Snail mucus, pearl powder, camel milk, dragon’s blood—not your usual Game of Thrones-variety dragon’s blood, but a bright red sap found in the Croton lechleri tree in the Amazon—unorthodox skin care ingredients are clearly having a moment. In the quest for increasingly effective products, beauty brands are searching the remotest corners of the globe to discover the rarest, most singular, and most potent ingredients that all promise to deliver the holy grail of skin care: everlasting youth.
“Our lives are aging us faster than chronology,” says Sarah Vicklund, North American director of public relations at La Prairie. With that in mind, La Prairie debuted its first Cellular Eye Contour Cream in 1978 with the then-exotic use of horsetail extracts and ginseng root, aimed at aging naturally. And the Swiss brand has been on the hunt to harness the most unique, precious ingredients for its luxury skin care collections ever since. Recently, Dr. Daniel Stangl, director of innovation for the brand and an avid mountaineer, led his team to the discovery of a tiny plant called purple saxifrage growing on one of the highest ice-covered mountains in Switzerland. Stangl hypothesized that the little plant must surely have protective cellular mechanisms to survive such hardy conditions, and thus the Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Collection was born with an age-old plant made modern.
Many of these unexpected ingredients have been around since ancient times. Cleopatra, for example, was rumoured to have added saffron, which has been said to possess natural sunscreen, to her legendary milk baths. Science is learning that Mother Nature has untold powerful, restorative, and transformative beauty tricks in her arsenal.
Meanwhile, bees, which have been bugging people for more than 100 million years, don’t typically rank high on most people’s list of must-have epidermal experiences. However, research has shown they’re a powerful ally on the aging front: bee venom is an effective ingredient in eye creams, lip plumpers, and moisturizers. Rodial recently introduced its Bee Venom 24 Carat Gold Super Essence that plumps skin thanks to natural, non-painful swelling properties. The cream encourages a rush of blood that stimulates production of elastin and collagen to firm and fill out fine lines and wrinkles. All of which helps take the sting out of aging.
Science is learning that Mother Nature has untold powerful, restorative, and transformative beauty tricks in her arsenal.
Western Canada’s Rocky Mountain Soap Company joins the ranks of the unconventional, but with curious ingredients a little closer to home. While the all-natural company based out of Canmore, Alberta uses far-flung Moroccan lava clay in its face masks (the clay’s inherent calcium targets dry skin and clarity), it’s also pioneering the use of exotic ingredients found right here in the Great White North. “While we love some of these global ingredients, we’re finding a lot more unusual gems in Canada,” says co-owner Karina Birch, who, with husband-slash-business partner Cam Baty, has used fireweed extract in the brand’s Pomegranate Day Cream since the product launched six years ago. The fireweed plant, also known as willowherb, grows prolifically in the mountains and calms skin thanks to its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. The company is currently testing boreal forest extracts from fallen trees in Quebec, with initial results showing the serum possesses impressive anti-aging assets—which makes sense, considering trees sit under the sun all day.
“We’ve seen exotic ingredients in the food scene, and then a return to local ingredients,” says Birch, “but it’s only just starting to translate into beauty.” At the forefront, Rocky Mountain Soap Company has partnered with the University of Alberta on a special agriculture and cosmetic initiative to help bridge the gap. “I still feel we’re pioneering,” Birch says. “But in the next three to five years, we won’t be working so hard to create this ecosystem. The beauty industry lags behind what’s happening in food, but the category will eventually get there.” With exciting and eccentric ingredients, naturally.