You’ve probably seen the simple blue jar on your grandma or mom’s vanity or tucked away on the bottom shelf at a drugstore. It looks bland, feels bland, has a bland ingredient list, but its impact on my skin is anything but. Spoiler alert, the Nivea Creme is fantastic.
Table of Contents
What is it
A creamy rich moisturizer that really locks in hydration and smooths and softens the skin. The formula dates back to 1911 (it has changed since then, though not by much) and was the first stable oil-and-Water based on cream on the market!
Best suited for
Anyone with really thirsty skin or a damaged skin barrier that has trouble locking moisture in. Or anyone who wants to try La Mer but thinks the $$$ price tag is outrageous.
A plain blue tub or jar or tin, depending on what size you get. The packaging is iconic, but also a bit of a snooze-fest.
Contain artificial fragrance and it smells exactly what you’d expect a 100+ year-old (the recipe, not the cream itself) cream to smell like. A very classic floral scent, you know, the kind of scent you’d get a whiff of if you hugged your grandma. It’s on the stronger side, though not overly offensive imo. If you’re sensitive to scents you may find it a bit much.
Thick, like butter thick. You need to warm it up before applying it on your face, which you can do by rubbing it between your fingers/palms first.
Depending on how much you use, this can leave a dewy finish. Otherwise it doesn’t pill, doesn’t leave a white cast, and plays well under makeup.
Nivea Creme’s ingredients explained
Full ingredient analysis
We can all agree that there’s truly nothing sexy about these ingredients, right? One in particular has been vilified – Mineral Oil. There’s so much misconception about mineral oil that I need to say this loud and clear:
MINERAL OIL IS NOT EVIL. Cosmetic grade mineral oil is actually one of the safest and non-irritating ingredients available!
According to dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, all the toxic substances from crude oil (from which mineral oil is derived) are removed during the purification process, and the quality is regulated in the US and EU.1,2
Dermatologist Iris Rubin, MD, also confirmed that multiple human studies found mineral to score low in comedogenicity (ie it’s not comedogenic). BUT because it’s such an awesome occlusive, any comedogenic or irritating ingredient you apply under mineral oil will get trapped and possibly cause acne.
Another unfortunate victim of fear mongering: Petrolatum, aka. Vaseline. It’s also derived from crude oil and gets the same bad rep as mineral oil, so I’ll say this as well: PETROLATUM IS NOT EVIL. Like Mineral Oil, it’s gentle on the skin and an excellent occlusive that’s FDA approved to use on the skin.
Some other ingredients to note:
- Microcrystalline Wax – a thickener derived from crude oil and safe to use in skincare.
- Lanolin Alcohol – a fatty alcohol derived from sheep that makes an excellent emollient. Can be comedogenic for some people.
- Paraffin – A thickener derived from crude oil.
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MIT) & Methylisothiazolinone – Interestingly they’re the same preservatives used in the $170 Creme de La Mer (more on that below), but they’re also potential skin sensitizers and irritants. Personally I haven’t had any reactions yet, but if you want to avoid them, try the German Nivea Creme.
Yes, there are a lot of petroleum/crude oil derived ingredients in the Nivea Creme, but now you know they’re perfectly safe to use on the skin. In case the derm reassurances weren’t enough, Paula Begoun and Beauty Brains both agree too.
Now it also contains panthenol which is great for soothing the skin, but by and large the Nivea Creme does one thing and one thing only – keep your skin moisturized by preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) and keeping the hydration locked in your skin.
But don’t all moisturizers do that, and more?
Yes. Nowadays moisturizers not only include occlusive ingredients that keep hydration in, but they also include antioxidants, brightening ingredients, anti-aging ingredients, and all that beautiful stuff we love seeing. BUT!
When it comes to occlusiveness, petrolatum’s abilities are second to none. (source)
Mineral oil, lanolin alcohol, and paraffin are all excellent occlusives as well, making the Nivea Creme more occlusive than your typical moisturizer. The latter usually rely on less “heavy” feeling oils like jojoba, shea butter, or even dimethicones to give that smooth silky feeling we associate with good skin.
For normal/oily skin you can definitely get by with any regular moisturizer, but for those with perpetually thirsty skin or a compromised moisture barrier, you may need something more. *Cue the Nivea Creme*
La Mer vs Nivea Creme
I actually did try a sample of the famous La Mer Cream, and I admit, it’s lovely. For me it performs slightly better than the Nivea Cream, but not nearly enough to justify the difference.
Take quick look at the top 10 ingredients in both the La Mer and Nivea Creme, and you’ll see they use pretty much the same occlusives, but with an outrageous price difference – $170 vs $1 for 1oz! All because La Mer’s ingredients listens to Mozart (ok not actually Mozart, but they do play music for it!)
The key ingredient in La Mer is their fermented algae extract (ie. lactobacillus/kelp ferment filtrate), which is not a rare ingredient by any means. They also contain more antioxidants, so I won’t deny that their formula is superior. But again, is it 170 times more superior? I personally don’t think so.
