The two faces of soy; costly kelp and caviar

August 1, 2007

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Q: What is the difference between the skin effects of fresh and fermented soy?

A: Fresh soy is usually eaten in the form of soy milk, obtained by squeezing the raw soybeans. Fermented soy is consumed in the form of roasted soy nuts or tofu.

Q: Why do some moisturizing creams cost $500 per jar?

A: I think the short answer is that moisturizing creams cost $500 per jar because people are willing to buy them, but let's take a more scientific look at the question.

Many of the boutique moisturizers contain ingredients that are very expensive. For example, sea kelp is the pricey ingredient in a new moisturizer introduced by La Mer, an innovator in high-priced cosmeceuticals. The sea kelp is harvested in San Diego and flown to La Mer's formulation laboratories in New York, where it is fermented for four months. Following the fermentation process, the material is placed in magnetized tubes. It is combined with cultivated algae and mixed into a cream that is hand-filled into small jars. The kelp and algae are felt to act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories for individuals with sensitive, aging skin.

Let's examine another example. La Prairie has developed a $500 jar of cream that contains a rare caviar obtained in the Caspian sea from the beluga sturgeon during the natural birthing process. The caviar is supposed to have a cell format similar to human skin, allowing the amino acids to speed up collagen production.

The expense of the caviar is due to its regulation under the Endangered Species Act and the fact that the caviar must be harvested fresh and immediately transported to the laboratory for processing to preserve the amino acids.

The price of these rare ingredients drives up the cost of the cosmeceutical cream. Of course, the next question is: Do the creams really work?

I am not sure, as I have no experience with either of these formulations.