Review: Kiehl’s Cryste Marine Ultra Riche Lifting and Firming Cream

By Voxy  

kiehls cryste marineI fall in and out of love with Kiehl’s on a regular basis. It’s probably determined by some algorithm I can’t discern, some complicated mathematical relationship involving the phase of the moon, the average relative humidity, the price of tea in China, and Schrödinger’s cat. I’m aware that a significant portion of the appeal comes from the subtext in both the packaging and the stores: “We’re an old-fashioned pharmacy brand with Dependable Compounds and Remedies for Skin Care Ailments.” The spectrally avuncular figure of store founder John Kiehl looms large in the background of the brand, implying trustworthiness and a vague sense that everything that comes from this line must be clinically approved. Right? When you go to a Kiehl’s store, all of the sales associates are wearing white lab coats, so it must be Scientifical. Plus, it’s a long-standing family business! Oh, uh, except that in 1921 the business passed out of the Kiehl family and into the Morse family, who sold it to L’Oreal in 2000.

Yes. Kiehl’s, the Little Family Business That Could, is owned by L’Oreal now. (You would be amazed at the things L’Oreal owns.)

It turns out that John Kiehl himself was not a pharmacist (the business did not become a full-scale pharmacy until it passed into the hands of the Morse family), but an apothecary who sold not only headache powders and ipecac but also “virility creams, baldness cures, and Money Drawing Oil.” Clearly, a man ahead of his time. The business passed to Irving Morse, who had been an apprentice at the shop during the Kiehl family’s ownership, and then was taken over by Irving’s son Aaron, who seems to have been the guiding force behind the change in focus from traditional pharmaceutical products to the development of a skincare line featuring minimal packaging and lots of natural ingredients. Aaron Morse was also the one who started the Kiehl’s tradition of generous product sampling, for which we are all still very grateful.

The main reason I’m bringing up Aaron Morse is this: in the original company store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he kept a very interesting assortment of things, including a xylophone and a set of timpani, which either he or his customers might play. Now I have been in many, many Kiehl’s stores, and none of them has had so much as a triangle or a pair of finger cymbals. Bring back the percussion! I want to have an in-depth discussion about dry-lip treatments with a white-clad clinician, then break out the timpani part to Also Sprach Zarathustra, right there in the store, and then go home with my samples of cucumber toner and avocado eye cream (and some of that Money Drawing Oil if it’s still around).

This particular product from Kiehl’s, the Cryste Marine cream, is a lovely non-SPF facial moisturizer in a beautiful, beautiful blue jar. (I am such a sucker for pretty packaging.) The “Cryste Marine” part refers to a sea algae extract that is high in antioxidants. The product also contains “Hyaluronic Filling Spheres” — what is it with the spheres these days? Didn’t I just talk about “microspheres” in another product? Why isn’t anyone making “Filling Cubes” or “micrododecahedrons”? Anyway, the “hyaluronic” in the Hyaluronic Filling Spheres is hyaluronic acid, a substance that occurs naturally in the body but that decreases in production as you age. Its role in the skin is to fill in the spaces between the strands of the collagen and elastin proteins you hear so much about. This helps the skin hold water and maintain a healthy barrier against free radicals and environmental toxins, heal more quickly, etc. Sounds fab, right? Unfortunately, like so many other in-vogue ingredients in skincare, slathering it on the outside of your body does not produce the same effects as producing it inside the body. Hyaluronic acid applied topically does not actually penetrate through the outer layers of the skin to get to the layers at which your body’s native product snuggles up against your own collagen and elastin. What topical HLA can do is draw some moisture from the air and help hold it in the skin to keep a good moisture level on the skin’s surface. However, like other products (glycerin, I’m looking at you), it may also, under certain circumstances, draw water from within your skin rather than from the air, which is kind of a Pyrrhic victory as far as skin moisture levels are concerned. Anyway, this is not to rag on hyaluronic acid, which is a perfectly reasonable ingredient to include in a skincare cream. But as a topical agent, it’s no miracle worker. Do the hyaluronic filling spheres in this product actually “fill in” your lines and wrinkles? I’ll let you decide. Kiehl’s own description of the HLA in the product says that “the retained water promotes an increased level of hydration in skin tissue and helps to visibly fill out wrinkles and promote skin firmness.” This is not the post in which I rant about the language of skincare and cosmetic product claims, but you will note the vague language used in the quoted excerpt. (Also, if you look closely at the blue jar in the photo, you can see that the HLA filling spheres are described as “unusual.” Unusual? What are the “usual” kinds?)

