One of the most passionate and exciting elements of working as a Natural and Organic Skincare Formulator is being able to choose from a vast array of plant based ingredients to develop something truly special and unique for you. So, I think we can all agree that precious and exotic Saffron, more than meets the criteria.
Saffron, often referred to as red gold, is a spice that is derived from the purple flower Crocus sativus. Saffron is harvested once per year, by hand, for the reddish ‘threads’ or ‘stigmas’ of the flower. It takes approximately 200 flowers to yield one gram of saffron threads. Due to the small amount of stigmas on each plant and the extremely time intensive labour to harvest them, Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, even more expensive than gold!
As an object of desire, low quality Saffron is often traded on the open market and frauds often sell Safflower as Saffron. the good news is that a measure has been put in place help us recognise quality producers and pure Saffron in the form of ISO standard 3632.
I became interested in Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) due to its anti-oxidant benefits (read more here). When I started more extensive research, I was not aware that it was grown in the UK or that the UK's leading Saffron grower was about an hour’s drive from where I lived! Once discovered, I wasted no time in contacting local saffron-grower, Dr Sally Francis, who was just as excited and curious as I was about the possibilities of us working together.
I am very proud to work with Sally, who is immensely passionate about Saffron. Independent laboratory tests show that every year her extra strong Saffron conforms to ISO 3632 category I and tops the international grade for Saffron quality (and far exceeds the minimum requirements for the category). She also gained a Great Taste Award for Norfolk Saffron in 2012.
Sally does not use fungicides, herbicides/weed killers or pesticides on the Saffron plants, and takes great care of her soil. Her land has not been used for mainstream agriculture since 1999. This is longer than the "organic conversion" period specified by the inspection bodies.
The first thing I noticed about Norfolk Saffron was its deep maroon colour followed by the familiar spicy note of Saffron, but Norfolk Saffron is much deeper and ends with a light floral note.
Over the next year or so, I focused on testing Norfolk Saffron threads in my skin care formulations. My first product to market containing Norfolk Saffron is Saffron Glow Facial Oil Serum. It has been specifically designed for dry, dull and sun damaged skin, BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!
UPCYCLING SAFFRON FLOWERS
Below is a photo of the Saffron flower after removing the stigmas (or threads). These rich lilac flowers with distinct purple veins release a beautiful scent.
Normally the flowers are used as compost but Sally wondered if these precious flowers had more to give, so I seized the opportunity to see what I could create with them.
My husband and I picked through thousands of flowers, carefully sorting through each one to remove any crushed or withering petals Just like picking saffron threads, this is another slow, laborious procedure but extremely rewarding!
Saffron petals are incorporated into British Kaolin Clay, with other gentle ingredients to gently cleanse and refresh dry/flaky skin. The mask is sold in powder form and 'activated' at home by mixing with water. As the flowers released their skin nourishing compounds, the mask turns a beautiful shade of bluish green. You will be able to see the ground petals in your mask. This paste is then applied to the face and neck and left to dry, then rinsed off with warm water and a clean facial cloth.