How a mother and daughter’s discovery of a rare flower inspired their skincare legacy
When Olivia Chantecaille and her mother Sylvie launched their globally recognised, eponymous brand more than two decades ago, it was as a fragrance company, made up of four essential oil-based signature scents.
Chantecaille’s expansion into beauty products and natural, botanical-formulated skincare a year later was the result of a serendipitous discovery of the company’s signature ingredient, the rare Rose de Mai.
Olivia and her mother fortuitously discovered the rare flower during an ingredient exploration trip in Grasse, France, shortly after Chantecaille launched.
“A year after we launched, we took a road trip through the South of France to find a rare jasmine field in Grasse for our fragrances and met a floral farmer who walked us through his jasmine blooms and pointed at pink-coloured rows of roses right beyond the jasmine field - the Rose de Mai,” Olivia recalls to The Independent. “He explained the rarity of the rose, and how it was so delicate it had to be harvested by hand at dawn, at the moment of first bloom.”
After drawing the mother-daughter duo in with its “heavenly aroma,” Olivia and Sylvie soon recognised the rose as an “untapped skincare secret”.
“We learned that the Rose de Mai that bloomed there was the most special, powerful, and potent of all roses and flowers,” Olivia says, “and quickly sparked our expansion to skincare.”
Chantecaille became the first brand to utilise Rose de Mai, previously only used in fragrances, as the base ingredient in skincare with the creation of its first Rose de Mai product, Pure Rosewater.
The process for harvesting the rare flower is as magical as the bloom itself. The Rose de Mai only blooms for two weeks in May before it is gone until the next spring. During this two-week period, the Rose de Mai must be hand-picked at dawn, before the sun wilts the petals.
Right after the flower is harvested, Chantecaille begins the process of distillation, which sees the entire flower, including the stems, leaves, and every single petal, distilled in artisanal well water. In addition to harnessing the full potential of the plant, the process ensures that not a single bit of the flower goes to waste.
What makes the brand’s cult-classic core ingredient so special when used in skincare is its various beneficial properties, as Olivia notes that it “purifies, calms, and revives skin, can be used as a mist or cleanser, sets makeup, and has a wonderfully soothing effect on the psyche”.
Olivia starts her day with a “generous spritz” of Chantecaille’s Pure Rosewater spray each morning, which leaves her feeling “centred and refreshed”. This year, the company is celebrating the yearly harvest of the Rose de Mai with a collectible limited-edition bottle of the beloved Pure Rosewater face mist.
The discovery of Rose de Mai and its powerful botanical properties, as well as the popularity of Chantecaille’s Pure Rosewater, eventually led to the creation of an entire Rose de Mai Collection.
“We knew we wanted our products to be flower-based and began studying other botanical ingredients and plant stem cells which, when mixed together with the rose in optimum doses, only serve to super enhance each other. We realised we could create a full line of targeted products that would offer people soothing, healing benefits 24/7 for ideal results,” shares Olivia.
The resulting collection, which includes the Pure Rosewater, as well as the Rose de Mai Cleansing Balm, a Rose de Mai Cream, a Rose de Mai Face Oil, and a Rose de Mai Makeup Remover, boasts a number of beneficial properties taken from the flower directly.
“The entire pure and potent Rose de Mai Collection is incredibly antioxidant-rich, loaded with Vitamin C, while also being refreshingly hydrating and soothing,” Olivia explains. “It benefits all skin types and the texture and natural rose scent are an immediate mood booster.”
The discovery of the bloom, and the family’s love of natural ingredients, also led to a desire to give back out of gratitude to nature, which Chantecaille has since done through a number of conservation collections. “We were thrilled to realise over 20 years ago that we could support endangered species and urgent environmental causes through our beauty products,” Olivia says.
This month, the pioneering botanical brand released its newest product derived from the powerful flower, its Rose de Mai Eye Lift. The eye treatment is an “intensely moisturising magic wand powered by a silky gel crème, with a cooling, depuffing zamac tip”.
To create the product, which has been developed specifically to target the delicate eye area, Chantecaille uses an exclusive technology called microfluidics, a technique where one billion imperceptible micro-drops of oil are dispersed in Chantecaille’s signature Rose de Mai Rosewater and infused with ingredients that visibly lift, calm, and perfect the eye area.
While reflecting on her and her mother’s serendipitous discovery of Rose de Mai, Olivia reveals that the iconic flower has become “intrinsically linked to mothers” in her heart.
The skincare benefits she and her mother discovered through the use of the magical bloom are also a testament to her mother’s teachings. In addition to instilling in her a natural approach to beauty, Olivia says Sylvie taught her to celebrate the way she looks, and to find products and ingredients that make her feel like her best self.
“My mother has always been health conscious and emphasised that ingredients make a huge difference in how you feel when wearing a product - natural and botanical ingredients work in harmony with our skin and bodies. She gave me the best education and I am quite discerning now,” she says.
Olivia has since begun passing the lessons she learned from her mother down to her own daughter, Delphina, who she plans to teach to “explore, to spend time in nature, in the garden, to care for animals, to love yourself, to express yourself and to connect and listen to your inner guide”.
As Mother’s Day in the US is celebrated, and the Rose de Mai blooms once again, Olivia says she is also learning from her eight-year-old daughter, who allows her to see “the beauty, the wonder, the kindness, the love and the amazing possibilities” through her eyes.