Talking Science and Skincare with Valmont CEO Sophie Guillon
On the heels of the Swiss luxury skincare brand's latest launch, an ultra-luxe anti-aging foundation.
I meet Sophie Guillon in her oceanfront suite at the Montage Laguna Beach. She’s sipping a Diet Coke and taking bites of a croissant between interviews. “You’ll have to help me with this,” she says, motioning to the spread of pastries the hotel has laid out. There’s little formality with the mother of three and CEO of Valmont—the Swiss skincare brand she has run since 2000 alongside her husband Didier—who exudes an off-the-cuff charm. Today, she’s spreading the word about the brand’s new Elixir des Glaciers foundation, Teint Majestueux Essence of Bees. Designed to function like a hybrid between skincare and makeup, combining the line’s signature DNA-based anti-aging formula with sheer colour for a dewy finish, it’s a product Guillon personally put a good deal of love and care into. Here’s what she had to say about Valmont’s latest launch—available this month in stores and online—and how the brand is adapting to an ever-shifting industry.
Tell us a bit about the new Elixir des Glaciers foundation.
I went to Japan because I consider them to be the best manufacturers. I told my supplier, “I want to make a foundation that brings light and radiance into your skin.” You have your base and then you can add active ingredients. I chose DNA, which costs €3500 Euros per kilo. We put this full anti-aging ingredient—the same concentration we have in our Prime Renewing Pack or our Prime 24 Hour cream—so it would allow for smoothness of the formula and a nice compatibility. After 2 o’clock in the afternoon, which is the worst time for foundation—we call it the sebum peak time—most foundation starts to separate on your skin. It blurs out. This won’t do that. The key is the DNA, which is very compatible with the skin and which the skin recognizes. Little by little, it will digest it. It also has an interlamellar reflection system, which gives it a satin effect. Nowadays, people want dewy skin that reflects the light. It conveys a fresh, healthy look. It’s also about how you apply it since it’s layerable, depending on whether you want something lighter or more full coverage. We spend so much time putting all these beautiful creams on our faces, it’s a shame to then cover it with a mask of foundation.
How would you describe Valmont as a company?
A scientific brand of cosmetics with a soul. We are concerned about womens’ needs, the evolution of the conditions in which we are living, and the temporary phenomenons that are going to impact how we manufacture cosmetics.
There are elements of natural beauty in Valmont’s products, but you still use some chemicals. What’s your take on the clean beauty movement?
It takes time to change. There’s the common sense of what has always been working in the past, and where we are going if we take on new elements or new ingredients to be clean or organic or proper or the way we should be. We have to measure the polemics with what is really necessary. For a long time I fought against the removal of parabens. In any drug you take, you have parabens to preserve the chemicals. It is something the industry has been using for years and it has proven its efficacy. The battle that came out against parabens was because one scientist couldn’t prove that it was bad for the health. It was taken in reverse: “oh, you can’t prove it so it might be bad.” The beauty industry is a pleasure industry—it’s non-essential, so it’s very easy to attack. The law eventually came into place forbidding one kind of paraben and putting a maximum rate on another paraben. Today, we’re actually developing without parabens. I held out until the last minute, but I can’t go against social sense. Though I still believe that parabens are not bad for the health.
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What about vegan beauty?
We believe that natural ingredients work: beeswax, propolis, royal jelly—this is the food for the queen. We also deserve food for the queen. It’s from Mother Nature, so it should be good for us. In my view that’s clean beauty, but it’s not vegan. I will never be vegan. We are doing clean beauty our way.
What makes Valmont products different from other brands, when it comes to the intersection of science and beauty?
I never stay in the box. Sometimes I go and see a supplier and they’ll say, “it’s following this trend.” I hate that word. I see an ingredient and try to think what I can combine it with for a specific result. If you’re manufacturing this wonderful ingredient for volumizing the lips, everybody is going to use it for the lips. I’ll try it in a neck cream instead. On the neck, this is where your age is going to show. If this ingredient works on the lips, it should work on the neck. You have plenty of brands doing the same thing, but for us it’s about having creativity and imagination and playing with the ingredients.
What does your daily skincare routine consist of?
Are you ready? It’s really long. I use the Prime Renewing Pack in the morning and leave it on for five minutes while I take my coffee. Then, I wipe it off with a damp tissue. I don’t wash it off entirely. Then, I use the Moisturizing Booster, which I love, followed by Moisturizing With a Cream, and a primer from Charlotte Tilbury. If I have time, I’ll do a collagen mask two or three times a week. Nowadays, it’s once a week because I’m never home. At night, I use Wonder Falls, which I love because it’s very substantive. I wipe it off with a damp cloth and always double-cleanse, so I use Bubble Falls. It’s a sulfate-free foaming wash but it’s very dense—almost like a barber’s shaving foam. After that, Vital Falls toner, the V-Filling Cream and the Eye-C Gel. Sometimes I’ll use the Smoothing Eye Patch, too.
What’s the one product you’re most proud of to date?
Time Master. It took me four years to develop, because it’s a nano-emulsion and it’s around 500 nanometres. It’s so delicate and the balance was so uncertain, so it broke down all the time. When we finally succeeded, it was a big day for us. We’re doing very well with it today. It goes right to the centre of your skin, and you can really feel it working right away.