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The invites come in thick and fast around party season, but some are simply impossible to resist. 

When the idea of a trip to Chanel's exclusive skincare labs was floated under my nose, I jumped to accept.

 A chance to indulge my professional nosiness and unearth some beauty secrets? Count me in.

MORE: The history of Chanel perfume

And so, the opportunity to enter one of the leading luxury skincare brands' inner sanctum was booked into my diary.

Chanel towel, skincare package and envelope © Orin Carlin
I discovered some new skincare favourites on the trip

A smooth passage across the Channel, a dreamy Club Marigny dinner beside the Eiffel Tower and a palatial night's sleep at Le Bristol made the early wakeup call all the more bearable.

 As our party of beauty journalists drove further out of the French capital, the drizzle steadily picked up the pace, turning into a Pantin power shower.

The weather left much to be desired, but otherwise we couldn't have received a warmer welcome when we arrived at the city’s northeastern banlieue and entered the inner fold.

Chanel double C logo © Orin Carlin
The iconic double C emblem was everywhere

You couldn’t move for interlocking Cs – the verdict on the logo-adorned golf umbrellas? Into it.

Chanel pencil and notepad © Orin Carlin
The welcome talk introduced us to the brand's concept

After an attentive introduction we were whisked away to begin our tour of the Research and Innovation Centre, starting with a look at the specially curated archive.

 To fully comprehend the brand's 'Integrative Beauty' strategy, it feels necessary to turn back the clocks and hone in on Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's holistic vision.

Orin Carlin wearing Chanel lab coat in front of double C mirror © Chanel
Seeing the vintage products was one of my tour highlights

 The acclaimed pioneer felt there was no separation between the mind and the senses, nor a being from its environment. 

MORE: The who, what, why and where of Chanel's Manchester show

READ: Chanel Métiers d'art: the Best Dressed guests in Manchester

Essentially, she believed in a unified approach, and her legacy remains present in Chanel's present-day network of scientists, industry innovators and partners from across the globe, all working towards the same goal of skincare excellence.  

Vintage Chanel jasmine oil bottle © Orin Carlin
Chanel launched its first skincare product in 1927

 Looking back on nearly a century's worth of beauty history – Chanel’s first skincare product, a jasmine oil, launched in 1927 – it's not difficult to see why the (banal, in my opinion) 'ahead of her time' platitude is so frequently linked to Coco Chanel.

The elegant packaging speaks for itself, testament to her foresight and stylistic nous. Essences, talcs, tonics, creams, lotions and potions – perhaps some of these product types have become less fashionable over the past 100 years, but the minimalist typeface and monochrome labels live on beyond the glass casing in the bathroom shelfies of today. 

Woman pointing to slide © Orin Carlin
'Senescence' was the word of the day

Chanel marches to the beat of its own drum, and that is certainly true in the case of its focus on 'senescence'. 'Anti-ageing' was the reigning buzzword until it fell out of favour, now many beauty brands talk of 'pro-ageing' and the like.

 'Senescence' refers to the ageing process on a cellular level, the gradual cessation of cell division. This diminished ability to renew and repair can lead to the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, uneven tone and a loss of elasticity.

Working scientists in Chanel lab© Orin Carlin
We took a look at the working scientists

Chanel has concentrated years' worth of research into this area, resulting in the discovery of rare, potent ingredients - such as those derived from the vanilla plantifolia plant - that target these skin concerns and are present within its ingredient lists, including across its Sublimage line.

Close-up of Chanel lab coat embroidery © Orin Carlin
Our lab coats were embroidered with our names on

Diving headfirst into the world of senescence, we donned our personalised lab coats and took a peek inside the beauty journalist's answer to heaven.

Chanel beaker and lab equipment © Orin Carlin
We watched a batch of product come to life

Scientists hard at work, individual ingredients diligently labelled in glass jars and a real-life volume of Sublimage La Crème Texture Universelle being whipped up were just a few of the highlights, but I also loved learning about the rigorous sensorial testing.

Syringe with product inside it © Orin Carlin
Testing the Sublimage textures

Fresh? Enveloping? Or perhaps unctuous? Syringes at the ready, we partook in an activity designed to mimic the meticulous process that goes into developing a new Chanel formula.

Orin Carlin testing Chanel skincare on her hand © Orin Carlin
We tested the textures to see if we could identify which was which

We had to test different creams from the Sublimage line, carefully assessing their properties, considering fluidity, firmness, spreadability and absorption speed, and guessing which was which on texture alone.

The verdict on my tour of Chanel's hallowed halls? Fresh, enveloping, and unmissable.