Chanel has entered the sustainable beauty chat. The French luxury house Chanel launched No. 1 de Chanel, its first foray into the ever-growing (and ever-imperative) eco-conscious skin-care and makeup space. Each detail of the collection has been created to respect the environment. The formulas contain up to 97% of natural ingredients, and the packaging is made from recyclable glass. No. 1 is more than just being greener for the planet. No. 1 promises an anti-aging innovation that makes skin healthier and more radiant. It is based on a natural extract from the ‘The Czar’ Camellia flower, a sister brand to its iconic white Camellia. This crimson-red variety boasts strong skin-nourishing properties. The brand actually uses the seed shells from the flower to make its packaging.

gold and white perfume bottle on round glass table

Is it possible for a brand that has been around for 100 years to pivot and find new pastures? Admittedly, I was skeptical. I have found that many brands that attempt to “go green”, leave me disappointed by their poor formulations and packaging that could easily be found in a toy shop. To find out, I flew to Paris with Chanel last November.

A Chanel Beauty expert shared his thoughts with me during a secret preview of the launch in Paris. “There is no compromise between efficacy, sensorialite, and tolerance. These three areas are always our top priorities.” The legacy commitments of Chanel made it difficult for scientists to determine how to begin this new “circular journey” into sustainability. Nicola Fuzzati (Channel’s Director for Innovation and Development of Cosmetic Ingredients) wanted to go further in her mission with No. 1 de Chanel.

Fuzzati, who has been fascinated by the Camellia since 1995, has been researching its properties and studying it. Fuzzati shares that the Camellia flower can survive winter conditions and can withstand freezing. He and other Chanel scientists set out to discover other skin-care benefits of different Camellia varieties. Fuzzati, along with his team, discovered the red camellia Czar five years ago and developed an extract that could be more effective in preventing cellular aging (also known as senescence). Sandra Forestier, Head, Chanel Biology and Clinical Research Department explains that we age and develop more senescent skin cells. These are only exacerbated when we sleep poorly or have poor environmental stressors like pollution. You will notice a decrease in dullness, dryness, wrinkles, and fine lines.

She tells me that the red Camellia Extracts were Nicolas’ most effective Camellia extracts. They proved to increase the skin’s vitality by 67%. The team decided to infuse the extract, along with Camellia oil, water, into nine products: foundation, cream, cream, cream, serum, serum/in-mist and tinted lip and blush balm, face cream, eyecream, eye cream, cream, serum, serum and serum-in-mist and serum-in-mist. After a month of using the product, participants in a clinical study reported that their skin felt “younger and smoother”, more radiant, and rejuvenated.

After they had figured out how to create a natural formula that would deliver results, the next challenge was designing the packaging and the look of the product. It doesn’t matter if you own Chanel, but it is worth the experience of using any product with the double-C label. Unboxing even the most delicate, tiny cotton pads feels like an event. How could they make prestige materials sustainable and reduce material use? Chanel scientists went back to number 1 (wink, wink), to find out what they could do.

“The idea behind No. Chanel Beauty expert says that the idea for No. The cream is the best example. Camellia shells can be found inside the lid. Nicolas had to press the Camellia seeds when he extracted the Camellia oil. They would have thrown away the shells before, but Nicolas asked himself: “How can we dispose of these shells?” “How can we use this circular approach?” This lid was created by him and a partner who mixed the Camellia seed and wood shavings.”

Other products in the range are made with bio-based materials. Chanel’s beauty expert says that glass is the most popular material for packaging because it can be recycled easily. “The packaging was printed with organic ink. Chanel has never before produced a refillable cream. We have eliminated cellophane and leaflets and included a QR code instead – this is a major achievement in packaging. We achieved our goals, although it was difficult.”

A big step, indeed. I used two of No. 1 de Chanel’s products for the last month and a half – the serum and the cream – and as skeptical as I was, the products have not only given my skin the vitality the Chanel scientists speak so fondly of, but have also made me more hopeful for the future of sustainable beauty. (It is possible to make a gorgeous, efficacious, and sustainable skin-care product!)While the brand and its fellow designer houses -and the fashion and beauty industries in general – have a long way to go in lessening their carbon footprint (perhaps by rethinking those advent calendars for starters), it is brands like Chanel who can lead the charge and make sustainability not just en vogue, but commonplace.

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