by Rachel McComark
find the original review here
The COTTAN Collection Arsène offers all you need to carry out a classic Cleanse, Tone, and Moisturise routine.
Beautifully presented, and with an interesting back-story, the COTTAN Collection Arséne offers an easy route to fresh, comfortable skin and the opportunity to enjoy a #BeMoreFrench ritual every day.
The three products that make up the COTTAN Collection Arsène are:
Savon Visage Dulcifié (Softened Face Soap)
Vinaigre Micellaire de Beauté (Micellar Beauty Vinegar)
Crème Visage Évanescente (Evanescent Face Cream)
You can buy each one separately, or get them all together in the COTTAN Collection Arsène Ritual Box(the usefully sized tub pictured below). It includes a very interesting booklet that will fill you in on the story of COTTAN and the properties of the products. Oh, and the booklet is in French so if that’s not your first language, it is an educational treat!
Let’s look first at the packaging of the COTTAN Arséne Collection
For me, being drawn to the packaging is a super-important factor in being drawn to a product. I’m looking for un coup de foudre. Almost without exception, I need to be seduced by the exterior to get interested in what’s inside the box or bottle.
I first set eyes on COTTAN when the French Pharmacy featured them on instagram, and it was, if not yet love, certainly intrigue at first sight. White boxes adorned with a strong, confident blue, set against soft peach and offset with the perfect amount of gold … the colours tell the brand story very well. Blue and white is always associated with medical, with hygiene, with science. Pink, peach, and gold are the colours of the boudoir, suggesting pleasure and unabashed femininity. Font choices and simple design say heritage, but not antique.
The French Pharmacy were kind enough to offer me the chance to try the range, so I picked the Ritual Box up from them on the same day that I went in to buy my SansCigarettes aids.
I was very pleased to realise that the COTTAN Collection Arsène was a suite of three products that would allow me to perform the classic skincare waltz that is the three-step Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise routine.
I’ve used these products for roughly one month now. Initially I used all three, every night and morning, to get a good feel for them and see how my skin responded. I then began mixing and matching as the fancy took me with other products, to see how nicely they played with other brands. (The answer is very well indeed.)
CLEANSE: with COTTAN Collection Arsène Savon Visage Dulcifié (Softened Face Soap)
The COTTAN softened face soap arrives in a chic card container, as elegant and fancy as you could wish for, and is paper-wrapped, like a little gourmet treat. On visual and tactile appeal alone, it would make an excellent present for any soap enthusiast.
The COTTAN Collection Arséne Softened Face Soap is fragranced with violets, but very, very gently fragranced, which is reassuring. If I was choosing a violet soap for the body, I would want it as heady and over-powering as possible, but when it’s for use on my face, I prefer that my nose not be overwhelmed by perfume.
The ingredients list includes Shea and two seed oils (jojoba and hemp), and as I anticipate, the COTTAN soap leaves my face feeling squeaky-clean but not uncomfortably dry or tight.
On days when I’ve worn makeup I use eye-make-up remover but no other cleanser than this soap: it gets every bit of grime off with ease. And it makes for a good start to the morning, too, which is a bonus.
I’m not a fan of the hours before noon and so it is very nice to have a perk-me-up treat like the COTTAN Collection Arséne Softened Face Soap to encourage me to face the day.
TONE: with COTTAN Collection Arsène Vinaigre Micellaire de Beauté (Micellar Beauty Vinegar)
The COTTAN Arséne Collection Micellar Beauty Vinegar was the unknown quantity for me in this collection. I had very good reasons to believe I’d like the other two products, but I was less sure how I’d respond to this one.
Vinegar, vinaigre: until recently an unfamiliar term in the anglosphere in a beauty context. But Vinaigres de toilette were all the rage in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and no courtesan worth her salt would have been without one for soothing and clarifying her skin.
The COTTAN Arséne Collection Vinaigre Micellaire claims to purify, regenerate and brighten. Inside the amber glass bottle is a concoction of apple vinegar and fruit and sugar cane extracts, a combination believed to work harmoniously to gently exfoliate and encourage cell turnover whilst respecting and supporting the skin’s natural PH balance.
To begin with, I approach this product with some caution. That doesn’t last long! It’s lovely to use, and any fears I have about it being too harsh for my skin abate very quickly.
I’m cowardly about toners because I’m of the generation that were sold really harsh ones in our teens. Seriously, stuff that scratched or burned. Toners or astringents used to be marketed (heavily) as being essential to ‘close pores’ (they don’t do this!) and remove every scrap of god-knows-what from a face that you had already cleansed.
