SINGAPORE - In the quest for eternal youth, anti-ageing beauty ranges have become a dime a dozen, each one promising preservation and one-upping the last.
Now, Chanel believes it may have cracked the code to anti-ageing skin science.
The French luxury house debuted its new beauty line, No.1 de Chanel, this week. Spotlighting the red camellia flower, it is Chanel's first beauty line that cohesively integrates skincare, make-up and a fragrance mist.
Nine products, ranging from a hybrid lip-and-cheek product to eye cream, are tied together by red camellia extract, the signature active ingredient.
It is "a holistic approach to beauty" tailored for today's urban woman, Chanel's international scientific communication director, Dr Armelle Souraud, tells The Straits Times in an exclusive teleconferencing interview.
Dr Nathalie Volpe, international innovation, research and development director, says in the same interview: "What we wanted to do is create a new ritual to support the daily life of a woman. This line is imagined for the woman who has a very active lifestyle in the city."
The products were created around the "five main concerns women have with age - wrinkles, pore visibility, loss of elasticity, discomfort and lack of radiance", she adds.
They also aim to address what other anti-ageing products in the market have neglected: the early stages of skin ageing.
The key apparently is understanding senescence - the process of biological ageing, in which a cell ages and permanently stops dividing, but does not die. These cells can comprise up to half of the total skin cells and disrupt the functioning of other active cells, leading to visible signs of age.
Chanel found that red camellia extract effectively delayed the first - when cells start to slow down - improving cellular vitality and enabling cells to stay healthy for longer, says Dr Volpe.
A result of research beginning in 2012, the discovery is "highly promising", adds Dr Souraud.
"We are capitalising on this new scientific territory because it will give us the opportunity in the future to continue developing new anti-ageing active ingredients."
An emblem of the house, the camellia was French founder Gabrielle Chanel's favourite flower. Apart from appearing as a motif across the label's bags, clothing, jewellery and shoes, it reportedly has moisturising properties in skincare.
In fact, Chanel's open-sky laboratory in Gaujacq in southern France has piloted a large-scale project on the camellia for its beauty products. In partnership with international camellia expert Jean Thoby, the luxury house is researching 2,000 varieties of camellia cultivated in his botanical conservatory garden.
For No.1 de Chanel, the four star ingredients are red camellia extract (said to improve cellular vitality), red camellia oil (to preserve moisture in the skin), camellia water (for freshness) and camellia yeast extract (to protect the skin barrier).
"Nature is an amazing source of inspiration. In one plant, you have a lot of things to study - the leaves, roots, petals," says Dr Volpe.
Sustainability and the future of beauty
The line is also a leap forward in sustainability for Chanel.
The formulas contain up to 97 per cent ingredients of natural origin. Raw materials that "respect the environment" are sustainably sourced, taking into consideration their "impact, renewability and origins", says Dr Volpe.
And various parts of the flower are used to prevent waste.
Most striking is the packaging. Through a new streamlined design, the weight of the jars and bottles has been reduced by 30 per cent on average, and 80 per cent of them are made of glass.
For a few years now, sustainability in product design and strategy has been a priority for Chanel, which invested in Finnish packaging materials start-up Sulapac in 2017. The new line, says Dr Souraud, "goes further in sustainable innovation" without compromising on Chanel's luxury skincare experience.
All cellophane was removed, inks on packaging lids were swopped for engraving and paper leaflets detailing the product's ingredients were replaced with QR codes on the boxes.
A standout product is the Revitalizing Cream, in a refillable jar made from recyclable glass. Its cap is made of 90 per cent bio-sourced materials from renewable resources, including camellia seed shells.
Chanel plans to extend this approach and packaging to the rest of its ranges.
The future of beauty, Dr Souraud and Dr Volpe stress, should address the needs of women living in an increasingly urbanised world, where more are exposed to pollution, stress and lack of sleep - and have less time for themselves.
The need to make self-care rituals an experience has also emerged in the pandemic.
Dr Volpe says: "There is an acceleration of (the desire to) 'take care of me because I need time for me, and to slow down in certain ways in my life'."
Today's beauty consumers, she adds, are focused on prevention and demand scientific diagnoses to evaluate their skin and detect specific concerns to act on them as soon as possible.
She says: "Beauty for the future is a balance between health and beauty; a positive mindset creates a big impact on you feeling beautiful."
Top 4 products from the line to try
Revitalizing Lip and Cheek Balm, $72
This potted multi-purpose balm is enriched with red camellia oil for comfort and hydration. Do not be put off by the idea of oil in your blush - the colours are pigmented yet diffuse easily on the skin and lips.
Tap on with fingers for a healthy flush, which lasts a good five hours before fading naturally into a pinch of colour. Its skincare-like properties might tempt you to skip your end-of-day cleansing.
Revitalizing Cream, $167 ($142 for refill)
This lightly scented whipped cream has an airy, bouncy texture that feels refreshing but not cloying on my combination skin.
The high concentration of red camellia extract and oil is ideal on nights when I cannot be fussed with layering serums. Its smoothing, comforting properties make it an attractive day cream too.
Revitalizing Serum, from $175
To reap the full benefits of a brand's research, always try the serum. Developed as the most concentrated product to correct the five signs of ageing, this serum dispenses from a dropper applicator as a transparent gel that the skin absorbs instantly.
Revitalizing Serum-in-Mist, $125
The serum may be the line's star product, but I much prefer this lazy-girl alternative. A unique bi-phase formula (where you can see the oil suspended inside the bottle) means you get to enjoy the red camellia extract in a handy spray form.
It is said to protect the skin from pollution. I spray it liberally post-shower and whenever my skin feels parched. The red camellia oil also provides an impressive amount of hydration during my recent travels to Europe - it is the perfect winter companion.
Available at Chanel Fragrance and Beauty boutiques and counters as well as sg-eshop.