The flower is making a comeback in the world of cosmetics, writes Bee-Shyuan Chang
FOR at least a century, the rose has been entwined in our notions of beauty and desire. A key accessory for prom queens and figure skaters (not to mention Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee), it has figured in cold cream, Chanel No.5 and the classic Smith’s Rosebud Salve.
But in recent years, the flower came to seem outdated to some in the cosmetics industry.
“It was because of tea roses,” said Ben Krigler, creator at Krigler perfumes in New York, which was founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1904.
“They were popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but they’re really a hybrid. That’s where you get that musty, powdery smell. We call it ‘granny smell’ in the shop.”
He said his company had tinkered with its own rose scent several years ago, adding more of the Antibes rose (“a true rose scent,” he said) and reducing the elements of lilac and white flowers.
And now, it seems, the rose is enjoying a renaissance of sorts.
“Every decade there is a flower,” Krigler said. “In the late ‘60s and then ‘70s, it was patchouli. It was jasmine after that. Last decade it was the iris. Now we’re back to rose.”
One leader in the perfume category has been the popular Stella by Stella McCartney, which made its debut in 2003 and features the flower mixed with peony, mandarin and amber.
Roses have also appeared on runways, including those of Valentino, Lanvin and Erdem, which have showcased the flower’s image on skirts, dresses and evening clutches.
“It’s amazing how much you see roses in fashion now,” said Sandy Cataldo, who with Lynn Welsh Emmolo, founded the fragrance line A Dozen Roses last July.
A 25-plus-year beauty veteran, she rattled off a long line of inspirations including Guns N’ Roses and the 1989 film The War of the Roses.
The new rose fragrances, like those from this line and McCartney’s Summer Rose (US$62/RM197), a limited-edition fragrance being sold at Sephora this season, are less focused on the flower and more on conjuring a mood or a sensation.
This month, A Dozen Roses will introduce Amber Queen, which uses rose absolute, peach rose, clementine and amber, for US$95 a bottle at Neiman Marcus.
For men, rose mixes with sandalwood and black pepper in the Cartier fragrance Declaration d’un Soir, which will arrive at Bloomingdale’s next month. And in the fall, Tom Ford plans to uncork Cafe Rose, his first perfume using the flower, which he is blending with saffron and coffee. He had previously put rose in a cream cleanser.
“You want it to smell relatively clean, but yet you do want a certain fragrance,” Ford wrote in an email. “It is partly why you can become addicted to certain products.” Asked why he chose rose, he added, “It’s relaxing.”
Roses are also being used in the antiwrinkle arsenal. This month, Lancome will introduce Absolue L’Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir (US$350 a jar), which has native cells culled from rose leaves that the company claims will increase collagen production. The product will be stocked by Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, preceded by Sisley Paris’ slightly less pricey black rose cream mask.
“From a marketing aspect, there’s these beautiful rosebuds, and they affect you emotionally,” said Dr David Colbert, a New York City dermatologist whose own new facial oil, Illumino, contains rose compounds among other plant-based oils and will arrive at Barneys New York and Colette in Paris next month or in September, priced at US$125 a bottle.
“Studies were done in Japan that showed rose extracts help with damage to collagen and elastin,” Colbert said. “Besides, the aromatic qualities of rose affect the brain’s limbic system, and your brain helps control your skin. Any positive association — the rose scent is soothing — will help your complexion.”
Dr Dendy Engelman, another New York City dermatologist and director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College, agreed that roses did have benefits, but she was more sceptical of how significant they might be.
“Studies have touted that certain roses have high amounts of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant,” she said.
“And there is evidence that it helps protect cells and has anti-inflammatory properties. But whether it actually regenerates cells, well, that’s a bold statement.” There are also plenty of other products that have higher concentrations of vitamin C than the famous bloom, she pointed out.
And let’s not forget the thorns.
“I’ve been hearing of some people making their own rose products at home,” Engelman said. “I wouldn’t recommend that. Rose thorns can carry a fungus that if you’re pricked will give you a very bad infection.”
THE DARK SIDE
Undaunted by such risks, Sisley worked with a six-generation rose-planting family in the south of France on the Black Baccara rose, an especially large bloom with a penetrating red hue.
According to Isabelle Thuillier, Sisley’s research and evaluation director, the deep pigment “contains more anti-ageing benefits” than your garden-variety breeds. As if competing at a flower show, she added: “Of course, with marketing, there’s the seduction. There’s the dark, dark red colour and the velvet touch. It’s like a magic rose.”
“Rose really is the queen of flowers,” said Emmolo of A Dozen Roses. Until, that is, another blossom knocks it off its throne.
“Magnolia is also fresh right now,” Krigler said. “Definitely, rose has competition.” NYT