Last month, the Escentual beauty team had the wonderful privilege of visiting Avene in southern France, the birthplace of the world famous Avene thermal spring water. Aside from taking in the beautiful scenery and unbeatable French cuisine, we had the opportunity to learn more about the origins of this precious water – and boy, was it a wonderful story.
The legend of Avene’s soothing, healing water spans centuries. Its unique mineral composition and capacity to treat dermatosis have made it world-renowned, but the exceptional qualities of the ancient spring were not actually discovered until 1736… and further to that, they were discovered completely accidentally!
Settle in – here’s the story of Avene…
The History of the Spring
From horses to cutting edge research
The story begins with the Marquis of Rocozels, a nobleman who lived close to the spring in the mid-1700s. One of his horses had a skin disease and, fearing it would infect his other animals, the Marquis turned the horse loose. After some time the wild horse returned, completely healed of its complaint. That’s right, you’ve guessed it – it had been rolling in and drinking the water of the spring. And so the healing properties of eau thermale Avene were uncovered.
Once word got out and demand grew, a thermal spa was built in 1743 to treat people with dermatosis and skin complaints. By 1871 the fervour surrounding water’s benefits had travelled around the world, leading to it being exported by the bottle load to America to help treat the victims of the Great Chicago Fire. Soon after, a government decree was issued in France declaring the water to be of public interest.
Let’s fast forward 100 years to 1975, a major milestone in the story of the spring. A local pharmacist and businessman by the name Pierre Fabre, enamoured by the story of the water, took over the ownership of the spring. His first task was to develop a state of the art Hydrotherapy Centre dedicated to welcoming more patients to Avene than ever before. His second task was to launch a line of products that made the benefits of the water available to be shipped to patients around the world. And the third was to decode the secrets of the mysterious, magnificent water, which lead to the opening of the Water Research Centre in 2007.
The Secret of the Water
An amazing journey of purity
Continuing the work that doctors and dermatologists had been conducting since the spring’s discovery in 1736, Pierre Fabre’s scientists ascertained that the biological signature of the Avene thermal water is truly unique. Its low mineral content (a 2:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium) is ideal for sensitive skin, and the high level of silicates ensure an exceptionally soft texture.
Another aspect of the story that the scientists uncovered was the exceptional journey of the water. Avene spring water is made up of rain water sourced from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic oceans, which is filtered through a mountainous area covered with vegetation. The rocks at Avene are dolomite: meaning they are porous, calcareous and rich in magnesium, providing the perfect home for special microflora known as ‘Aquaphilus Dolomiae’. These microflora are a recent discovery of the Water Research Centre; their secretions were found to be a key factor in the soothing and repairing power of the spring water, prompting Pierre Fabre scientists to harness them into key ingredient I-modulia, which in turn powers Avene’s XeraCalm, a ground breaking range for people who may be prone to eczema.
But it’s not just about what’s in the water – it’s also about what’s kept out. Located in the heart of nature at the Haut Languedoc National Park, the water benefits being in an area that is completely free from pollutants, and is well protected from contamination. The constant 70m³ per hour flow of water underground also contributes to its purity; there’re no reservoirs that could lead to the proliferation of unwanted micro organisms, and the water is regularly checked to ensure that it is of the right standard. Amazingly, it’s been ascertained that the water that resurfaces at the spring is anything from 50 to 1000 years old!
The Avene Skincare Line
Bringing the magic to the masses
The best thing about Pierre Fabre’s acquiring of the Avene spring, (aside from creating the invaluable Hydrotherapy Centre, of course), was his decision in 1990 to create a line of eponymous skincare infused with the Avene thermal spring water. This step was a huge one: not only did it allow those who experienced the benefits of the water at Avene to maintain their healthier skin at home with complementary products, it also allowed people all around the world to experience the water’s unique powers for the very first time.
Today, there is a full complement of products available to suit every age and every skin concern, each one suited to the most sensitive and reactive of skins. Every product has a rich infusion of the thermal spring water, together with technologically advanced ingredients chosen for their efficacy, and their respect for skin. The ideal place to start is with the most iconic product: the Avene Thermal Spring Water spray can.
I was lucky enough, along with Chelsey and Ceryn, to visit the place where the water was packaged to see just how painstaking the process is. Amazingly, the first time that the water sees the light of day after being drawn up from underground is when you push the nozzle on your spray. It’s kept completely sterile throughout its packaging journey to inhibit any chance of contamination from pathagens – those on the assembly line even have to go through a special cleansing process before they start work. This is precious stuff!
Although the water is perfect for specific skin complaints and people who may be prone to eczema, anyone can benefit from its gentle soothing care. So, what exactly do you use it for? If you’re anything like me, the answer is everything.
Here’re just a few of my favourites:
– Keep it in the fridge and spray over your face when you experience overheated sensations
– Saturate two cotton pads and place them gently over your eyes to soothe dryness associated with contact lenses or allergies
– If you’ve got an intolerance to hard water, use this in lieu of tap water to rinse your skin
– Spray your face, apply tissue over the top, and then saturate the tissue to create a pampering sheet mask
– Spray onto burns, nappy rash and shaving rash to instantly soothe