If you want to replicate the effects of La Mer, I suggest getting the Nivea and layering it over one of the following products:
- Holy Snails Shark Sauce (30ml for $29) – A hydrating serum with fermented algae extract, 5% niacinamide, licorice root extract, green tea extract, and all these other great ingredients to soothe and brighten the skin!
- Skin Actives Sea Kelp Coral (2oz for $20) – Fermented algae extract in a jar, with a few additional antioxidants like astaxanthin thrown in. Apparently this also makes a great hair mask!
- This should be applied on clean, dry skin, typically as the last step in your routine.
- With your fingers or a spatula, scoop out the required amount for your purpose. I use a pea sized amount when applying all over my face.
- Place the product on your fingertips, and rub your fingers together for a few seconds until the texture looks something like this:
- Apply on the desired area as you would a regular moisturizer.
Alternatively you could scoop the product into your palm, warm it up by rubbing your hands together, then pat the creme into your skin. This will result in a lighter application.
My Experience & Results
My poor exfoliation habits have left my moisture barrier damaged and me wondering why no sleeping mask or moisturizer I used was ever quite enough. Then I stumbled upon this Reddit thread singing Nivea Creme’s praises, and since it’s only $1, I figured “why not?”
Um, BEST $1 I’ve ever spent on my skin. Now I’m wondering where this has been all my life??
I apply this as the last step in my routine, after my moisturizer/sleeping mask, in order to prevent moisture loss. I’ll scoop up a pea sized amount, rub it between my fingers, and apply that under my eyes and on my cheeks where my skin is driest.
After massaging for a bit the white cast disappears, and I go to sleep. I wake up, and my skin looks as if I had just sheet masked – the overall brightness and the invisible pores & lines – all signs associated with hydrated skin.
I thought this was a fluke, and knowing my luck I was probably going to break out in a few days, but nope. I’ve been using my Nivea Creme day and night for the past 2-3 weeks and the only thing it’s given me is juicy skin.
I’ve stopped wearing foundation now because I’m at a point where I can be comfortable in my bare skin (except for those pesky dark spots that refuse to go away) and I love the glow that the cream gives me. All this for $1.
Now if you’re finding the product hard to spread or too thick, make sure you warm it up in your hands first! Scoop some out into your palms, and either use your fingers or just rub your hand together until the texture
6 more ways to use the Nivea Creme
Yes it’s affordable, effective, and versatile.
- Slugging with the Nivea Creme instead of Vaseline.
Apparently slugging is a thing now because of TikTok, but it’s just the practice of using an occlusive to lock all your skincare layers in. Definitely not a new concept, and you can do the same thing with Nivea, which will feel much nicer on the skin compared to Vaseline.
- Use it as an eye cream.
While I do still use a dedicated eye cream, if your issue is mainly dryness, this is really all you need. I actually layer a bit over my regular eye cream sometimes, and it makes my eye makeup apply so much smoothly the next day.
- Use it as a hand or foot cream.
Peeling cuticles? Rough heels? Don’t know them. Do you all see where I’m going with this?
- Use it as a face mask
Apply a thick (and I mean thick) layer on your skin, focusing on areas prone to dryness. Wait 20 minutes, then wipe off the extra until you’re left with just a light film of moisture on your skin.
- Use it as an overnight lip mask
Make sure you apply a thick layer, leave in on overnight, and wakeup to softer and brighter lips! May feel a little weird at first since it’s a cream and not a balm.
- As a makeup remover
It won’t be as effective as a dedicated cleansing oil or balm, but in a pinch the oil content in the Nivea Creme can still help dissolve your makeup. I’ve used a qtip with this to help remove stubborn eye liner and it worked surprisingly well!
Obviously no matter how you decide to use this fabulous blue jar, make sure you patch test first! Personally I’ve had no issues, but ymmv!
- Super affordable starting at just $1
- Perfect for slugging if you don’t like the oily/heavy feeling of vaseline
- Keeps even the driest skin moisturized all night.
- Effectively minimizes fine lines and roughness due to dry skin.
- Comparable to La Mer in terms of results
- Won’t do anything else other than moisturize.
- Requires warming up of the product before applying.
Scores & Summary
For $1, you have little to lose and a lot to gain. If you find your skin perpetually dehydrated and nothing seems to work, I highly recommend picking up the travel sized jar and giving this a try. I’ve already repurchased a backup, and this will be a staple in my routine until I win the lottery (then I’ll splurge on La Mer because why not) or kingdom come.
If you need more convincing, look at all the positive comments below! It’s rare for a brand to keep a formula around for 100+ years, so when they do, you know they’re doing something right!
To keep my content accurate and trustworthy, I rely on peer-reviewed studies, articles from reputable academic institutions, and quotes from certified healthcare professionals to back my claims.
Chuberre, B., et al. “Mineral Oils and Waxes in Cosmetics: An Overview Mainly Based on the Current European Regulations and the Safety Profile of These Compounds.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, vol. 33, no. S7, 7 Oct. 2019, pp. 5–14, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31588613/, https://doi.org/10.1111/jdv.15946.
“Mineral Oil – Cosmetics Info.” Cosmetics Info, 2021, www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredients/mineral-oil/.