Like a Fine Wine for Your Skin

A French vineyard-and-spa discovers some of the special properties of grapes, creating luxury skincare products and spa experiences.

The flavour of wine lingers on your palate after a sip, and the unit of measurement for each second it lingers is called a caudalie. Mathilde Thomas harnesses all of the soothing sensations and aromas from her family vineyard in her luxury skincare line, Caudalie. Its primary ingredient is grapes, which have properties that help make skin healthy.

Mathilde Thomas makes both fine wine and luxurious beauty products from the bounty of her family vineyard in France’s Bordeaux region.

Thomas’s vineyard in Bordeaux, France, is designated Grand Cru Classé, a distinction of high quality. She uses these premium grapes to produce rich wine and rich skincare products alike.

In the process of making wine, the skins, stalks, and seeds of grapes are discarded, but it is precisely these parts of the grape that Thomas uses for Caudalie. This is an example of Caudalie’s environmental stewardship. Thomas is dedicated to what she calls “Cosm’ethics” — all of her products are organic and free of parabens, sulfates, and other synthetic ingredients often found in beauty products.

Patented potions

Caudalie has patented techniques for extracting and stabilizing the components of grapes that help skin in many ways. Caudalie’s patented Vinolevure is a part of the coating on a grape’s skin. Just as it strengthens a grape’s thin skin and helps it keep the grape juicy, Vinolevure strengthens human skin and helps it retain moisture. Anecdotally, cellarmasters have been known to have soft hands, and this is likely due to submerging them in Vinolevure during the vinification process — it also makes skin supple.

Resveratrol in the grape stalk keeps it firm and helps renew the cells, and it does the same for our skin. Grape seeds contain polyphenols, which protect our skin from free radicals. Viniferine from the vine’s sap can lighten the skin and make it radiant. The list of benefits from the grape goes on.

In 1993, during harvest season at her vineyard, Thomas met Professor Joseph Vercauteren, and they began discussing the potential of the grape. He is the scientific mastermind behind most of Caudalie’s patents. Thomas began Caudalie in 1995 with products founded on the first of those patents, the technique for extracting and stabilizing grape-seed polyphenols.

Thomas founded Caudalie after Professor Joseph Vercauteren shared his findings with her regarding the potential of grapes for use in skincare;

A recent collaboration with Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard University, whom Time Magazine nicknamed the “Guru of Longevity,” has produced a new patent, Vinergy.

A partnership with the ‘Guru of Longevity’

Sinclair discovered a formula that combines Resveratrol with other plant elements to improve the metabolism of skin cells. As we age, our skin cells contain fewer mitochondria, which means they don’t have the energy to produce as much elastin and collagen. That’s what makes skin loose and wrinkly. When Vinergy is applied to the skin as part of Caudalie’s Premier Cru Serum, it quickly increases the mass of mitochondria in the skin cells, thus reviving the elastin and collagen production of one’s youth.

Thomas’s Château Smith Haut Lafitte is a vineyard, spa, and the source of premium grapes for her skincare products;

Caudalie continues to discover new magic ingredients locked inside the juicy fruit that has enchanted and intoxicated humankind since time immemorial. Meanwhile, Thomas puts her heart into all the details that create an overall skin-care experience.

“Most companies will test a product 8 to 10 times and then launch it for retail,” says Regine Berthelot, Caudalie’s lead esthetician. “Mathilde will keep testing her new product until it is perfect. It took over 200 tests for the Premier Cru cream to be launched.”

Making scents and soothing the senses

Berthelot swears by Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir. It was “love at first smell,” she says. “I have been using it for 20 years to tone my skin, control my breakouts, set my makeup, and help cool me down when it is hot and humid in New York, but also in times of hot flashes. I also use it on my pillows to refresh my linens and kill bacteria; and my husband loves it as an aftershave.”

Vercauteren’s discoveries have become the patents that give Caudalie’s products their nourishing and anti-aging properties.
Some of Caudalie’s scents are reminiscent of a French vineyard.

She describes some of the Caudalie scents that create the aura of a French vineyard. For example, the Premier Cru product collection features the combined scent of rose and oak. At Thomas’s Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard, rose bushes planted near the vines serve as an organic way to protect the vines from insects and disease. “They call the roses the ‘guardian angels of the vine,’” Berthelot says. So the rose scent is part of the vineyard.

The vineyard also has its own cooperage to make oak barrels that add flavour to the wine. The process of creating the barrels involves burning the oak, emanating the scent of oak throughout the vineyard.

Thomas runs a spa at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, using Caudalie products and the best techniques to complement those products. For instance, the spa provides a Premier Cru facial that complements the anti-aging effects of the Premier Cru Serum. The facial uses a derma roller that further boosts collagen and elastin production, and the roller’s smooth, lifting movements tone the skin. A hydro-gel mask finishes it off, infusing the skin with all of Caudalie’s patented ingredients.

The grapes from older vineyards in France, like Thomas’s, have higher levels of some of the substances beneficial for skincare.

The whole spa experience is called Vinothérapie. Thomas has also opened Vinothérapie spas in Toronto, Vancouver, and other locations around the world. At the spas abroad, “you will be transported to the south of France,” Berthelot says.

Not only do the spas’ scents recall the French vineyard, their treatments and products are also rooted in French tradition and culture.

Classically French

Young women in France have long rubbed grapevine sap on their skin to lighten it and make it radiant. Professor Vercauteren was able to isolate and use the specific element of the sap that has this effect, Caudalie’s patented Viniferine.

Because the vines in France are some of the oldest in the world, the grapes there have higher levels of Resveratrol, says Berthelot. Drinking a glass of red wine can also provide your body, and thus your skin, with Resveratrol and polyphenols. Berthelot says that having a glass of wine every day is a very French kind of beauty secret.

“In France we believe in the ‘pleasure principle,’” she says. “[We] enjoy the products’ scents, textures, and especially natural ingredients over synthetic.”

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