Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériale Exceptional Complete Care The Cream is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with a third-generation formula that holds eight scientific patents. We sat down with ethnobotanist François Gérard to chat about his global orchid studies (he studies more than 3,000 specimens in Switzerland, China and France) and how he brings their beauty to the brand’s best-loved skincare formulas.
BH: Why do you choose to study orchids over any other flower?
FG: Orchids are very different from other plants – mainly because they are epiphytes, which means they can grow up in the air, on trees. This gives the orchid a very special biology: It contains a physiological mechanism and molecules that you won’t find in any other plant. Many of these special molecules are very beneficial to the skin.
BH: You’ve chosen three orchids out of 30,000 possible species to cultivate for this cream. What is so special about these three flowers?
FG: The vanda coerulea, which lives on a tree 40 to 50 feet in the air, survives without any food, even though it is one of the largest, strongest and most colourful plants in the jungle. The vanda teres grows on the tops of trees in the Himalayas and survives for seven months in the dry season without any rainwater. The gold orchid grows very slowly. It grows for 12 years before it even gives its first flower, which is very special.
BH: How did you know these flowers would have such beneficial attributes?
FG: One aspect is the doctrine of signatures, which was formalized in the 17th century by a biochemist named Paracelsus in Switzerland. The idea is that all plants give physical signs that tell us what they’re good for based on their anatomical appearance. For example, a tomato, which looks like your heart, is very rich in lycopene and has been proven to be very good for your cardiovascular system. The gold orchid isn’t just gold in colour but has a strong light that flashes into your eyes. Years later, we discovered that the extract of this plant stimulates skin cells and optimizes the release and distribution of energy, which improves elasticity.
The orchids used in The Cream can only be harvested every four years after their first bloom, which takes seven years!
Guerlain Orchidée Impériale Exceptional Complete Care The Cream 10th Anniversary Limited Edition, $505