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.
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…