All this being said, I still like this product, because it does hydrate well, it has a very luxe skin-feel, and makeup goes on over it very well. Does it “lift” or “firm” anything? My experience says no. But it does moisturize my skin well, and although it is a bit too heavy for me in the summer months, I keep coming back to it in the winter. Another plus for me is that it mixes very well with my Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronze Concentrate, so it’s easy to turn into a tinted moisturizer if I want. Not all moisturizers have worked well with this liquid bronzer, so that by itself is a good reason to keep this in my rotation. As noted above, it does lack a sunscreen, so you’ll have to get that elsewhere.


Kiehl’s Cryste Marine Ultra Riche Lifting and Firming Cream: $47.50

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair

Purchase again? Possibly, but I may be out of love with Kiehl’s at that time. Check the phase of the moon.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Let us know in the comments!)

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  1. avatar Shelly
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve been using this product for a while now. Initially I went in for something “firming” and was recommended the Cryste Marine Ultra Riche. I like it. It’s not greasy in the least, and it’s very hydrating compared to other things I’ve tried. I figured out that I loved it when I stopped using it at night and tried their Midnight Recovery Concentrate (switched at their recommendation). No. Good. I felt like I turned into an old lady with saggy jowls over night. I also found a bunch of grey hairs too, so I think I was traumatized by the switch.

    I’ve now started using their Dermatologist Solutions Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate at night before the Ultra Riche. It says it is “Clinically-Demonstrated to Noticeably Decrease the Appearance of Marionette Lines, Crows Feet, and Sub-orbital Wrinkles while Improving Skin Texture and Radiance.” Would love to hear your thoughts on that one. Jury is out for me.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Shelly! I haven’t used the Line-Reducing Concentrate, so unfortunately I have no info of my own on that one. I try to avoid shopping at the Kiehl’s counters near me, and I hate to order skincare online without testing. How long have you been using it?

      I’m also interested to hear that about the Midnight Recovery Concentrate, because I was lemming that just a teeny bit. Have you tried the Cryste Marine eye cream?


      • avatar Shelly
        Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’ve been using the Line-Reducing Concentrate for about three weeks now – only at night. I still use the Cryste Marine serum mornings (I like it). I started using the L-R Concentrate the same time I started the Midnight Recovery, so I’m not sure about it’s effectiveness. I’ll give it another month.

        The Cryste Marine eye cream is interesting. I liked it a lot at first. It has a nice feel and was better than whatever I was using before (philosophy?). It doesn’t soak into the skin very quickly though. It’s more like a light paste but not sticky. I started using it in October and stopped when I recently ran out. It didn’t affect my main eye concerns (deeper wrinkles). Honestly, you have to rub a little to get it to absorb, which flies in the face of trying to reduce wrinkles if you ask me. Also, if you use it for day and don’t rub it in, your eye lids may look like they are flaking awhile later. Long review short – not recommended.

        The Midnight Recovery Concentrate I tried in sample form. It is a liquid/serum and not a very viscous one at that when compared others. I didn’t like how it applied and like I said before, I think things got worse rather than better. I have normal skin – slightly on the dry side.

        The one great thing about shopping at Kiehl’s directly is the samples. You always leave with usually three samples and the quantities of each go a long way. I’m trying another eye cream now and it’s lasted three weeks (Line Reducing and Brightener for Eye – jury out). That said, there needs to be something you actually want to buy in order to get the samples.

        On another note, I just found your site last week, and I love it! It’s now a daily read. Thanks for all the great info.


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