There are a few cardinal beauty rules we tend to live by, and one of the most tried and true is that the French always know best. Perhaps it's their natural and effortless approach to beauty, or the fact that imperfections are worn with a badge of honour. For whatever reason, the French know what it means to take part in self care without ever skimping on quality. When it comes to French quality no one understands this better than Caudalie founder Mathilde Thomas. What began in Bordeaux, in the heart of the vines at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, has blossomed into a brand of natural quality and sophistication. With the pillars of the French ethos being so important to our beauty regime, we thought no better time than now to go straight to source for all the questions we so desperately seek the answers to.
Lucky for us, Thomas has kindly let RUSSH in on some of her most tome honoured secrets of French beauty – from how she plans her day, to the best sustainable advice she has received and what we should pack on our next trip to the French Riviera. Here she lets us into her world and how these values of sustainability continue to shape the future of the brand.
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Mathilde, it’s so wonderful to talk with you. Can you tell us what does a typical day look like for you?
My secret is to balance my life between my family, my better half, my job and always keeping time just for myself. On a daily basis, I follow the Mediterranean regime - I do a lot of sports; yoga, running alongside the River Seine and riding to the Caudalie headquarters (and everywhere else in Paris). And of course, I like to enjoy one glass of anti-oxidant rich red wine each day! I sleep 8 hours a night, I go to work early so that I can enjoy my family in the evenings and I always leave some time to cook, read or to watch a TV series.
What is your morning beauty routine?
In the morning, I double-cleanse my skin by combining a Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil, with Vinoclean Instant Foaming Cleanser. Right after, I always love to spray my Caudalie Beauty Elixir before using my Caudalie Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence, followed by a serum depending on the season, which can either be hydrating, brightening or firming. Right now, I am loving my Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum Complexion. Usually I do my makeup in three minutes: I focus mostly on skincare and then makeup is fast.
What is your nightly beauty routine?
The key for me is keeping it simple, with an emphasis on cleansing your skin thoroughly and using the best skincare. At night, I always remove my make-up and clean my skin blending my products, for example by adding a few drops of Vinergetics Detox Oil with a serum. Then I go to sleep with the Resveratrol Lift Night Infusion Cream.
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We know clean beauty is essential to the Caudalie brand ethos. Where did your love of clean beauty stem from?
The environment matters so much to me because I was born and raised in the French Alps, and my family have always been very outdoorsy. Then my family moved to Bordeaux in 1990 and they decided to make organic wine, so our love of nature has always run in our veins. We respect the environment, so for me it was a no-brainer to incorporate that into Caudalie. We started back in 1995 and we were already up cycling before it was cool. In 2006, we became pioneers of clean beauty: I removed six ingredients from my INCI list, so that was the beginning of my ‘no list’. Today it’s a long list of some 90 ingredients. Our formulas are almost completely natural, so that means a minimum of 95% natural ingredients for most of the range.
The French have a very enviable approach to self care and wellness. What is your main form of self care? What products do you use when you need a personal self care day?
French women choose their products carefully. They are really demanding and challenging when it comes to skincare composition and ingredients. They want of course visible results but also very glamorous formulas, natural textures, innovative and outstanding. Effective, glamorous and natural, like Caudalie ! But the French beauty routine is quite short actually: most of the time, it’s a two step routine, make-up remover and daily moisturising cream.
My skincare has changed over time because your skin transforms with both age and lifestyle changes. With that being said, I needed to adjust the products in my regime to target these new concerns. When I was younger, I focused on products that were rich in polyphenols to defend my skin from free radicals. As I have gotten older, I have started to incorporate ingredients such as resveratrol to target fine lines and wrinkles. I love my Beauty Elixir, as it puts you in a good mood, minimises pores and sets makeup, and is very easy to use.
What is the one non-negotiable in your beauty routine?
Never go to bed without removing your make up.
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What are three defining rules of achieving French girl beauty?
Beauty is considered as an art de vivre in France. The secret is to treat yourself good. It is important to cultivate a good skincare regimen when you are young by moisturising daily which fight oxidants (they are responsible of 80% of ageing), cleanse morning and night, always use sunscreen, and educate yourself about ingredients that are truly effective and what works best for your skin type. What is also important for your health and also for your skin is to have a balanced diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits and nuts to bring vitamins and minerals to the skin. Drink lots of green tea every day and a glass or 2 of red wine loaded with antioxidants during dinner.
For Caudalie, it’s clear that clean consciousness is imbued in the brand culture. How have you continued to develop this commitment as your business has grown?
When we returned to Paris after five years in New York and three in Hong Kong, that’s when I decided that my packaging should be composed of recycled, recyclable, or refillable material. That was the big revolution at Caudalie and when we changed the look and feel of the packaging as well. In 2018, we hired a team of green packaging engineers and we decided we would 100% repackage everything. We changed all the face packaging last year
What about a French beauty icon?
Brigitte Bardot. She had the ultimate beauty, the perfect skin, gorgeous hair, perfect body and style.
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What is the best advice on sustainability you’ve received?
After meeting with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and of 1% for the Planet we were alarmed to find out about the global carbon emissions in the industry. Meeting with him gave me an entirely new outlook on minimising unnecessary waste. So in 2012, as an executive decision, our brand became a member of 1% For The Planet which turned out to be the best decisions we have ever made. Each year, Caudalie commits to giving back 1% of its worldwide sales to plant trees. Thanks to this we have been able to plant 10 million trees in less than 10 years. By funding associations that work for reforestation and tree protection, we want to give back to nature a little of what it gives us every day.
You’re travelling for a weekend away to the French Riviera. What Caudalie products are you taking away with you?
If I had to choose one it would be Vinoperfect Radiance Serum which is a cult favourite amongst millions of women. In the old days in French vineyards, women covered their face and hands with grapevine sap to diminish dark spots and illuminate their skin from working in the sun. This inspiration from the ancient tradition led to the introduction of the exclusive patented ingredient Viniferine, naturally derived from the grapevine sap. The widely acclaimed Vinoperfect natural brightening solution was developed around this active ingredient, providing an exceptional facial luminosity for modern women!
Finally, we know World Earth Day is coming up, can you tell us what that day means for you as a brand
My husband Bertrand and I always believe that we need act to leave a better planet for our kids. We created Caudalie to be the most effective of the natural clean skincare products and the most sustainable of the beauty brands. So, we do everything we can to honour this mission, we go above and beyond to avoid all the nasty ingredients that are not safe, irritating, non-biodegradable and harmful to the environment, and we produce and present our products in the most eco-conscious and sustainable way.