Category Archives: beauty sample

Clarins Spa, Raffles Hotel, facial review

Exploring French Luxury Beauty Products

This past May, I had the chance to visit Paris in full spring bloom.  I have very fond memories from my days studying at Sciences Po but my visit this time round had a different bent.  CyberDERM, in it’s earliest days, took a lot of inspiration from the big medical based brands like La Roche-Posay, Avène, Vichy and more.  They were the brands of the 90’s that had a lot of credibility and were favoured by dermatologists.  We have different formulating philosophies now though since many of these larger French luxury beauty brands have been slower to listen to consumer requests for controversy free ingredients.  I was interested to see on this trip what did French offerings look like today.  What were French consumers wanting and how were brands delivering?  I was asking these questions with the purpose of seeing whether CyberDERM would ever fit.  Would it be possible for the cultural beauty exchange to go the other way with a Canadian import into a French market?  There does seem to be a whisper of an opportunity, one we will continue to explore.  In the meantime, here are the highlights from my trip.

french beauty brands, Hermes

French Aesthetics but chock full of No-No ingredients

The Pharmacy Culture:

All of the French brands I mentioned took root through the French Pharmacy/Parfumerie system.  I capitalize it because if you have ever visited France, you’ll know theirs is a system that has its own unique flavour.  I know North American devotees who flock to the French pharmacies whenever they visit in search for those elusive beauty brands they cannot find anywhere else.  I feel they differ from our North American versions in being more curated.  Space is always a premium in the EU I get the sense that customers feel the brands from these beauty emporiums are also effective.  They also normally have the ineffable french quality of a certain understated classicism.  I always find it a treat to shop the sunscreens since the EU has access to filters that we do not have like the Tinosorb M and S and ethylhexyl triazone (all of which might pair beautifully with zinc oxide for incredible protection).  I also picked up a sunscreen in oil format*, which I think is very interesting.  I’m up for any format of sunscreen that increases people’s compliance in actually applying it everyday. I am not a fan of aerosol sunscreens since the alcohol used as a solvent is really hard on skin (and once stripped paint off of my purse)

CyberDERM, sunscreen, french brands

The French Pharmacy System

but a nourishing oil might be of interest. Again, we might start playing around to see if zinc oxide could be used in a similar format. *These are sunscreens with actual substantial filters in them, not tanning accelerators with a token SPF.

The status of sunscreens in the Gallic nation:

Being “the sunscreen company”, I was also of course interested to see what sunscreen use was like here.  Isn’t this where sunscreen use was born? Ok, perhaps not but I’ve always considered French women especially to be early adopters of the skincare regimen that included regular sunscreen use.  Certainly, there are a multitude of options in the above mentioned pharmacies.  Zinc is not popular here though- I didn’t  see any options other than Skinceuticals (which is an American import now owned by L’Oreal).  I thought for the real scoop I should go to the best beauty experts in the ‘biz’.  I stopped by Birchbox France to have a chat with two lovely BF editors.  I was surprised to learn from them that they felt women of their generation still relegated sunscreen use to their beach bag.  Also while there was a growing concern about ingredients in personal care products, this didn’t necessarily translate into an awareness of the controversies over certain sunscreen actives. We all agreed though that aesthetics are supremely important.  No amount of fact filled education would change

Birchbox May, France

The May Box from Birchbox co-opted by Fiance for bedside table

consumer behaviour if not accompanied with a proverbial spoonful of sugar (i.e. a pleasant user experience). Could our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 be just the ticket?  It was a question that we all promised to consider and I continue to be a huge fan of the Birchbox FR team and concept.  I even got a treat in getting their gorgeous May box.

And finally THE FACIAL:

Here is one slightly dirty little secret, in all my years in the industry and being a daughter of a dermatologist- I’ve never had a facial. I’ve had fotofacials.  I’ve had medi-facials and peels.  I’ve just never understood the concept of a facial.  How effective can the layering of products be in one session?  Is it meant to be relaxing and effective?  Is this something I really need?  I know facial devotees would say I am missing the point.  I may not need one but most want them.  I still think I would rather have a fotofacial from a qualified professional at least once a year.  However, I knew I couldn’t speak with authority without trying one.  I therefore went to the one of the Top Rated Spa’s (in the world), the Clarins Spa My Blend in the Raffles Hotel Le Royal Monceau.  First, I will say that no one can beat a french spa for atmosphere. I’m sorry to say that I was too shy to take pictures- that would have felt rude and intrusive so you will have to rely on my description. The hotel is a beautiful concoction of panelled wood and elegant drapery.  You descend to the basement and the spa beckons like a movie’s vision of heaven.  It’s all white and backlit with long corridors. All of which puts you in a very calm and relaxed state of mind.  I sipped fresh pressed juice and munched on a selection of nuts and fruit while waiting. I poured over Dr. Clarins musings on skincare and women’s needs.  I was greeted by a sweet and down to earth facialist, who paid me the immense quality of thinking I was twenty and not

