Charme d’Orient’s products give you a real taste of the Hammam.
I recently tested Charme d’Orient’s products Masque Nourissant (nourishing mask) and Gommage aux pois chiches (chickpea body scrub).
Charme d’Orient is one of those small independent cosmetics companies in which France abounds, and was founded in 1994 by Yasmina Zerroug to bring the flavour of the Middle East to the Parisian spa market. The company has an ‘espace de beauté’, and has also created a range of products which customers can select when they visit certain spas, or buy in order to treat themselves at home in between salon visits.
The range includes items like flower waters, perfumed body milks with rosewater or orange flower water, fig and date body scrub, jasmine-scented shea butter and the products above, which contain argan oil and are in the Bio (Organic) range. The firm also sells incense, scented candles and hammam accessories.
I am, I must here confess, a great lover of the bath. I spend at least an hour a day in there and can barely face the world without a good soak either before or after breakfast. So as soon as these two products arrived in the post, I gave them a whirl.
The nourishing face mask (29 euros) is a symphony of natural ingredients and is Ecocert certified (99 per cent of natural origin and 20.9 per cent organic). It includes rosewater, argan oil, zinc oxide, white beeswax, sunflower seed oil, apricot oil, shea butter, cactus pear extract and aloe.
The first surprise on squeezing the tube was that the contents were like fluffy, waxy white toothpaste. This was clearly a ‘smiley’ mask – ie: one that wouldn’t set like clay. I squeezed out about an inch of product, which smelled delicious – delicate and rose-like – but it didn’t go far and I ended up using three applications to cover my face. There were no instructions on how long to leave it, so I lay back and read a book for about 15 minutes.
My face grew tremendously hot once the mask was on – not due to the ingredients, I think, but to my skin fighting to breathe, as it’s something I notice with any face mask. But my real problem came when I tried to get it off. I dipped my hands in the water and went to rinse my face and nothing – my hands just slipped over my tight, waxy skin. My face felt like it had been dipped in candle wax. I tried scrubbing harder, but nothing, then I tried a facial scrub, which also had no effect.
I reached for the flannel and with this, managed to rub a lot of it off, but I couldn’t get it out of my hairline, nose creases and the downy skin down the sides of my face. Nor could I get it out of the flannel, which later had to be boil-washed. The thing is, beeswax is not water soluble, so once the mask was on, it jolly well stayed on – imagine coating your face with a thick layer of Vaseline and then trying to wash it off.
In fact there was so much product still on my face that I decided against using moisturiser that day, and that night too. Gradually, over the course of the day, the product sank into my skin, leaving it very soft and smooth.
I was pleased with the ultimate effect, so it was time for a rethink. I was reluctant to use the product again as a mask – for me, it simply didn’t work using a large amount, and I couldn’t see how it would be at all mask-like if I’d used less. So that night I tried it as a super-duper hand treatment, akin to paraffin wax. This time I used it more sparingly, about a pea-sized ball, and in the morning, my hands felt soft and smooth. I’m now using it as a heavy-duty night cream rather than a mask.
After my initial failure with the mask I then tried the Chickpea Scrub (34 euros). This, it says, should be applied to dry skin for maximum efficacy, but I was already in the bath. No matter, I towelled one arm dry and set to. Again, the product was not quite what I was expecting, being used to the Body Shop’s opaque body scrubs based on rice bran or apricot pits. This was like a lemon-coloured jelly with gritty bits in. Once again, it is Ecocert certified (100 per cent ingredients of natural origin, 78.35 per cent organic). It contains sugarcane extract, sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, crushed chickpeas, cupuacu butter, semolina grains and lemon grass, and it smells very edible and lemony (you need the lemongrass to cover the smell of the chickpeas, which are rather sour).,
Immediately on using this product, you know you’re in the Middle East, because it absolutely coats your skin with oil, and once again, this isn’t water soluble – the effect is like applying a thick coat of baby oil and then getting in the bath. The larger bits of crushed chickpea washed right off, but the fine, grainy bits of semolina were stuck in the oil layer, so once again, I couldn’t get rid of some of the product.
On getting out of the bath, I was so greasy that I made the towel sticky, and when I put my clothes on, they itched. This went away quickly, however, and once again, the product left my skin feeling extremely soft and nourished, like after a massage.
I feel with this product that timing is probably crucial – it’s not the right thing for a morning bath or shower but is better suited to a pampering evening ritual, after which you get into a nice pair of cotton pyjamas and head for bed, waking in the morning with beautifully soft skin. Be aware, also, that it turns the bath into an oil slick, so you should use an anti-slip mat. However, I’ve also used very small quantities since as a face scrub, which really does work well on my very dry facial skin.
I’ve given these products three and a half stars because although they are very effective and have left my skin feeling incredibly soft the following day, their rich, oily texture is not to all tastes and they are pricey compared with scrubs from companies like Body Shop and Yves Rocher. However, they do give you a little something out of the ordinary and would make unusual special-occasion gifts.
Charme d’Orient products can be ordered from www.charmedorient.com.