Their names are Yves, Vincent, Jean-Éric, and Sylvie… They are experts in sourcing raw materials, developing or objectifying actives, or performing safety and efficacy tests, and they have all known cosmetics for years. They worked with each other for a long time as part of collaborations between their own companies before they became friends. They talk about this shared project as a form of achievement; the realization of their desire to make cosmetics differently, for the wellness of both men and nature. Was that a somewhat utopic teenage dream? Quite the contrary: it is experience that prevailed.
A positive environmental impact
‘Every single act of consumption has an impact on the environment, most often negative…’ Vincent Bourgeteau reminds. ‘On the contrary, we wanted the environmental impact of our products to be positive, with total compensation for energy consumption and carbon footprint.’
His company, Ephyla, is dedicated to the development of cosmetic ingredients and much involved in what he calls ‘green technology’. It is the global leader in the production of desert date palm oil.
The date palm that makes the desert move back
Desert date palm is an extremophile plant which grows in desert areas around the Sahel, but also in Afghanistan, and which can remain green throughout the year: ‘It means it can absorb carbon all year long,’ explains Vincent Bourgeteau, ‘contrary to acacia, the most extremophile bush, which remains leafless for four to five months due to its blocked metabolism. This very leafy bush produces flowers and fruit all year long, so it assimilates much carbon in an extremely hot area. It serves as a plant shield against the desert moving forward, and if you take care of it, it creates shady areas where herbaceous plants can grow. This attracts animals, which fertilize the soil with their excrement. As a result, men come and graze their herds in these areas, because there is grass and shade. It is a whole ecosystem that develops.’
Ephyla already owns 14,000 hectares of desert date palm, and Ecosfere is part of a programme, the green belt, which also involves several major cosmetics players.
‘Our collective has already implemented a tree nursery system, with about 15,000 bushes every year, and over an 18-month cycle, we have a plantation scheme in a wild area. For every Ecosfere product purchased, one tree is planted, and not just anywhere: on the Sahara frontier…’
But does ‘culture’ not rhyme with ‘watering’? And ‘excessive water consumption’, although water is one the most precious reserves on our planet?
‘There is no river in the country,’ Vincent Bourgeteau answers, ‘but a considerable amount of water deep in the ground, below 30 metres. The desert date palm has this ability to immerse its roots down to 35, or even 40 metres, and it can capture groundwater.’
Likewise, pesticides are not needed to fight against predators, insects or small herbivores: ‘Given the very hot and dry climate in this area, there are not many of them. Our cultures are naturally organic and easy to manage.’
The clay that makes the energy balance collapse
Here is another major feature of this range: the structure of its emulsions.
‘Today, almost all creams are developed based on the same principle, that of mayonnaise…’ reminds Jean-Éric Branka. ‘Manufacturers make emulsions by mixing an aqueous and an oily phase. Then, they add other products, like surfactants and stabilizers. Most often, they need to warm up all the ingredients to obtain a stable mayonnaise. To make this type of cream, you need a lot of energy.’
Ecosfere emulsions are totally different, thanks to a clay-based technology developed by Ephyla, which makes emulsions without any surfactant.
‘We trap oil in water with clay capsules,’ explains Vincent Bourgeteau. ‘Our emulsions are not chemical, but physical. They are created naturally. No more warming up the formula to get the emulsion, it is a cold process that reduces the manufacturing energy balance by 100, and which requires less production time. We end up with actives almost encapsulated in clay micro-droplets, which prolongs the effect on the skin surface, since the active is slowly released all day long.’
Now, that is what you call an innovative, eco-responsible technological process…
Growing trees in Africa involves cultures, collection, and transformation… but not the exploitation of local workers. The Ecosfere team is very involved on-site. First, they contribute to finding the best raw materials, in particular with women’s groupings.
