I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear me say that I am fascinated by luxury. This fascination is not, however, limited to an affection for its material aspects. In fact, I am much more curious about the history of luxury, it’s changing definition in the global marketplace and its cultural, economic, pop cultural, social and even political significance. Plenty of ink has been spilled on the subject (if you are interested, I highly recommend Dana Thomas’ in depth exploration of the subject, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster). The title of the book highlights one of the biggest issues with luxury: globalization and conglomeratization of the luxury industry has lowered the quality and standards, raised prices to unsustainable levels and has even created human rights abuses typically associated with fast fashion.
Nowhere are the problems with the luxury more evident as they are in luxury skincare. Brands like La Prairie, La Mer and Cle de Peau charge upwards of $1,000 for jars of cream that contain microscopic quantities of inexpensive actives and are, primarily, water, silicones and petroleum jelly. And I am not even exaggerating. Cle de Peau’s most expensive products are the Synactif range, with the Synactif Cream as the star, ringing in at a cool $1,000 (before tax). Do me a favor and follow that link: you will see a list of ingredients that will nearly fill your computer screen. 7th on that extensive list? Petrolatum. Sure, the list also contains a number of questionable and even downright nasty ingredients, but frankly, that’s all I need to know. Maybe I am spoiled, but I balk at paying a thousand dollars for Vaseline.
This is where green beauty presents a real and superior alternative: forget earnest purity and alarmist talk of toxins: green beauty offers any number of uber-active, elegantly-packaged, luscious products that actually deliver visible results – all for a fraction of the price. What makes green beauty products truly luxurious is the attention and care in selecting the finest, most active and, yes, most expensive ingredients. Call me crazy, but I expect the world’s best skincare to contain the world’s best ingredients. Of course, we must give credit where it’s due: one place where conventional luxury beauty still has a leg up on its clean competition is in the marketing and packaging of its products. Sure, those layers of plastic are wasteful, but it’s hard to resist the allure of creams and serums presented on glimmering pedestals and packaged like jewels.
Which brings us to La Bella Figura’s frankly revolutionary, limited edition Capsule Collection. I know that I am about to make a bold claim, but I believe that LBF has managed to create a new model for a luxury skincare product, one that combines an obsessive focus on ingredient purity and quality, with scientific innovation, stunningly beautiful packaging and just a little dash of charming geekery. With the Capsule Collection, Victoria and Karen, the brand’s passionate creators, have taken their obsession with finding the best and rarest ingredients, their love of food (and especially molecular gastronomy) and their science-meets-nature approach and invited their customers to participate in the magic of creating skincare.
The premise behind the Capsule Collection is deceptively simple: take some single ingredient oils, serum concentrates and hydrosols, add some actives and get your customers mixing individualized treatments. Yet, the Collection is so much more than this simple idea. For starters, those oils and hydrosols are the culmination of Victoria and Karen’s obsessive search for the best ingredient sources and are evidence of the relationships cultivated with countless growers and producers across the world. Organic Bulgarian rose petals, cactus flower from Tunisia, grape seed oil from Sonoma – all have been chosen to be the most potent, bioactive and effective.
Sexy ingredients aside, I love the way the Capsule Collection showcases the mad scientist sensibilities of the leading ladies of LBF. Those actives I mentioned? They are concentrates of Vitamin C-loaded kakadu plum and resveratrol powerhouse aronia berries. Taking inspiration from molecular gastronomy, the concentrates are encapsulated into food-grade, caviar-like spheres which, aside from being adorable and absolutely delightful to use (the popping!), allow for increased freshness and precise dosage.
Then there is the Cupuacu Cleansing Balm: a new cleanser developed by LBF especially for the Capsule Collection, which has quickly become my favorite cleansing balm. It’s incredibly rich and dense (I recommend warming it first in your hands), yet melts into a delicate silkiness and then (here’s the kicker!) rinses complete clean with water. In fact, I was slightly surprised to find after some extra-vigorous rubbing, that it actually foams. It’s sort of the perfect gateway drug for people who aren’t quite into the idea of a cleansing balm: all of the nourishing, deep-cleansing lushness, but with the ease of a conventional cleanser. I have been lobbying LBF to make this cleanser a part of the permanent collection – here’s hoping it will be, because it’s a real game-changer.
Finally, what takes the Capsule collection into the realm of pure luxury are the thoughtful and gorgeous extras. The packaging itself is a work of art. The beautiful letterpress box with its pull-out drawer opens up to reveal a sheet of vellum, hiding the treasures within. Yes, I know I am waxing rhapsodic about paper, but really, the Capsule Collection combines all of my little obsessions into one gorgeous package: letterpress paper, sustainability, beautiful packaging and pretty props. Yes, you heard me right. The Collection is an immersive experience and the sexy box hides not just the skincare, but all the extras that make using it a truly spectacular experience. There is the handmade porcelain bowl for mixing up your personalized potions, the delicate silver spoon for fishing out (and squishing) the sphere concentrates, the Custom Bar Recipes – a selection of recipe cards with suggestions on mixing the products – and even white gloves. Because would you want to get your oil-covered mitts all over that gorgeous packaging? Me neither.
Of course, the prettiest packaging is nothing, but a trifle if what’s inside isn’t at least as special. Thankfully, the results that the skincare cocktails in the Capsule Collection deliver are just as impressive. I already raved about the cleanser, but the serums and treatments I have made using the Capsule Collection components were remarkably effective. One of my favorite formulas is one that I actually helped name: The Big Sleep, named after one of my all-time favorite films, is an overnight anti-aging powerhouse. Its combination of a natural retinoid alternative, antioxidants, nourishing oils and other potent actives acts cumulatively to improve the skin with nightly use, but I wake up with luminous, clear skin whenever I use it the night before. I won’t get into much detail on the other combinations, except to mention that they are all incredibly effective and deliver visible, almost immediate results. I want to preserve a little element of surprise because the joy of discovery is such a major component of the pleasure in using the Capsule Collection. It affords the consumer an opportunity to act like a cosmetic scientist. A skincare nerd like myself could spend giddy hours coming up with combinations to address any skin woe, yet even a total beauty novice should feel comfortable to experiment, using the guidance of the Custom Bar Recipes.
I know, I know: you want me to talk about the price. There is no denying that the Capsule Collection is an indulgence and that it will be out of reach for a number of beauty consumers. It is important to remember, however, that this is, unequivocally, a luxury product. When one considers the quality and concentration of ingredients, as well as the painstaking research, crafting and curating that made this Collection possible, the price actually seems low – to say nothing of the fact that it is half the price of the more “reasonably” priced high-end conventional luxury skincare products. Though it may not be the most accessible product, I would argue that the Capsule Collection is crucially important. It pushes the green beauty industry forward. It announces to the world that the pure and natural can be just as glamorous, luxurious and elevated as anything seen in Bergdorf Goodman. It bets on quality, passion and integrity. And it wins.
And now a little note for my readers in NYC: as you know, the fabulous Follain has recently opened its first NYC outpost and they will be exclusively launching the Capsule Collection in the store. To celebrate, Victoria of La Bella Figura will be in the store talking all things green, beautiful and luxurious with the founder of Follain and yours truly. I am incredibly honored and excited and it promises to be a fabulous evening. Check out all the details (including a truly incredible offer) on my or Follain’s Instargam, as well as my Facebook and Twitter. Hope to see you there!
Disclaimer: The Capsule Collection was sent to me for review by La Bella Figura. I am profoundly grateful, as I know my husband would have had words about me spending this much money on skincare. Because yes: I would absolutely spend my money on this. It is most definitely worth it.