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21 September 2017Last updated
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Beauty

Natural beauty

Ingrid Pernet, director of scientific communication at French beauty brand Nuxe, tells us why natural products are so effective and explains how flowers are turned into little pots of luxurious creams

Louisa Wilkins
15 Feb 2016 | 03:56 pm
  • Source:Supplied

The word nuxe is a blend of the words ‘natural’ and ‘luxe’. At Nuxe, which is the leading pharmaceutical beauty brand in France, the team members pride themselves on offering high-end, naturally based beauty products at affordable prices. With its latest range of anti-ageing products, Nuxuriance, having just launched in the UAE, we went to Paris to meet the Nuxe’s director of scientific communication and training, Ingrid Pernet, to find out exactly how natural the products are and whether natural products are any better for us than synthetic ones.

Are natural products better?

“I can’t say the natural oils work better than the synthetic ones, but synthetic products are made up of single molecules of synthesised active ingredients, whereas natural products are made up of thousands of different molecules. Synthetic products are made simply to mimic the natural ones. They are now looking for cancer drugs in the Amazon because nature is such a huge source of active ingredients.”

How do you decide what new products to make?

“Innovation is the key but it has to answer to women’s needs – to develop new products, we have to know what people want.

“Now, the trend is to look fresh, happy and radiant. We want our products to give women confidence.

“My work is mainly in the development of new products. When we want to develop a new product, I work out how well we will be able to communicate the scientific side and whether it will be interesting to people.”

How do you select the plants you use?

“Sometimes we know we want to create a certain line, other times Nadine [Leconte, director of research and development] discovers an active ingredient… She has an intuition about a plant and tries to discover which part of the plant or flower is the active ingredient.

“She has plants everywhere in her home and old books on botanics and flowers. Some of the greatest discoveries and creations at Nuxe have stemmed from Nadine’s intuition.

“The first thing is to identify the plants and know where the active molecules are located. We read a lot of scientific papers and we work with extraction specialists to extract the ingredients. For example, we have a new range, which will be coming out later this year, that contains extracts of saffron and bougainvillea, amongst other things.

“We already knew saffron was interesting in terms of anti-ageing. Around the same time, we had looked at bougainvillea cells and had found that the membrane was very compatible with human skin.

“We’ve tried to integrate different flowers into the bougainvillea cells as we realised it was a good vehicle for carrying active ingredients into the skin.

“We had tried putting saffron extract on skin and, after 12 hours, there was no penetration. However, we found that when it was put into the bougainvillea cells, after two hours it had seeped into the upper layers and after 12 hours it was in the deeper layers of the skin.

“By integrating the active ingredient of the saffron flower – which has a regenerating action – with the botanical cell of bougainvillea – which is bio-compatible with the skin – we were able to create an effective beauty product. The resulting product is great for improving firmness while reducing brown spots and wrinkles.”

How do you test the products?

“Once we have decided on the active ingredients, we check the pH level of the products to make sure it’s stable. At this stage, we also check the viscosity of the cream – meaning its density.

“Checks are done after one day, one week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, two months, four months, six months and so on, up to one year.

“It takes three hours to mix the botanical oils with water to make it into a cream. To make 1kg of cream, you need 300g of oils. A lab pilot of a product would involve making 10kg of it. This would be made here in the Nuxe lab. The industrial pilot is 300kg to 400kg, which would be made in the factory and then used in consumer tests by volunteers and experts.

“Before testing it on volunteers, toxicologists check all the cells in the lab to make sure there is no toxicity. All tests are over one, two or three months, depending on the product and the number of people we test on… This could be 20, 60 or 100.

“We use high-tech skin imaging, such as ultrasound, to be able to see the deep effects on the skin’s layers. With the Nuxuriance range, for example, we saw how it improves the dermis structure by 37 per cent over 28 days. We proved that it improves the regeneration of the epidermis by 34 per cent.

“More than 70 per cent of volunteers must agree with the claim in order for us to use it in marketing material. We also check the compatibility in packaging – some formulas don’t work well in plastic or don’t work well in glass.

”After validation, it takes 1.5 years to get into the stores. You can be working on something for five years so it is a great feeling the day it is sent out to retail. We are currently working on active ingredients for a launch in five years’ time.”

How natural are Nuxe products?

“We only use botanical oils as mineral oils can’t penetrate the skin as well. We also use butter and wax from botanical origins, to get a nice, smooth texture – for example, cocoa butter. Then we use natural emulsifiers to mix the water components with the oil components – we have do this at a very high temperature. Then we add the active ingredients from plants and flowers, then powder to make it soft. The final stage is to add pigments, to make it shiny, and natural fragrances.”

Do Nuxe products contain synthetic fragrances?

“The fragrances in our products come from natural sources. We have experienced noses developing fragrances using limited numbers of ingredients and allergens and we have strict guidelines on this. The active ingredient might come from the root of the flower, such as when we use an extract from peonies, so it won’t have a fragrance. In this instance, we need to add a floral fragrance even though there is a floral active ingredient.”

Louisa Wilkins

By Louisa Wilkins

Editor