After living in Paris for a summer, I have become a bonafide Francophile. I am especially enamored with the French woman's chic style and effortless beauty. But what I can't seem to grasp is the French approach to skincare, which (as Niall pointed out in a previous post) clings to harsh synthetic chemicals. According to one study (Barometre Bio 2007), 77% of French people believe that organic products are the way of the future in the face of today's environmental problems. Yet, organic beauty products make up only 2% of the market in France. That may all change with the launch of Yves Rocher Culture Bio, a new range of seven highly natural skincare products.

Yves Rocher is now a household name. Touting 30 million loyal customers throughout the world, Yves Rocher was No. 1 in face care, body care, and fragrance in 2007. Part of the brand's strength lies in its affordability, mainly thanks to mail-order sales. (It remains to be seen whether this distribution channel will translate onto the web.) With a wealth of knowledge that comes from being a producer of Bio cultures at La Gacilly Farm since 1997, Yves Rocher develops 1,100 ingredients of plant origin, from the simple chamomile to the more complex apple oligosides, which required six years of development and three patents.

Though Yves Rocher has built its brand on reasonably-priced botanical-based cosmetics, its Culture Bio range takes the green theme to new heights. Using 100% natural fragrances, each formula is guaranteed by COSMEBIO label and certified by ECOCERT. For the past two weeks, I have been starting each day with the Culture Bio Wake up Cream, or Creme du Reveil en français. The cream contains 99.4% natural ingredients, nearly 30% of which are organically grown.

Given that Wake up Cream retails for $27 and that I've become a bit of a price snob, I wasn't expecting much from Culture Bio. Proven wrong on my preconceptions once again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoy not only the feel of the lotion, but its fresh scent and its effect on my skin as well. With its non-oily, lightweight texture, the lotion instantly melts into skin, giving it a jolt of invigorating hydration. A blend of essential oils, most noticeably from peppermint, lends the face a pleasantly brief tingling sensation and permeates the nose- hence the "Wake up" in its name.

The other ten organic plant extracts in Wake up Cream are derived from green tea, marigold, olive leaf, witch hazel, aloe vera powder, shea butter, hazelnut oil, lavender essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, and petitgrain essential oil. These natural components both moisturize and protect the skin from free radical damage. While witch hazel (the second ingredient after water) is a natural astringent that will help close pores, shea butter is an excellent moisturizer and anti-inflammatory full of fatty acids, as well as vitamins A and E. It is also a natural sunscreen, like green tea, though I would still layer an SPF on top of this lotion.

Even the packaging gives a nod to eco-friendly manufacturing practices, withholding instruction leaflets and padding. I found the cream's container unnecessarily heavy, but at least it is constructed out of recycled glass. Yves Rocher is so committed to green initiatives that the company is financing the construction of solar ovens in South America to circumvent the use of combustibles. The first of the compensated carbon product lines, Culture Bio will have a neutral impact on the environment.

In April of 2009, the Yves Rocher Group is opening an eco-hotel spa in La Gacilly, which will feature an organic restaurant, thirty rooms, and a bird refuge.  The facilities will be heated by wood from the local forest and by solar panels, while vegetated covers on the roofs will recover rain water. Moving beyond making affordable cosmetics, Yves Rocher seems to be taking both ecological and economical concerns into consideration. French skincare might have a bright future after all.

 

Ingredients in Wake up Cream:

Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Glycerin, Alcohol, Tribehenin, Cetyl Alcohol, Corylus Avellana (Hazel) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Behenyl Alcohol, Sucrose Cocoate, Sorbitan Stearate, Myristyl Alcohol, Talc, Camellia Sinesis Leaf Extract*, Olea Europaea Leaf Extract*, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract*, Myristyl Glucoside, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Arginine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder*, Juniperus Virginiana Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil*, Citric Acid, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Leaf/Twig Oil*, Mentha Pipertia (Peppermint) Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil*, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil.

*Organically Grown Ingredients