Chanel’s exploration of the harsh French Alpine region uncovers an unlikely plant with exceptional revitalising results for the skin

When Chanel sets out to study the properties of various plants around the world, it doesn’t do things in half measures. After successfully creating an open-sky laboratory in Madagascar for the cultivation of the vanilla planifolia plant—a key ingredient in the Chanel Sublimage range—the French maison turned its attention back to its homeland, and a revolutionary new product, the Chanel Sublimage L’Essence Lumière, was born.
 
Imagine this: in a garden in the south of France, there are hundreds of wildflowers, that hail from a biodiversity hotspot within the French Alps, growing and flourishing. To ensure that these botanical treasures grow in the best circumstances, much effort was taken by Chanel Research to ensure that the climate and conditions found here mimicked the Alpine region.

Nicola Fuzzati (pictured), ingredients innovation and development director for Chanel Research, is in charge of this massive undertaking, which he initiated in 2010. We sat down with Fuzzati, along with Chanel international scientific communications director, Armelle Souraud, in Hong Kong to learn more about the groundbreaking research.

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“The south of France is known for fragrance, but after exploring the area further, I discovered the presence of many medicinal plants. Our ancestors used them to treat illnesses, and consumed them as food,” shared Fuzzati.
 
Out of the 500 plants studied at the lab, 60 extracts were developed after scientists looked at the various chemical compositions. He explained, “Plants are small chemical factories, and they have great potential to be a biological active ingredient.” 

Two power plants that stood out were the solidago, found in the Chanel Sublimage L’Essence Fondamentale, which debuted in 2018, and anthyllis, a sun-loving plant that is the star of the Sublimage L’Essence Lumière launched in February this year.
 
“To cultivate the anthyllis plant, no pesticides or herbicides are used. They are only harvested by hand twice a year—in June and July—and are put through a traditional drying method that lasts about seven days. The raw material is then put into an eco‑friendly bio-solvent at low temperatures, before being further distilled and purified.”
 
Souraud went on to share, “We work with local farmers daily, and it’s a challenging undertaking because it’s organic agriculture. These plants live in very harsh environments, and to protect themselves, they produce very special molecules, which is what we are interested in extracting.” 

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On the skin, the protective effect of the anthyllis plant is expressed as increased luminosity, clearness and evenness. Besides its illuminating qualities, a study done by Chanel with a panel of 32 Caucasian and 14 Asian women also reported that after using the Sublimage L’Essence Lumière, their skin felt softer, smoother and that it helped to reduce the appearance of pores. 
 
“When we perform tests, it’s done on Caucasian and Asian skin, and we evaluate the efficacy immediately after the application of the product within 24 hours and then after four weeks of use,” said Souraud. “The immediate effect you see is a difference in skin texture, radiance and plumping effect. After three to four weeks, you can really see that the skin has totally changed, almost as if it has been ‘re-densified.’”

The texture of the Sublimage L’Essence Lumière is lightweight, and the inclusion of moisturising botanical glycerin and nourishing shea butter makes application a sensorial and pampering experience.
 
“It’s perfect for women who don’t want to layer [products], or who just want to use this under their foundation. It might be extremely concentrated, but it feels fresh on the skin and dries quickly, so it’s efficient and great for the Singapore climate,” said Souraud.  

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