What can one of the world’s most expensive face creams do for you?

It’s 7.30 on a Wednesday morning and I am sitting in a business class lounge at Sydney airport, one of a select group of writers about to embark on a whirlwind trip to Perth to experience a fabulously indulgent introduction to one of the world’s most luxurious face creams: La Prairie’s “remastered” Skin Caviar Luxe Cream.

I am no novice when it comes to caviar; let me say now that I love it, but usually taken by mouth. Having recently returned from a Scandinavian cruise where nightly doses were almost de rigueur, my passion for sturgeon eggs has only been heightened.

La Prairie's new Skin Caviar Luxe Cream.

La Prairie’s new Skin Caviar Luxe Cream.

If it does for my skin what it does for my taste buds, I am in for a treat.

Arriving at the luxurious Crown Perth, a hotel, resort and casino located near the city centre, I am almost instantly ushered into the spa, with its sumptuous aqua-coloured rooms and special La Prairie treatments. For the next 90 minutes, my face is gently cleansed and a light peel applied. This is followed by a massage with warmed rocks while my therapist applies the exotic ingredients contained in La Prairie’s Caviar Luxe range.

For the first half hour, I eagerly request an explanation for every step, but am soon lulled into a super-relaxing half sleep. Not to worry; everything is meticulously recorded and I leave with instructions on the use of each product.

Back in my elegant Crystal Club suite, I inspect my face. My skin looks so plump and glowing that I decide a sweep of mascara is all I need before heading off for the special dinner.

What follows is further decadence: a meal devised by chef Guillaume Brahimi, whose Bistro Guillaume is one of the hotel’s culinary jewels. Caviar is included in all courses, from a topping for some oysters to a melt-in-the-mouth creamy sauce to accompany pasta and scampi. And of course it’s bubbles, in this case Champagne Marguet, all the way.

Over dinner, Rosi Fernandez, managing director of the La Prairie group in Australia and New Zealand shares with me the story of how caviar’s skincare benefits were discovered, and have been lifted to even greater heights over the past 30 years.

The Swiss luxury brand launched its first caviar product in 1987 with the revolutionary Skin Caviar Dermo Beads, and the sheer decadence of using caviar as a face cream immediately set the beauty world buzzing. Over time, as caviar became synonymous with the La Prairie brand, a whole collection was launched, including my favourite, the sleep mask. So light as to be indiscernible on the skin, the mask elicits little danger of frightening your sleeping companion but having a fresh and rested-looking face in the morning is guaranteed.

So, why is caviar so good for your skin? It is rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals and, according to the company’s research team, the special caviar extract from the Siberian sturgeon helps stimulate collagen production, which in turn gives the skin a firming and lifting appearance.

In lock step with its aura of luxury, the cream comes in its iconic blue glass jar with a nod to the sleek lines of the Bauhaus which is both arty and glamorous. And the jar’s distinctive cobalt blue colour, very different from the usual white jars of cosmetic creams at the time it was launched, was a result of a collaboration with the late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who used it as a trademark colour in almost all her work, including her most famous piece, Pouf Serpent Bleu.

Manon Wertenbroek's artwork Window Glimpse

Manon Wertenbroek’s artwork Window Glimpse

Now, with the launch of the crème de la crème, the reformulated version of Skin Caviar Luxe Cream remastered with Caviar Premier, La Prairie is celebrating de Saint Phalle’s lasting influence through a collaboration with contemporary Swiss artist Manon Wertenbroek. She’s created three works that pay tribute to the indulgence, aesthetics and cutting-edge technology of the product. All three artworks feature the cobalt blue colour.

As romantic as this history is, the business story of La Prairie is equally impressive. Sales continue to soar, growing globally – the company’s products are now sold in 90 countries – by more than 40 per cent last year. While the market for La Prairie in China is rising significantly faster than the rest of the world, Australia is next fastest. Says Ai San Beaumont, regional marketing and PR manager, “Our strategy has resonated with core customers, who appreciate that we provide bespoke experiences.”

So what is the allure that encourages women all over the wor ld to splash out so lavishly on a face cream? Says Rosi, “The growth can be attributed to a few factors. First, the trend towards investing in fewer, better-quality products. Second, the rise of the informed consumer who seeks the latest innovations and technology. Finally, our customer has the means to shop wherever she wishes, but more than ever is choosing to go where she is acknowledged, recognised and receives the service she deserves.”

Back in my suite, I snuggle into the king-size bed and call my husband in Sydney. Having opted for cheese on toast for his dinner, he is not really interested in the deliciousness of mine. But, surprisingly, he is interested in the cream. “Maybe I need to use some,” he suggests. No way!

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age on sale October 7.

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