NB (2010-02): NEW VERSION, NEW PACKAGING, NOW IN A 50 ML TUBE (see the third of the images for the product).
I actually only got the Tolérance because my local supplier was out of Avène Skin Recovery Cream, but had a big display of this newfangled stuff; I'd last met the Tolérance some years ago, when it was used on me in a hospital. Rapid summary: new packaging, lower price, little change to the cream itself. It's a splendid piece of 21st-century minimalist gorgeousness.
Skin here: sensitive, reactive, irritable. Also thin a.k.a. physically fragile. My usual face creams are Avène Skin Soothing Cream / Crème pour peaux intolérantes, A-Derma Skin Cream, and Avène TriXéra Emollient Balm. Which one I use depends on skin and weather conditions. Mixed in with oil, or with the oil underneath as a serum. Oil blend: 1/3 mineral, 1/4 safflower or sunflower, 1/4 sweet almond, topped up with jojoba and a little hazelnut. Or 1/2 mineral : 1/2 safflower or sunflower when skin is very reactive.
Anyhoo. On with the review proper.
Tolérance extrême is a very minimal cream, meant for intensive use to repair the skin; on sensitive skin, it can actually be used for quite a long time as a regular moisturiser (oops, the secret's out). Mostly Avène thermal/spring water; plus glycerin, mineral oil, squalane, safflower oil, cyclomethicone (full ingredients at end of review, all nine of them). It's pale and interesting. Feels creamier than the SRC, not as unctuous as TriXéra. Melts into skin and keeps it moist. No reactions. Quite the opposite: soothing (needed after misjudged sunscreen experiment).
Tolérance extrême used to be packaged in a set of little plastic vial-tubes. It's now been repackaged* in a 50 ml tube (inside a cardboard box) with a special new D.E.F.I. (Device Exclusive Formula Intact) closure system, so that--between that and the manufacture in sterile conditions--it needs no preservatives. It's superficially a double nozzle under a cap (it's more sophisticated than that inside); it lets cream out, but nothing in. The formula has changed slightly: same ingredients, slightly different order: squalane, cyclomethicone, and sodium carbomer have each moved up a place.
This is new on the shelves here in Canada, though the innovation seems to have been announced a few months back--there's a good piece on it from 09/2009, complete with a nice picture showing just how cunning a contraption this fancy new cap is, over at http://www.premiumbeautynews.com/Laboratoires-Avene-present-D-E-F-I,1202 [you night have to click "continue" for the link to become active...] Actually, if you'e into cunning devices, it would be worth buying a tube of this stuff just to take it apart to play with.
Currently CAD 34.50 for 50 ml. Would I buy it again? Absolutely. And not just for the D.E.F.I. I'll be keeping the TriXéra around for dry patches, hands, and colder weather; but I prefer the Tolérance to SRC: moister, less is needed, and cheaper. My only other comment is that there should be more creams like this out there, and less of the crap with unnecessary junk in it (that's so often expensive and ruins one's skin, necessitating further expenditure to make it all better again). This stuff is so basic you could make something like it at home: but you'd have to do so in daily batches, so Avène still has the edge with the sterile manufacturing and packaging environment, and the sterile closure system ... There's also an accompanying cleanser (not tried, am happy with current cleanser thank you very much).
INGREDIENTS: Avène thermal water 57%; glycerin; mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum); squalane; carthamus tinctorius (safflower) seed oil; cyclomethicone; glyceryl stearate; sodium carbomer; titanium dioxide.
No perfume, no preservatives, no emulsifier, no alcohol. Hypoallergenic, non comedogenic, sterile, physiological (i.e. same as skin) pH.
*The fonts on the packaging have also changed for the better: now everything's in a nice sans-serif, clearer and with more rounded characters than previously. The logo hasn't changed, but the pink freeform swirl is smaller and more restrained than before.