The most raved about secret in beauty this year wasn't a magic facialist or Real Housewife-lauded injection, it was an unassuming moisturizer made by a 60-year-old German scientist who'd never worked in the industry, let alone had an Instagram following. And yet, despite having none of the traditional resources that makes a beauty brand an overnight success—like paid celebrity spokespeople, $1 million ad campaigns, or millennial pink packaging—Augustinus Bader became a sleeper hit purely through word of mouth.
In the nearly two years since it launched, AB's "miracle cream" has gotten accolades from Ashley Graham, Kate Bosworth, and Victoria Beckham (who's since launched a moisturizing primer with the brand). Glamour even gave it a Beauty Award for Best Moisturizer, a highly competitive category as you can surely imagine. So before I even uncapped the weighty blue-and-copper tube of its famed The Cream, which costs a cool $265 for 50 mL, I was basically set to fall in love with it—price tag be damned.
But the only kind of hype I pay real attention to is beauty editor hype; if my product-inundated colleagues are raving about it, I figure it has to stand out from the pack. And for weeks, every single editor I knew had told me about the cream in an attitude I can only describe as reverent. I was ready to experience my own Bader-sparked miracle.
$265.00, Violet Grey
Bizarrely, I didn't immediately fall head over heels for it (don't worry, a second plot twist will follow shortly). Sure, it was a good face cream. The light texture absorbed quickly and my skin looked decent, but it didn't exactly wow me. I felt like a thin layer just wasn't doing much in the moisturizing department—which, apparently, I later learned isn't even what The Cream claims to do. It's more of an overall skin rejuvenator. The brand also sells a Rich Cream for dry skin, which contains additions like avocado and argan oil to aide with extra hydration, but I began with the original thinking it'd be enough.
In order to get maximum effectiveness from the active ingredients, I did what a few other friends and makeup artists had advised and skipped all other products, except face wash. The Bader formula is based on TFC8 (Trigger Factor Complex 8), a proprietary cocktail of over 40 different ingredients, including vitamins and amino acids. It's meant to encourage regeneration and healing—Professor Bader actually discovered the formula while looking for solutions to help burn survivors heal quicker—and TFC8 is supposed to activate your stem cells, which go to work to repair fine lines, dark spots, and visible pores. I had heard that the ingredients within were enough to replace all other skin care, so I devoted myself to a one-step kind of lifestyle and waited for my skin to start looking like I had just walked out of a spa. And then I waited some more...
"I don't understand why I'm not being blown away by AB, is something wrong with me?!" I texted a friend. Such was my level of confusion in the face of everyone else's level of obsession. "I love it," she told me, delicately choosing not to answer the second part of my question. Something was clearly wrong with me.
I needed to rethink my strategy. In hindsight, after my skin was so used to being sandwiched in so many layers—I was very much an 11-step skin care kind of person—it stands to reason that it wouldn't take kindly to a single-step makeover. After further research, I learned that there was really no need for me to ditch my other products completely. The Augustinus Bader creams are formulated to target a lot of things: fine lines, wrinkles, dehydration, redness, loss of elasticity, and pore size. Theoretically, you can use them alone, as an all-in-one. But the only important part is that TFC8 touches your face first so it can penetrate. What you add on top is entirely up to you.
More investigation led to another epiphany: The brand recommends using The Cream for a full 27 days to reap what everyone calls its "life-changing" benefits. This is roughly the amount of time your body takes to turnover regenerated skin cells.
With this revelation, I entered Phase Two of my lengthy experiment with fresh determination and a brand-new mindset. I would treat The Cream almost as a serum, applying it immediately post-cleanse and sealing it in with additional layers of moisturizer and oil (I'm not saying that you have to replicate my steps in order for this to work, but as you can undoubtedly tell, I enjoy marinating my face in as many things as possible).
Immediately, I started seeing the effects everyone was talking about. My pores looked more refined, particularly around my nose. My skin tone became perceptibly more even and subtly glowy; my post-breakout dark spots faded faster. My skin texture even felt bouncier and smoother. And with the extra layers of humectants and oil doing the work of keeping every drop of moisture contained, The Cream was free to do its thing of imparting the post-spa complexion of my dreams.
In the end, this emotional journey taught me two things, for which I am very grateful. First, that I am too high-maintenance for a $265 cream (alone). More importantly, that Augustinus Bader really is worth the hype; my 11-step lineup is hovering closer to six these days. And that's as minimal as it's ever going to get for me.
Sold but not ready to drop $265 on a face cream? The best news is that for Black Friday, Violet Grey is offering a steep discount on Augustinus Bader The Cream, The Rich Cream, The Body Cream, and more. Meaning: Now is the time to try them, since they rarely go on sale. The way it works? You can save $15 if you spend over $100, $50 if you spend over $250, $100 if you spend over $500, and $250 if you spend over $1,000 (you know, just in case you want to stock up).
$265.00, Violet Grey
$165.00, Violet Grey
$265.00, Violet Grey
$170.00, Violet Grey
Sarah Wu is a writer in Berlin. Follow her on Instagram @say.wu.
Originally Appeared on Glamour