The anti-aging skincare line derived from wine grapes

A French family transformed the by-product of their winemaking business into one of the world's top skincare lines.

Photo, Dick Loek/Getty Images

Le Sources de Caudalie hotel and spa in Bordeaux, France. Dick Loek/Getty Images

An anti-aging skincare line that’s derived from red wine? That was the brainwave of savvy Frenchwoman Mathilde Thomas, whose family owns an organic vineyard in Bordeaux. Twenty years ago, Thomas was hosting a group of scientists who were attending a conference on the property, and she was struck by a comment from Joseph Vercauteren, the director of the pharmacognosy lab at the University of Montpellier. “He loved the wine,” says Thomas, “but said it was a shame I was throwing out the most interesting part of the fruit.” Vercauteren was referring to the grape seeds — and specifically polyphenol, the powerful antioxident that helps ward off free radical damage of the skin, found within.

After two years of development with Vercauteren, Thomas and her husband, Bertrand, founded Caudalie, a skincare line built around stabilized grape polyphenols and made with 80 to 100 percent natural ingredients. “First and foremost, I wanted my products to be problem solvers and for them to by the most effective in the world,” says Thomas. “But I didn’t want all those nasties — parabens, phthalates, sulphates, mineral oils or animal ingredients.”

Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of Caudalie

Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of Caudalie

Today, Caudalie is carried in virtually all pharmacies across Europe (the Vinoperfect Serum is a best seller). The brand launched at Jean Coutu drugstores in Quebec 10 years ago, then expanded into the rest of Canada with the opening of Sephora (it’s currently the fourth-best selling skincare brand at the beauty emporium). Caudalie’s first full-service spa opened at Sherway Gardens in Toronto late last year.

As the brand grew, Caudalie continued to work with Vercauteren (now the scientific advisor for Caudalie’s research centre) to secure three worldwide patents on its skincare products. Thomas’ latest partnership is with Dr. David Sinclair, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. Sinclair’s research is focused on delaying and reversing disease and the age-defying (even reversing) effects of resveratrol, another powerful compound found in grapes. His wife, Sandra Luikenhuis, is an avid user of Caudalie products and intro ducted him to the line and the possibility of collaborating. Since then, Harvard Medical School and Caudalie have jointly patented two star ingredients: vine resveratrol (which helps protect collagen and maintain firmness) and micro-hyaluronic acid (which plumps skin and reduces lines), both of which are found in the line’s latest anti-aging creams. The results are so impressive that the brand has called this line its “natural and effective face lift.” Not bad for a little red grape.

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