Chanel’s latest skincare creation is inspired by the health industry’s ongoing crush: “The Blue Zones” – areas in the world where populations tend to live longer. We visited the super-chic Chanel Head Office in Paris and grilled the team behind the brand’s new Blue Serum, unearthing not just the secrets to healthier skin – but also those to a longer life.
Dan Buettner’s Best Selling 2008 book, The Blue Zones profiled four regions in the world whose inhabitants live an exceptionally longer time than most. Among them, Okinawa in southern Japan which is home to the highest ratio of healthy centenarians, (most of them women) and Ikaria in Greece, which has the highest percentage of 90 year olds and much lower rates of cancer and heart disease. The book was lauded for its smart approach to food and lifestyle and debunked many popular diets at the time, including Paleo and Atkins, finding that those who live the longest get 95% of their calories from plants and only 5% from animal products. Their diets were actually high in carbs, with most foods eaten derived from grains, beans and starchy tubers. Other key learnings? Most of these centenarians walked long distances every day, and often would work right up until the day they die, helping to harvest crops or tend to the family. It was this feeling of being needed and highly valued that kept them vibrant and vital.
So what does all this have to do with skincare? We headed to the elegant Chanel Beauty headquarters in Pantin, just northeast of Paris city limits, to find out. There, in a chic monochrome office, Christian Mahé, Senior Vice President, Chanel Research and Beauty Innovation is holding court. He explains that the aim of Blue Serum is “longevity” not anti-aging. The concoction contains a tightly edited set of ingredients sourced from three of the blue zones: green coffee from Costa Rica, olives from Sardinia and lentisk (a resin produced by hearty, evergreen shrubs) from Greece.
Mahé explains that the idea for Blue Serum began to crystallise in 2013 when members of his team spent a week interacting with centenarians in Okinawa. But even before that, a study lead by Chanel researchers had been analysing hundreds of human genomes around the world since 2007.
“There are key biological pathways involved in the ageing process, and we believed there were some links that could be introduced into our products,” he says. Factors of the centenarians’ lifestyle such as diet, exercise, stress and social interactions were all re-examined as mechanisms that affect the skin at the cellular level. And a new parameter for beautiful skin was born. The concept of “healthy skin” and a “happy disposition” rather than purely flawless skin is a refreshing angle, indeed, for a major skincare company.
“When you look at these faces,” Mahé points out, “They have wrinkles, gravity issues and spots, of course. But you have the feeling that their faces are in good health. They have a face, which is smiling, with eyes are saying something special. We worked on a definition of healthy skin. And we always say that beauty is a complex science.”
The Chanel scientists also tested a spectrum of ingredients used in wound healing and cancer research. Once they identified key nutrients, they further worked on customised extraction techniques; the green coffee, for instance, is cold pressed into an unrefined oil before being put through eight operations that give the extract greater potency. The olive extract combines both the oil, by now well-known for its essential fatty acids, with the antioxidants contained in the leaves; achieving this required an impressive process of cryogenic grinding, microwaves and ultrasounds.
Blue Serum is applied as a regular serum - after cleansing, before moisturiser and sun protection, and, of course, it works best when it’s backed up with a well-rounded health regime. Naturally, you can’t expect much from the product if you don’t exercise and refuse to eat vegetables. Mahé concurs, noting that the story behind Blue Serum should prompt us to think more holistically about how we take care of ourselves. “If you have a poor way of living, this product could help you a little bit but not totally,” he offers. “The goal of this product, and the reason why we’re speaking about longevity and not anti-aging is that you must be part of your beauty; you must be pro-active.”
Or, as Armelle Souraud, International Scientific Communications Director, puts it, “Our conviction is that each woman has key role to play in nourishing the healthiness and youthfulness of her skin… that’s why we do not speak about age, because Blue Serum can be used by all women. Perhaps the blue zones can even inspire women in a broader way.”
Indeed, just as we might buy a bag from Chanel with the faith that it will be as special decades from now, the story and intention behind Blue Serum also has timeless benefits. With superior skincare, and some of the Blue Zones’ most pertinent learnings, hopefully we can live up to Coco Chanel’s elegant edict, “You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life.”
Chanel Blue Serum is available now. RRP $155. Story by Amy Verner; Additional Words by Sigourney Cantelo