You may be an absolute pro when it comes to your favorite beauty products – you know which ones will last the longest, which will give you the most natural flush, and which moisturizer you need when your skin starts looking a bit like a snake, but do you know anything about the brand that makes that product you live and breathe for? That’s of course where we come in. Some of our most beloved products have brands with some pretty great background history – causing us to love them even more.
We recently had the chance to go behind-the-scenes with L’Occitane in Provence, France, where the company is based (and was born) and saw first-hand how their products are made as well as talked to a few of their scientists and founder Olivier Baussan. We learned countless things along the way that we could drone on for days about, but we’ve narrowed it down to the 7 most surprising things for you here. Read on to find out some facts about your beloved hand cream – and more – that you can now rattle off the next time you’re shopping with friends.
1. L’Occitane was the first beauty company to put braille on their labels. After meeting a customer who was blind in one of his stores and was intently smelling each fragrance to figure out which to buy, L’Occitane founder Olivier Baussan wanted to find a way to make shopping easier for the blind, and back in 1996 began adding braille to some of the packages. Now, almost all of the company’s labels have braille.
2. A journalist originally told Olivier Baussan, the founder of L’Occitane about where to source the shea butter that is found in L’Occitane’s hand cream. The journalist had told him about her trip to Africa and how the women there take nuts and create shea butter balls out of them, and that the money they made from these they were able to keep for themselves. Baussan found the story so intriguing that he went to check it out for himself and from there created a Fair Trade exchange to ensure that the women would continue to be paid a fair price (and improve their livelihoods) – a partnership that the brand continues to work on to this day.
3. A tube of Shea Butter Hand Cream is sold every 3 seconds somewhere around the world. The formula for this product has remained unchanged since it was perfected back in 1993, after Baussan asked the scientist behind the recipe, Yves Millou, to up it from 5% to 20% shea butter in order to give the women from Burkina Faso in Africa more work – and thus help to ensure that they would always have enough money.
4. Since sheep don’t like the taste of the immortelle flower, farmers let them graze and “clean up” the fields – they naturally clean out any other wild plants and simply leave the immortelle, used in the anti-aging L’Occitane lines, which allows the immortelle to grow without the need for pesticides.
5. Olivier Baussan founded L’Occitane after someone donated a soap factory (and all of it’s equipment) to him. Because of this, he has always wanted to give back in everything he does. This is evidenced by the company’s many philanthropic activities as well as their founding theory of sustainability and love for Provence.
6. L’Occitane is the world leader in fine lavender production, buying 400 tons of lavender essential oil every year. Most brands use the more easily grown Lavendin, a heartier plant that is actually a hybrid that can grow at lower altitudes. Fine lavender can only grow at 500 to 1,500 meters (or about 1,600 feet to 5,000 feet).
7. Each product is actually tested on real human skin. L’Occitane works with plastic surgeons in hospitals to use real human skin (gross to think about, but true!) for product testing. They are able to use it for up to 72 hours to decide the efficacy of each product that is being tested.