The Burning Thistle

This surprising plant is the main ingredient in Garancia's BB Cream Le Chardon et le Marabout. From the fields to the factory, we followed its manufacture. Be careful, it stings like a sore thumb... passionately!

Pungent, stinging, it is necessary to know how to tame the thistle so that it delivers its benefits. Sown in a greenhouse, then replanted in the field, it can grow to over 1.80 metres in height and produce beautiful deep purple flowers. Above, in its natural element, Garancia's Le Chardon et le Marabout BB Cream.

While it has become the star of dried flower bouquets, thistle is less well known in skincare. And yet. "While it stings and is hostile, it has a strong healing power, which is very interesting in cosmetics because it stimulates lectin," explains Savéria Coste, founder of Garancia, who uses it as the main active ingredient in the BB Cream of the Le Chardon et le Marabout range. From the factory to the shelves of the pharmacy, we followed the manufacturing of this care. First stop: Vesdun, in the Cher department, 70 kilometres from Bourges, at the Petit Verney gardens, where thistle is grown with passion by Brigitte and Michel Gillet. Here, it grows in well-drained sandy-silt soils. Once planted, it creates a rosette and goes into dormancy, which is called the vegetative stage. If it is "stressed" by the weather or some other cause (but it is difficult to ask for its feelings), it does not "restart". If all goes well, it continues to grow. Thistles are fickle and fear competition from other plants in the vicinity, as well as the feluric acid they may produce. It is therefore important to ensure that it is perfectly established.


When the buds bloom and the first flowers appear, the lactones - the thistle's specific active ingredients - are at their peak. The harvest can begin. This is done by hand, armed with a cutter and the thickest gloves possible: the thistle is not only pungent but also very stinging. Harvesting is done in the morning, not too early, otherwise the dew would increase the drying time. The farmer cuts the plant at the base, carefully keeping the mother plant (the healthiest and most beautiful) which will give the seeds for the following year's thistles.


Once the plant has been harvested, there is no question of resting on your laurels. Everything has to be done in the same day. A machine that looks like an old-fashioned machine, equipped with a sharp blade, cuts the bundles without crushing the flowers. During this stage, it takes about three hours to cut 400kg of flowers. Once this operation is complete, the fresh thistle is placed in the dryer where it remains for about 48 hours at a temperature of 38°C before being sent to the next stage. First, a rigorous weighing, then the ingredients are mixed according to an ultra-precise recipe


We are heading for Saint-Priest, a French commune in the south-east of France, located in the metropolitan area of Lyon. We have an appointment at Gattefossé - a company founded in 1880 - which processes the plant into an extract. After being checked, the thistle is finely crushed and then placed in a vat in which it will undergo a hydro-alcoholic extraction. At the end of this stage, an amber-coloured extract is obtained. This precious elixir is then filtered and purified to 0.22 microns before being sent to the packaging plant.


We leave for Guerville, in the Yvelines, at AboCosmétiques. Here, after a rigorous weighing, each ingredient is mixed according to an ultra-precise manufacturing recipe. Everything is then poured into a tank equipped with mixers whose speed of rotation is specific to each treatment. To create the emulsion, the formula is heated to 75°C before being cooled slightly. The technician then introduces the ingredients at a temperature below 40°C so as not to alter the quality of the active ingredients. Ph, density, viscosity, microbiology, the formula goes through several quality controls before it goes to the packaging line. Here, everything is automated. The 'trays' of empty tubes are fed directly into the filling machine. Only the final touch, with the placing of the golden label with the brand's logo (reminiscent of a crystal buckle), is manual. Before it reaches the shelves of your pharmacy, the product passes 117 checkpoints. So you can be beautiful with your eyes closed!

- From Gala October 2021 -