We would all like to hope that our face creams have magic properties, but French cosmetics brand Aïny can claim that its luxurious lotions and potions really do. Its products include active ingredients taken from sacred plants and trees found in the Andes and Upper Amazon, sourced by local shamans and healers with knowledge of their powers going back generations. Aïny employs indigenous tribes across Ecuador and Peru to gather and harvest the selected botanical specimens – among them Schinus Mollé, also known as the Tree of Life, once used to embalm the bodies of Incas, and the oil of Sacha Inchi, a star-shaped plant bursting with omegas 3 and 6 and long-used as a defence against ageing by the local tribespeople.
I came across Aïny on a recent trip to Peru – the Palacio Nazarenas, a new Orient Express property in Cusco, uses the products in its spa. Not only was I impressed with the feel of the creams on my skin – and the results – but I loved the packaging, with its inscribed drawings and icaro (magic chant) by shamans. The Regenerating Cream (€62), with omega-9 rich ungurahua oil from the Upper Amazon, was perfect for the high altitude when I was in Cusco, while the Moisturising Harmonising Fluid (€49) has been my constant travel companion ever since. The Lip Repair Balm (€13.50) is wonderful during the English winter, and contains achiote, the plant of seduction (whose seeds are used by indigenous Amazonians to ward off evil spirits) and which is full of powerful antioxidants.
Founded by Frenchman Daniel Joutard – who during his time in Latin America learnt about the power of plants from a young Ecuadorean shaman apprentice – Aïny was brought to the market with the expertise of Jean-Claude Le Joliff, a former R&D director of Chanel, who combined the ancient botanical knowledge of the shamans with the latest eco-technology of Parisian laboratories.
Every product undergoes a three-year research period and the result is a wonderful blend of natural fragrance and certified organic, locally sourced ingredients. Fairtrade ethics mean 4 per cent of Aïny’s turnover is given to the indigenous peoples of Ecuador and Peru.
While the packaging doesn’t come with instructions on how to perform magic rituals, there’s always the option of chanting the incantation written on the box – my favourite, from a female shaman, ends: “I am helping you to blossom, I am helping you be beautiful.” Who knows if it works, but as I massage the cream into my cheeks, I feel ready to face the world.