Corsica's fragrant scrubland, the maquis, is replete with the immortelle plant - a wonder of nature that not only fights wildfires, but aging, bruising, and inflammation (it's 100x more effective than arnica). Not surprisingly, this remarkable healing plant has become so popular, demand has now outstripped Mother Nature's ability to supply, in part because it takes so many plants to produce the smallest quantity of essential oil. 1 hectare can support 5 tons of plant matter which translates into only 10 kilos of oil, which must be picked in the morning and distilled that same evening to extract maximum benefit. So in 2004, French natural beauty products company L’OCCITANE launched the very first large-scale organic immortelle plantation comprised of 45 hectares worth, adhering to the philosophy that: "For each flower grown, a wild flower in the maquis is saved."
Flowers have long put the bloom on the L'Occitane lore.
When 23 year old Olivier Baussan decided to recreate the traditions of his Provence childhood, he purchased a steam distiller - a relic from the past - and harvested wild rosemary for pure essential oil which he sold at local markets. It became so popular with villagers, he turned it into a business in 1976 that was dedicated to celebrating well-being. Named for Occitanie, the ancient province that once covered the south of France, northeastern Spain and northern Italy, Baussan wanted to mix Mediterranean traditions with modern skin and body care. After he discovered an abandoned soap factory, and duly became fascinated with reviving the traditional art of soap-making in Marseille, and in the process created the brand's vegetable-based soaps which coveted for their quality ingredients and cool shapes.
Under his environmentally-focused guidance, L'Occitane still adheres to a policy of preserving and passing on. While exploring the world for new ingredients and traditional techniques, Baussan was introduced to the Shea trees that grow in Burkina Faso in West Africa - sacred trees which produce a nut that is ground into a rich, thick Shea Butter, a nourishing and moisturizing ingredient at the heart of many L'Occitane products. And more recently, the staff has been travelling to West Africa to teach the women in the Burkina Faso co-operative, where their shea butter is made, the L'Occitane way of making soap. "At L'Occitane, we always encourage our people to follow their dreams and many of our employees volunteer to work on life-changing projects in communities far and wide," notes Baussan.
Which is all undeniably feel good but still begs the question: how good will their natural skincare and beauty products make your face & bod feel? "We invest in research and test the effectiveness of our active ingredients. The results of this research are patented. We evaluate the effectiveness of our formulas through in vitro tests or tests on volunteers, as well as through use tests for face care formulas."
Your best bet? Try for yourself. Our obsessions "Editor's Picks" include the Almond Delicious Paste scrub, Immortelle Very Precious Fluid with SPF 40 and mulberry extract for helping even out pigmentation, the divine Labdanum de Seville fragrance which we've raved about in the past, and a tube of must-have Shea Butter foot cream to remain pedi-perfect all summer long.
- Lesley Scott(NOTE: This post may have been sponsored by L'Occitane, but the words and opinions are 100% ours.)