Then, they directly provide help with transformation: ‘In Africa, we have two infrastructures to ensure both collection and extraction, and then export. We are associated with groupings, not to have a relationship exclusively with Westerners coming to buy local raw materials…’
Lastly, they motivate them to guarantee their financial autonomy: ‘We tell them: we will make cosmetic products with your raw materials, and we are going to explain how you too can make your own cosmetics, so that your income does not only depend on your selling raw materials,’ Vincent Bourgeteau says. ‘We have implemented this exchange in Africa (in Upper Volta and Burkina Faso), and we are considering doing the same in Amazonia soon. We buy them more or less transformed raw materials and we teach them how to be autonomous with the production of their own local cosmetics in our on-site laboratories. We explain the interest of these plants to local populations, so that they understand why they should be replanted. They are already paid to gather fruit and they get a bonus for every plantation replanted.’
Whenever possible, we transform everything we can on-site. But anything from purification to more sophisticated extraction is carried out in Brittany, in the Ephyla laboratories. Then, the whole is objectified by Jean-Éric Branka’s company, Ephyscience, whose models help us get claims supported by scientific studies.
Efficient actives, essential products
‘All the actives we selected for this range are very simple, but very efficient, and everything is under control during each phase, from supply to transformation,’ adds Vincent Bourgeteau.
It is mostly the date palm fruit that is exploited, through its seeds. ‘We make oil out of them, and also an active we have objectified. We also exploit the leaf, because it is efficient at stimulating the production of collagen. So, we have two actives derived from this plant.’
The anti-imperfection (anti-acne) active also comes from Burkina Faso. Ceramides are extracted from the fruit seed of wild vine: they can stimulate the endothelial cells that produce the most powerful vasoconstrictor our body can make. As a result, the microcirculation blood flow is enhanced for a decongestant effect and reinforced skin’s defences.
‘We also objectified effects on inflammation and redness in quite short times. The clinical results of tests performed by testing laboratory SpinControl show results as soon as D7.’
All actives in the range were tested in vitro and in vivo.
A simple line
‘Our range is reduced to three essential products: an anti-wrinkle cream, a moisturizer, and an anti-imperfection product, which all provide an answer to the most common problems for the whole family,’ Jean-Éric Branka explains. ‘We never introduce huge quantities of actives, but the right dose at which they are efficient. If you put twice more petrol in the tank, the car will not go any faster!’
The principle of clay-based, or even vegetable-based formulas (of course, desert date palm oil ahead) helps obtain a dry skin feel. The products are absorbed in 30 seconds and leave a very soft film on the skin.
A unique – synthetic, to avoid any allergen – perfume will be added to all products, but it will not be too strong: just a consensual note to seduce people of all ages, both men and women, both French people and foreigners.
Product names are also deliberately very simple. For example, the anti-wrinkle product is called ‘anti-wrinkle’, so that everyone can understand it, including for the labelling project in Braille.
The supply chain is organic, the actives natural, but the products will not be certified: the new brand relies on its values, integrated cosmetics positioning, and safety guarantees to seduce consumers.
The products will be sold on Amazon, since the platform is considered as the best-equipped to ensure product distribution and guarantee both quick and secure delivery. In addition, logistics is considerably easier.
The screen-printed bottles play with black and white to remain clean: ‘Ecosfere is the opposite of a bling-bling brand!’ Vincent Bourgeteau sums up.
If it is – or at least looks – simple, the project is actually highly ambitious: first, because it is not that easy, on an already saturated market, to come up with a new offering on segments with much competition. But the Ecosfere team sounds self-confident: ‘When you try and create a cosmetics line with some meaning, you need at least three or four complementary skills, well, people like us, with the knowledge needed and a lot of experience.’
Still, it might prove difficult to make the range emerge, starting with only three products, however qualitative they may be. ‘We will launch it this way, but depending on the feedback, we will be able to complete it with other essentials’… An eye contour? A slimming product? A moisturizer to take care of tattoos? The team is full of ideas…
But the essential is there: the technology (a new eco-responsible type of emulsion which makes it possible to release the active little by little), the quality of the raw materials (desert date palm oil exhibits very interesting fluidity and skin feel), the efficacy of the actives, the ethical and green production, and maybe, above all, the values. All this is very nicely summed up by Yves Le Guen: ‘Only focus on wellness: make men and women more good-looking by giving local populations a job and making the desert move back. We follow the principles of clean and modern cosmetics. We are humanists working for the good of the planet. It is our own action in favour of the happiness of humanity.’
For further information
• See the Ecosfere website