This is not the way that I approach step two in the ‘cleanse-tone-moisturise’ waltz. The ‘tone’ part for me is about gently sweeping something that feels soothing (eg NOT harshly astringent or crazily exfoliating) over my lovely clean face, whilst I think noble thoughts. The COTTAN Collection Arséne Vinaigre Micellaire is perfect for this.
The perfume of this product is described as ‘notes du verger’. This means it smells like an orchard, and, yes, it does also smell of vinegar! But the fragrance is cheerful and exuberant. So much so that when I use it, for a brief moment I’m not five floors up with a view on to brick and concrete; I’m scampering through some idyllic French countryside, like Angélique in Poitou, or Claudine in Montigny. It’s also a very more-ish fragrance, and I have on occasion uncapped the bottle in the middle of the day just to have a little sniff.
Since meeting AllergyCertified and becoming aware of fragrance allergy, I have tried to make it a rule that if I use a fragranced product (especially one with a high concentration of naturals) it should be glorious enough that if I wereto react badly, the game would have been worth the candle. The COTTAN Collection Arséne Vinaigre Micellaire, for me, is one of those ‘glorious enough’ products.
It also really does seem to help my skin stay soft and balanced. I realised last week that I hadn’t felt any inclination to use a mask or thought that it would be nice to apply a (very gentle) exfoliating product since first beginning to test the COTTAN Collection Arséne. My skin has felt perfectly comfortable and looked pretty good (if I say so myself) using just these three products and no others.
MOISTURISE: with COTTAN Collection Arsène Crème Visage Èvanescente (Evanescent Face Cream)
This product has one of the most enchantingly insane pieces of marketing speak I’ve ever seen proudly emblazoned on the box (of which more later) and that alone would make me want to try it, but – the real pull of this face cream for me is also emblazoned on the box: for this is an ‘evanescent’ cream!
I am so happy to see this type of face cream coming back into fashion. English speakers are more likely to know evanescent cream as vanishing cream.
In the UK, Ponds Vanishing Cream, was an object of fascination to teenage me. No-one seemed to know what exactly was supposed to vanish with its careful application … not the ladies in Boots, not my Granny, no-one! Did it vanish pores? Freckles? Wrinkles? Popular opinion was divided, but I bought some anyway because I like a mystery. And thus I discovered that vanishing cream had the loveliest texture imaginable.
I can now say with confidence that the vanishing element of a vanishing cream is all about its formulation: it ‘vanishes’ into the skin. It was a good choice for teenage me with her slightly oily T-zone and plump little cheeks, although at the time it was seen as very much an older person’s product, and an old fashioned choice.
COTTAN describe the texture of their Evanescent Face Cream in beautifully poetic terms: ‘the vanishing cream melts on your skin like snow under your fingers’. Isn’t that lovely? Back in the days when I would dip my fingers into a pot of vanishing cream, it always gave me the same thrill as when you gently press your fingertip into fresh-fallen virgin snow, and it yields then gives beneath your touch. One of my favourite sensations! I’m happy to see that whoever writes copy for COTTAN is on the same wavelength with the texture.
This is a perfect cream for me, because although it’s more than 35 years since I first fell for Vanishing Cream, I stillrequire my moisturisers to be light in texture and a pleasure to all the senses. I can’t bear any feeling of weight or stickiness, and I’m always super-impatient to get my make-up on (if I’m wearing some), so the faster a cream ‘disappears’, the better I like it.
I ignore the majority of creams that address ‘age-related concerns’ , partly because I’m 54 now and don’t find that happy fact concerning at all, and partly because I assume those particular miracle potions are likely to be too expensive or too heavy, and cause me to go broke, break out, or both.
One little note about the packaging of the COTTAN Colection Arséne Evanescent Face Cream. It comes in one of those tubes that have to be squeezed carefully from the bottom lest you trap valuable product in the crinkles and creases that can form if you go at it like someone in a Tom & Jerry cartoon fighting with a toothpaste tube.
Usually, these tubes have a little pointy bit on the top to pierce the seal, but this doesn’t. With the benefit of hindsight I realise that there was probably a little tab available somewhere to peel the seal off, but I failed to notice it, and instead cleaned one of my Chinese hairpins and stabbed through the top like a beast. (Picture above) It was very satisfying!
Warning: spoiler alert!
You might now be asking yourself ‘what’s on the box that can out-do the poetry of that melting snow metaphor?’ If you want to find out for yourself, skip over the following paragraph and rejoin us at the next photograph that you see …
It says on the box: Fragrance: Perle de Rosée
Do you know what this means without having to turn to Reverso on your phone? If so, you are probably French and I envy you for it. Perle de Rosée translates as ‘dewdrop’.
