Out on the French luxury brand’s shelves and websites today, the new products are formulated with up to 97 percent of ingredients stemming from natural origin. The star ingredient is the camellia, house founder Gabrielle Chanel’s iconic flower, with No.1 product formulas including up to 76 percent camellia derivatives, such as petals, seeds and yeasts. Those were chosen for their ability to enhance skin and preserve its youthful appearance, according to the company.
Chanel has its own camellia fields, where agro-ecological cultivation methods are used, and a research laboratory based in Gaujacq, in southwest France. There, parts of fully blossomed camellias, especially from the hardy, red Camellia japonica — aka The Czar — are handpicked and made into an oil rich in protocatechuic acid and antioxidants that are used in the new skin care line.
Molecules in that oil are said to help bolster skin’s defenses while slowing down dehydration and keeping it looking young, with an effect on lines and wrinkles, pore visibility, elasticity loss, and lack of comfort and radiance.
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As Chanel studied camellias, its researchers starting in 2012 collaborated with scientists at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna to study senescence, a key mechanism involved in cellular vitality.
“This is a new area of expertise that is now widely studied in the world of medicine and not much in the world of cosmetics,” explained Armelle Souraud, international scientific communications director at Chanel.
“What is senescence? It is the aging of our cells, and indeed it is a very promising subject, especially in medicine, since it holds the promise of tomorrow that by targeting senescent cells we will be able to live longer but above all in better health, which is what interests us,” said Sandra Forestier, head of the Chanel biology and clinical research department. “So in cosmetics, that immediately inspired us, because the idea was also to be able to target these senescent cells and prevent skin aging — and above all to keep skin healthy and full of vitality.
“For this beauty line, we were really interested in the first stage of senescence,” she continued. “We wanted to prevent cells’ entering into senescence even though they are stressed by a hostile environment — pollution, for example.”
That’s where the red camellia came in.
The Red Camellia Revitalizing Serum, the product meant to be used first in the No.1 line, is billed as preventing and correcting the appearance of the five signs of aging. The Revitalizing Cream has a whipped-cream texture and smoothing and plumping attributes, while giving comfort and radiance, according to Chanel. A refill for it is sold separately.
The Eye Cream’s formula includes squalene and hyaluronic acid derived from plants, while the Powder-to-Foam Cleanser is enriched with red camellia oil. The Revitalizing Lotion contains a high concentration of camellia water, and the Revitalizing Serum-in-Mist is said to protect skin from pollution.
In the makeup section of the No.1 collection, there is the foundation, with illuminating, moisturizing and protection qualities. The lip and cheek balm contains red camellia oil and wax of plant origin.
For No.1 de Chanel — L’Eau Rouge — Revitalizing Fragrance Mist, Chanel’s perfumer Olivier Polge used camellia water and a red camellia extract, along with a floral bouquet with notes of jasmine, orange blossom and red fruit, plus rose floral facets. He had to use his imagination, since camellias are without odor.
In the U.S., prices for the No.1 line range from $45 for the lip and cheek balm to $110 for the fragrance mist.
No.1 is not a new name for a Chanel product. Gabrielle Chanel launched her Mademoiselle Chanel No.1 fragrance in the 1940s, but the house said its new beauty line’s moniker is not related to that. Instead, it opted for No.1 as it is in keeping with the founder’s penchant to number her products.
Also, the No.1 nods to this being the brand’s first clean line and first one to include skin care, makeup and a fragrance mist. The camellia is Chanel’s number-one flower historically and the prime ingredient in the product formulas.
Sustainability was important throughout the No.1 collection’s conception. Chanel integrated the camellia’s protective seed shell into the lids of its cream jars, which also include bio-sourced, renewable materials and FSC-certified wood shavings. Each product lid in the line contains recycled or bio-sourced materials.
The product’s entire packaging was eco-designed, with the weight of jars and bottles reduced by an average of 30 percent versus traditional containers, and up to 50 percent for the cream’s glass jars, which are refillable.
Eighty percent of the packaging is made of glass, which is highly recyclable. The use of plastic — especially single-use — was limited, Chanel said. No cellophane or paper leaflets were used, while organic inks are employed on glass bottles.
Since 1998, the house has been leading a project around the camellia in Gaujacq in collaboration with an expert on the flower, Jean Thoby. There, the garden contains 2,000 camellia varieties from around the world. From two mother plants of Camellia japonica “Alba Plena” came the Chanel crops starting a decade ago and the more recent camellia farm, which has a phyto-analysis laboratory and pre-transformation center.
No chemicals are used in the growing of the flowers in the earth there, which employs sustainable practices.
Chanel has long believed in the power of flowers. It has cultivated them for 100 years, since the launch of the No.5 fragrance. The house produces and uses May rose and jasmine from Grasse, France, which allows it to control raw material quality and the supply chain for perfumes.
Chanel for more than two decades has also been observing and sustainably sourcing natural ingredients for its skin care, through its four open-sky laboratories in various climate zones. The first one debuted in Madagascar in 2002, followed by another in Costa Rica, and two more in France.
The house has been for some years using environmental evaluation criteria in its product design. Among its priorities is to create formulas with a high percentage of raw materials respecting the environment and that are sourced sustainably.
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