It sounds a bit cliché, but there is something about French women that’s hard to define — an ease, an undeniably chic je ne sais quoi. They’ve always had a love affair with style: beautiful clothes, coiffed hair, seductive lingerie and, of course, cosmetics. You can’t miss the countless salons and institutes dotting the streets of Paris dedicated to the art and science of beauty — there, they embrace the philosophy that taking care of yourself is just a part of life.
Armand Petitjean, the founder of Lancôme and a visionary in the world of beauty, shared this philosophy. His dream was to create a brand that would spread the gospel of French elegance around the world. He established the company in 1935 as a fragrance house; then it expanded into skincare and cosmetics. Lancôme has remained at the forefront of beauty innovation ever since.
In 2012, the brand introduced a regenerating cream called Absolue L’Extrait, inspired by the vitality of the Lancôme Rose, a variety of the flower developed for the company in the early ’70s. Researchers had been intrigued by its resilience. They extracted the rose’s native cells to harness its regenerating properties, then developed a state-of-the-art technique to multiply the cells. This fall, Lancôme is adding two more products to the Absolue skincare range — a spray-on lotion and an elixir-concentrate — both of which contain the same active ingredient (rose native cells), designed to target the signs of aging, repair damage, increase firmness and even out skin tone. Rosewater, long known for its ability to soften and hydrate skin, is the lotion’s key ingredient. The elixir-concentrate (a serum) feels like a light gel and contains mattifying mineral powders that leave skin feeling soft and velvety. It even comes with a unique massage tool to help increase circulation and revive your complexion. As French beauties know, the joy is always in the ritual.
In the world of fragrance, the rose has always played a leading role. For Lancôme founder Armand Petitjean, the flower was a lifelong passion. He integrated notes of rose into the formulas of his earliest fragrances, Tendres Nuits and Conquête — both prizewinners at the 1935 Brussels World’s Fair. By 1973, the rose had become such an important part of the brand that a famous horticulturist and rose specialist, Georges Delbard, was commissioned to create a new variety of the flower just for the company. This vibrant, delicate-looking hybrid variety, simply christened the Lancôme Rose, is grown in the Loire Valley. It has a deep fuchsia shade, and only a few thousand are produced each year. Over the years, the image of a single rose has become Lancôme’s signature, and you can detect the flower’s unmistakable scent in all of its products, even lipsticks and powders.
Absolue L’extrait Ultimate beautifying lotion, $140, elixir-concentrate, $395, Lancome.