The Household Ingredient Taking The Beauty Industry By Storm

The beauty world is constantly endorsing EXOTIC NEW INGREDIENTS. But the CURRENT BUZZ is about something rather more prosaic: tea, as SARAH HALLIWELL found out

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On an exclusive visit to the Chanel research labs, on the outskirts of Paris,
we saw a whole new side to tea. Kitted out in white lab coats (yes, Chanel manages to make even these look stylish), we toured behind the scenes, where all the skincare and make-up is conceived, tested and developed. It’s Willy Wonka for grown-ups, with tantalising glimpses of your future make-up bag at every blindingly-white turn.

Chanel’s current focus is White Needle Tea, a white tea found to have the most concentrated antioxidant quality, rich in theanine, a key amino acid. It’s the star ingredient in Solution 10, a luxury moisturiser for sensitive skin that Chanel has developed in collaboration with New York dermatologist Dr Amy Wechsler, motivated by the countless patients she sees with irritated or itchy skin. “With sensitive skin it’s so important to know what’s going on it, so it makes sense to keep it as simple as possible,” says Dr Wechsler. The theory is classically Chanel: less is more.

So here is a moisturiser that doesn’t have an ingredients list so long and tiny it makes your eyes hurt. Instead of the usual 35-50 ingredients, the lab set themselves a challenge to use 15 or less. Four years and 117 samples later, they managed it with just ten, achieving a tricky balancing act between efficacy, suitability for sensitive skin, plus, let’s face it, a certain glamour.

Solution 10 is a skincare haiku, honed and pared back to the absolute essentials. Each element, from the nourishing shea butter to the plant-derived squalane, is the purest and best. The testing process was rigorous: if it can protect skin during the peak of pollution in Beijing, we reckon it can cope with Dublin and Cork. It’s also excellent for men as a post-shaving soother. Expect to see a trend for simplicity in skincare as others follow Chanel’s lead.

Special tea leaves are also being infused over at Jo Malone London, where perfumer Serge Majoullier has created a set of six perfumes, the Rare Teas Collection. These will be available at just a handful of stores worldwide, including Brown Thomas. And you’re getting a first glimpse of them here first. The collection is focused on purity, as reflected in the bottle, the brand’s first new design in 25 years. Jo Malone has dabbled in tea before – bright, effervescent Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne is one of their loveliest – but these are seriously special. The purest tea extracts are infused straight from the leaf: “It’s both an art and a science,” explains Majoullier. “Unlike mass-produced teas, rare teas are grown in small quantities, picked by hand and harvested using traditional methods,” says Fragrance Director, Céline Roux. “Tea can be as valuable as gold.”

Just a few additional ingredients accentuate the infusions. Silver Needle tea is harvested in China just once a year, making it incredibly rare: it’s delicately floral, and enhanced here with hints of sage, bergamot and rose absolute. Other colognes celebrate the bright buds of Jade Leaf tea; delicate Darjeeling, and smoky Midnight Black tea, with sandalwood (lovely on men too).

Other brews to inhale are Bella Bellissima’s Cologne Toujours, with green tea enhanced by lemon and pomelo; and Bulgari’s classic Green Tea, created by legendary perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena in 1992.

La Solution 10 de Chanel, 74, nationwide from March 25. Jo Malone London Rare Teas Cologne collection, S300 each, at Brown Thomas from April.

Sarah Halliwell

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our May issue, out Thursday May 5.

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