The Eternal 'Immortelle'

This wild plant from Corsica with the mysterious and poetic name “l’Immortelle” possesses many properties that L’OCCITANE en Provence has been researching for over ten years in order to perfect its anti-aging skincare products. Let’s take a look at this wild beauty.
By Caroline Taret

Powerfully named “l’Immortelle” in French, this fascinating plant grows amongst the scrub, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. There are almost 500 varieties of this everlasting flower including the Helichrysum Italicum, part of the daisy family, discovered for its skin care properties a decade ago by L’OCCITANE. This pretty yellow flower possesses a special relationship with time; it is called “the immortal” because it never fades, even after being picked. This plant, with its golden buds that flower in June, was very popular at the beginning of the 19th century in Provence, particularly in the floral arts. But a Greek myth told in Homer’s Odyssey dates her existence even before the 8th Century BC.

Immortelle was the beauty secret of the princess Nausicaa, daughter of the King of the Phoenicians and bienfaitrice to Ulysses, who discovered upon meeting her, the stimulating properties of the flower. Intimately tied to the notion of beauty, the essential oil of immortelle is today the raw material for anti-aging treatments developed by L’OCCITANE, including their Precious, Divine and Brightening ranges of face care products. These names describe the marvelous properties of this ”golden sun,” as well as the vision of the L’OCCITANE researchers who work with local artisans in Corsica in order to produce a unique and, importantly, an organic product.

A Corsican Love Affair

This plant is representative of the island of Corsica, especially of the Balagne region, which includes Calvi and the Ile Rousse, made up of scrub-covered mountains which plunge into a clear and calm water – a Mediterranean dream. The “immortelle” contains this arid scrubland’s distinctive and instantly recognizable scent, which specialists define as “a lightly smoked perfume of ambergris with notes of curry.” Encouraged by Olivier Baussan, the founder and soul of L’OCCITANE, the brand from Provence began to invest in the cultivation of the plant in Corsica. The first hectare was planted in 2004; the company now manages 44, with a harvest of almost 200 kilograms of essential oil.

With the assistance of eight growers who follow organic growing principals, L’OCCITANE preserves the whole chain of production, partnering with three local distillers to make its essential oils. It’s a saga that brings together many important elements: exceptional knowledge; a commitment to nature; mythical characters, like Ulysses and Nausicaa, and real ones, like Jean-Louis Pierrisnard, Scientific Director at L’OCCITANE; distiller Albrecht Von Keyserlingk and immortelle grower, Stephan Francisci. The odyssey of the immortelle continues… under the Corsican sun.

La Balagne in Corsica

Photography L'Occitane en Provence