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Gattefossé has always worked with raw materials of plant origin. In the 1890s, essential oils were the focus, and in the 2000s, materials included waxes, vegetable oils and plant extracts from “objectified” active ingredients. The business has always started with the very best that plants have to offer, ensuring clients benefit fully from all that is natural.
It was in 1894 at the international colonial exhibition in Lyon that Louis Gattefossé discovered the diversity and potential of essential oils, the main raw materials used by perfume houses. Despite their name, essential oils contain no fatty substances. They consist of volatile aromatic molecules from part of the plant (the leaves, flowers, bark, etc.) after cold expression or distillation. And these “plant extracts” are very valuable. For example, to produce a kilo of lavender essential oil, 25 to 175 kg of flowering plant tops have to be distilled.
Louis was convinced there was an opportunity there to develop his business and began trading in essential oils. To satisfy his clients in perfumery, he sourced his materials from the very best producers, even if they were outside France.
He obtained terpene-free essences from Heinrich Haensel, a German company renowned for its high-quality products. From Sicily, he imported the finest lemon essential oil, which was lauded by perfumers. And later, Gattefossé would import rose essential oil from Bulgaria, geranium and cinnamon oil from Madagascar and niaouli essence from Vietnam. In other words, he would seek out the most suitable soil for cultivating the plants he required.
A century later the business had moved away from perfumery and essential oils*, however, it still worked with raw plant-derived materials. For instance, plant oils and waxes became key ingredients in emulsifiers such as Emulium® Kappa, which was launched in 2006. And for a long time, they have been used in the Vegetol® range. Today, cosmetic active ingredients extracted from plants are essential to the Gatuline® brand: Gatuline® Expression launched in 2005, is derived from Acmella oleracea from Madagascar, while Gatuline® Radiance, developed in 2012, incorporates Evodia ruteacarpa, native to China. Gatuline® R was, in fact, the first Gatuline® product to be launched back in 1992, and was created using extracts of beech tree buds grown in the Rhône Alpes Auvergne region of France.
Acmella oleracea, cultivated in Madagascar, has an anesthetic effect which drew the attention of Gattefossé researchers.
Since the 2000s, there has been a marked trend towards “natural products” in the cosmetics industry. Consumers are increasingly distancing themselves from products created using “chemistry” and all things “synthetic”.
Gattefossé is meeting these new requirements by offering clients active ingredients and products derived from plants, some of which are certified organic.
In this respect, the Gatuline® range is interesting as it groups together a number of “substantiated” plant ingredients and Gattefossé has been able to demonstrate the properties of these ingredients through in vitro testing and clinical studies. Since 2012, the company has carried out in vitro and ex vivo studies in its cell biology laboratory, and today more than ever before, plants are central to the business and its future.
*However, it is worth mentioning “Pluressences” rectified citrus oils, created by Gattefossé in the 1950s. For a long while, they were popular in pharmacy as an aromatizing agent in oral formulations.