MAKALU, NEPAL—After uncovering four corpses buried in snow along an icy mountain ridge, members of an Estée Lauder expedition said Thursday they had found the remains of a party lost decades ago while searching for a unique moisturizing herb thought to grow deep in the Himalayas.
The explorers, now three weeks into their ascent of a nearly 27,000-foot peak, radioed back to their base camp when they came upon the grim scene, reportedly all that is left of a failed 1961 Lauder expedition that sought to obtain samples of the rare herb, which is said to possess anti-aging properties so powerful it can instantly rejuvenate the driest and most wrinkled skin.
“We discovered four human bodies completely encrusted in a thick layer of ice, as well as a campsite littered with oxygen tanks, broken ice picks, and empty tins of lip balm,” said Clara Faherty, head of the current expedition, who confirmed that one of the bodies belonged to Franklin Ames, the American beautician who led the 1961 group and had previously discovered an essential oil in the Amazon rainforest that eliminates split ends. “The freezing cold had turned their faces, twisted in agony, to an almost pure white. Ames himself appeared to have been crawling on his hands and knees, reaching out his hand in a final attempt to grab the legendary nourishing and revitalizing plant that was just beyond his fingertips.”
“Tragically, they all froze to death just a few feet away from the secret to beautiful, radiant skin,” she added.
According to historians, attempts to locate the fabled herb date back to the early 20th century, when a British explorer discovered a remote Himalayan village where the inhabitants possessed a strange, otherworldly glow and appeared to maintain completely smooth and blemish-free skin well into old age. For years, experts considered the existence of a plant that purified and refreshed skin while visibly reducing pores to be mere legend, but then in 1953, a Neutrogena executive visited a Kathmandu market and purchased a mysterious herbal extract that could instantly erase wrinkles and lines in ways never before seen by Western cosmetologists.
Company records indicate that skin-care companies such as L’Oréal, Olay, and Jergens soon began to scour mountainsides from Kashmir to Tibet in search of the herb. Of these efforts, the Lauder expedition of ’61 was the most famous, with stories persisting that Ames and his team had succeeded but never returned—a rumor fueled by local tales of a group of white men with clear and vibrant skin who lived in a nearby village and didn’t look a day over 30.
Faherty said she was able to confirm the four dead bodies were from the lost expedition after she discovered Ames’ diary in an ice-encrusted knapsack at the campsite.
“The last entries suggest one man abandoned the group and walked off into a blizzard after he developed hideous bags under his eyes, while several others went mad and turned on each other after they ran out of hand lotion,” said Faherty, describing Ames’ account of crazed men who started a brawl during which half of their meager food and exfoliating rations fell into a crevasse and were lost. “Things got so desperate they began trying to hydrate their skin with snow, which we now know just ends up leaving you even more dry and cracked than before. The conditions must have been unbearable.”
“One of the corpses had his fingertips frozen to his face, as if he were still trying to moisturize, even in death,” Faherty added.
The current Estée Lauder team reported that they were able to gather several small samples of the storied herb to bring back home, and were hoping it would live up to its ability to draw out built-up impurities and liven up lackluster skin. However, Faherty acknowledged she had developed some concerns about unlocking the plant’s mythical age-defying powers.
“The longer I’m in these mountains, the more I wonder if perhaps mankind was never meant to possess such perfectly firm and supple skin,” she said, noting that the native name of the ridge where the herb was found could be roughly translated as “land of silky smooth skin and death.” “This is the holy grail of cosmetics. But what if its powers, which we still don’t understand, come at a horrible price?”
At press time, sources confirmed that all members Faherty’s party had vanished without a trace and were presumed dead, having last been heard over the radio threatening to murder each other over the last leaf of the rare, miraculous herb.