. Huber’s death in 1991, Estée Lauder purchased the brand and turned it into the top shelf label we know today.
From HK$800, available at lamer.com.hk
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence has long been the Asian skincare staple for achieving crystal clear skin. The iconic essence contains over ninety percent Pitera — the miracle ingredient of all SK-II products — which was discovered in the 1970s when scientists noticed how soft and smooth the hands of elderly sake brewers were in contrast to the skin on their faces, making the connection that their hands came in constant contact with the yeast fermentation process. After years of research and more than 350 strains of yeast, the scientists discovered a by-product of the yeast fermentation process containing minerals, vitamins, and amino acids said to resemble the skin’s natural moisturising factors. This rich liquid, which they patented Pitera, launched in 1980 and has remained essentially unchanged for more than 38 years.
From HK$550, available at sk-ii.com.hk
La Prairie Skin Caviar
La Prairie’s signature Skin Caviar captures the lifting, firming and anti-aging capacities of marine nutrients extracted from caviar eggs, and the brand’s exclusive Cellular Complex. The first iteration of the product, the Caviar Dermo Beads, was released in 1987 as golden caviar-like beads packaged in a blue jar with a small spoon. It became an instant hit not only for its playful packaging, but also for its deeply nourishing amino acids, vitamins, and minerals complex that renews skin texture and rebuilds collagen on a cellular level. After more than three decades, the best-selling Caviar Collection has expanded with new scientific breakthroughs, though its signature product, the Skin Caviar, maintains the Swiss luxury label’s heritage with the same iconic packaging and formulation codes.
HK$1,600, available at harveynichols.com
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
For the most sensitive skin or the most resilient, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser has been highly recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians around the world for more than seven decades. The iconic, no-frills cleanser was invented by a Texan pharmacist in 1947 for dermatology needs and common skin conditions. In its early years, it was only available at select pharmacists until high consumer demand drove more drugstores to stock it. By the late 1980s, Cetaphil Cleansing Lotion was sold at virtually all major retail stores in North America, and eventually made its way to retailers around the world. Today’s Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser still features the original formula developed in 1947 and is second to none for its gentle cleansing power.
From HK$95, available at watsons.com
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer has remained a best-seller since it was invented by founding family member Aaron Morse in 1962, a year when the label released other cult classics such as the Calendula Herbal Extract Toner and Blue Astringent Lotion (an Andy Warhol favourite). The Ultra Facial Moisturizer was Kiehl’s first facial cream and remains a skincare staple for people of all skin types, ages and living climates, offering lightweight, 24-hour hydration derived from natural ingredients. Like other Kiehl’s products, Ultra Facial Moisturizer features straightforward packaging that speaks to the brand’s old apothecary concept. If you need more proof of its icon status, an original bottle of the Ultra Facial Moisturizer made in 1980 is on display at the National Museum of American History.
From HK$175, available at kiehls.com.hk
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50
If you’ve ever smelled Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50, you’ll know that it must work in one way or another because skincare junkies have waxed poetic about it for over 40 years despite its extremely unpleasant vinegar stench and antiquated packaging. The notorious formula was first invented in 1970 by Dr. Yvan Allouche who made a product for his wife that helped rebuild and reinforce the epidermis with a gradual, soft acid exfoliation that gave smooth, poreless skin. Every client that tried the smelly French liquid was since hooked. Today, there are five versions of Lotion P50, the original 1970 formula (the most intensive version with the controversial ingredient phenol) and four new gentler formulas that also respond to modern day concerns such as pollution and lower quality food.
From $HK520, available at Biologique Recherche at Harbour City