French speakers, I beg you, if there is a more prosaic translation for ‘perle de rosée’, please don’t tell me what it is! I adore the idea that my face cream smells like dewdrops, even though I believe that you’d have to be a fairy or a molecular scientist to know what dewdrops actually smell like. Exaggerated claims on important factors (commonly seen now with clean and green washing being so lucrative) drive me insane with range, but poetic lunacy like this (that does no harm) makes my heart sing with joy!
Why have COTTAN called this the Collection Arséne?
Although Arséne is a French name familiar to the English (thanks to the work of gentleman thief Arséne Lupin, and former Arsenal football manager Arséne Wenger) I had no idea of the meaning of the name, or if it had an English equivalent. It turns out that it means ‘virile’ – how amazing is that? I love the flamboyant swagger of names like Beau Soleil and Beau Regard and now I can add Arséne to that list.
This COTTAN collection is called Collection Arséne in an homage to the original founder of COTTAN: Dr Jean-François Arséne Cottan, an innovative formulator and entrepreneur who founded his eponymous skincare line in Paris in 1840.
With an emphasis on skin freshness and health, COTTAN achieved international success in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But sadly, the house didn’t survive into the 1920s and so has been une belle au bois dormant, for roughly 100 years.
Ganaël Bascoul has given COTTAN the metaphorical reviving kiss and a consequent second life, and is the founder of COTTAN in its new incarnation. His stated aim is to draw on and respect Dr Cottan’s original formulations, but to adjust where appropriate to suit modern sensibilities and meet today’s needs.
I approve of such a goal wholeheartedly. I have a fondness for heritage brands, but I’m all for taking advantage of subsequent discoveries and new technologies to deliver the best product possible today.
This sensibility often causes me to feel like an outlier when talking with perfume enthusiasts because I am seemingly alone in having no desire to wear an ‘original’ fragrance. I couldn’t care less if enormous amounts of oakmoss are essential to create the ‘true’ fragrance of any classic perfume: I’ll happily wear the adapted modern version to lessen my risk of developing perfume allergy, thanks all the same.
M. Bascoul wrote the preface to the little booklet that you’ll find inside the COTTAN Collection Arséne box, and the full text is written by Jean-Claude le Jollif. It’s a very enjoyable read. I don’t trust my French translation skills to give you a TLDR of the brand’s history and its current vision here, but I very much enjoyed having twelve pages of text to challenge myself with, and it’s a graceful touch that adds an extra #BeMoreFrench element to the COTTAN Collection Arséne skincare experience.
How much does all this cost?
Individually, the three products cost:
COTTAN Arséne Collection Savon Visage Dulcifié (Softened Face Soap) £15.00
COTTAN Arséne Collection Vinaigre Micellaire de Beauté (Micellar Beauty Vinegar) £25.00
COTTAN Arséne Collection Crème Visage Évanescente (Evanescent Face Cream) £35.00
COTTAN Ritual Box Arséne Collection (all three products) as reviewed here: £75.00
How have these products worked out for me?
Very well! I firmly believe that over-working and worrying your poor peau in the endless pursuit of ‘perfect’ skin is a counter-productive waste of time and energy.
I’m always on the lookout for products that don’t terrify me with wild claims of transformation, or horrify me with marketing that suggests the only good skin is skin without expression lines. I want my skincare to be a pleasure to choose, and a pleasure to use – and the COTTAN Collection Arséne is exactly that.
Can’t pick a favourite from the COTTAN Arséne Collection?
If you are only in the market for one purchase, and can’t decide which of these three COTTAN products will best suit your needs, allow me to suggest that channeling your favourite French literary heroine might help you make your selection!
I think that the Savon Visage (Softened Face Soap) is the one to choose to feel like Colette’s Claudine, scrubbing off her ink-stains at the tap in the Montigny school playground, and hoping the sleazy school inspector passes by.
Opt for the more fruity and exuberant pleasures of the Vinaigre Micellaire (Micellar Beauty Vinegar) if you want to channel the flashing eyes and heaving bosom bravura of Sergeanne Golon’s Angélique.
If you want soft, soft skin, that glows like innocence itself, to press up against the whiskery cheek of some disgraceful old roué, like Colette’s Gigi or Zola’s Nana, then the Crème Visage Évanescent (Evanescent Face Cream) offers a level of sensuous pleasure that any self-respecting courtesan would demand!
And if you yourself are a disgraceful old roué, bring out your billfold and treat yourself or a friend to the COTTAN Collection Arséne Ritual Box!
The COTTAN Collection Arséne launched in the UK at The French Pharmacy and (at the time of writing) is exclusive to them. Find the products in-store at Marylebone (10 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 8UL) and online.