You could say that Mathilde Thomas, founder of French skincare brand company Caudalie, has it all—gorgeous family and husband, traditional French vineyard and a booming skincare brand with spas in Europe, the U.S. and Turkey. In 1995, she launched the first Caudalie products, which incorporated grape polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that were abundant on her family-owned vineyard, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, located in the Bordeaux region of France. In 1999, the company opened the first Vinothérapie Spa amidst the vines of the vineyard. Since then, the number of spas has grown to 8, including one in New York landmark hotel, The Plaza. With an ethical commitment to using natural ingredients, Caudalie’s business has expanded exponentially and its products are sold in more than 25 countries. Today, Mathilde, her husband Bertrand, and their three children live in New York City, from where Mathilde is planning her U.S. expansion.
Tell us a bit about your history and how you came to found Caudalie.
My parents, Florence and Daniel Cathiard, have a vineyard in Bordeaux, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. During one of the harvest celebrations in 1993, I was giving a tour of the vineyard and a guest—Dr. Joseph Vercauteren, a specialist in grape and grapevine polyphenols—was asking questions about what we did with the excess grape seeds, stalks, and skins. Through this conversation he revealed the incredible natural anti-oxidant power of these raw materials. From there we starting working together to research ways to utilize these ingredients in skincare and in 1995 Caudalie was born. We have since created three patents with Dr. Vercauteren to protect, brighten, and firm the skin and are working on a fourth patent, which will come out this fall.
Why are grape seeds so great for our skin?
Grape seeds have a natural ability in the shell of the seed to protect themselves against free radicals and this natural power can be leveraged for skincare purposes. Similarly, the vine stalks, which are capable of living up to 100 years, are able to self-protect and we are able to translate that ability into patent ingredients that help firm and rebuild the skin. One of my favorite discoveries was when we heard about women in the vineyards using vine sap to brighten skin and rid the complexion of freckles. When we studied the sap, we found it has a natural ability as a melanin regulator.
What is your beauty philosophy?
I believe it is possible to create highly effective beauty products that are not only effective, but also natural and luxurious. I try to live a very healthy lifestyle and this translates into my beauty philosophy as well. A big difference I’ve notice between young women in France and in the US is that in France, there is an emphasis put on prevention and treatment, whereas I’ve found young women in the US try to cover up the problem rather than solve it.
What are the key treatments offered at Caudalie’s Vinothérapie Spas?
We have a selection of signature Vinothérapie treatments that are found in all 8 of our spas around the world. Our most popular body treatments include the Crushed Cabernet Scrub, the Pulp Friction Massage with fresh grapes, the Honey & Wine Wrap, the Wine Maker’s Massage and our Barrel Baths. Our facials were all created to be extremely effective while also incredibly relaxing; these include our Vinoperfect Facial, our Vinosource Facial, and our Premier Cru Treatment (ultimate luxury!).
What are your three favorite products in the Caudalie line?
The Premier Cru Cream is my absolute go-to product. It contains all three of the Caudalie patents in one formula, so it’s my favorite product when I’m traveling. The Beauty Elixir is one of the most popular products in the collection and my favorite to spritz throughout the day to revive my skin—it also has an amazing therapeutic scent that’s very calming. Our Vinoperfect Serum is a beautiful formula and great for pairing with your regular moisturizer. It became the #1 anti-dark spot product in French pharmacies when women in the South of France realized they could use it to get a more even tan.
What’s coming up next for you and Caudalie?
I am very excited about a new multi-use oil that launched this summer—Divine Oil. It’s a blend of vegetal oils and features a fragrance that I designed with perfumer Jacques Cavalier before he went to work in-house for a designer. It reminds me of summer in the South of France and leaves the skin beautifully nourished. In terms of the spa, we launched a new Anti-Cellulite Body Treatment this summer. It’s incredibly popular in Paris among French women and I have no doubt that it will be a huge hit with New York women! The core of the treatment, “le palpé roulé,” effectively breaks down cellulite and smoothes the skin.