Clarins Spa, Raffles Hotel, facial review

The beautiful Lobby of the Royal Monceau

in need of an ‘anti-aging’ component to my treatment just yet.  The facial itself was like being wrapped in warm, white cocoon.  There were no extractions (yeah!), just repeated layerings of some of Clarins Professional products.  I loved the idea that part of the facial was tailored to my needs on the spot with specialized additives through the stages of exfoliation, gommage, hydration and calming.  All in all- an exceptional experience (with macarons served at the end)- I took lots of notes and inspiration in case we open another retail/spa space in the future.



Winter Skin with Primers, Balm and more

As I am sitting here writing this, the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy have hit and its been raining for days*.  I swear that no matter how cute your rain gear is- its hard not to come out looking like a drowned rat.  All this to say, that I’m starting to look forward to our first blanket of snow.  I’m thinking about glowing skin, pink cheeks and a cute tuque. 
The Good Stuff: Beauty Balms and Primers
Of course, this is grass-is-greener type thinking since most winters I come out looking vaguely yellow and sad.  We all get dry, maybe a little patchy.  Your under-eyes start to look like bruises. Plus, you start to look at your Facebook pictures from the summer with your faint (faux) glow and think, “I looked healthy/happy/thinner/ hot”.  
Instead of ruminating, let’s talk about winter complexions.  There are three key measures you need to have in place, and presto you will look like a picture postcard instead of like Earthworm Jim.
I know, you’re thinking, “Sunscreen! Always with the sunscreen”.  We are known as the sunscreen company so it was bound to come up but we have a good reason! People always seem to miss the fact that those pesky UVA-Aging rays are constant all year round, through rain or snow and at every latitude.   In other words, you may be freezing your gloves off in the North Pole during a blizzard but you still have to worry about those rays responsible for crepe-y skin, discolourations, wrinkles etc.  Plus they come through windows so your commute to work and your window-side desk all contribute.  The great benefit to sunscreen in the winter though is that Zinc is naturally calming and soothing.  A great formula can also act as a primer itself since I find it gives your make-up a nice surface to adhere to. 
Primer Vs. Beauty Balm:
These two are the must-have items in the beauty world now.  Every company has their own version but it may not be clear how to incorporate either one or both of them into your routine.  It’s best to think of primer as good for texture and Beauty Balms for tone.  Primers typically have some form of silicone and other humectants so they glide on the face.  They fill in uneven textures (think acne marks or dilated pores) and they give your make-up something to adhere to.  I’ve tried Coloresciences version- it smells like synthetic chocolate, which is less tantalizing than you’d expect.  I’ve also road-tested Stila’s, which while I really liked the correction version, it has a huge ingredient list!  I’ve yet to try Jane Iredale’s but at least I know they will have quality ingredients. 
Jane Iredale’s Beauty Balm Option
As for Beauty Balms, the worst of them are glorified tinted moisturizers.  The best of them definitely offer great coverage with a hint of luminosity.  I don’t know whether they warrant their own beauty category but a good one will provide your complexion another layering option. 
In terms of using them, I tend to use primers for when I’m going out or have a big presentation in front of others.  They make sure your make-up does not slide off in the heat of any moment and they mattify as well.  You could use a primer and then just layer on your Beauty Balm for lighter coverage during the day.  If you would like maximum coverage, you could use both products and then dust a powder (mineral-based) foundation over top. 
Pale vs. Tanned
To Faux Glow or not?  In the winter, I’m less excited about the prospect of standing naked in my bathroom trying to apply tanning lotion.  For day to day, I opt for a primer that has a bronzer in it.  It provides just a gentle wash of colour so there is no discernible line around my neck and face.  I also always recommend the St. Tropez Wash-Off bronzer and just add a couple of drops to my moisturizer.  Alternatively, you could buy a beauty –balm with a slight tint to it as well.  There is something to be said for the paler version of you though.  As long as you can brighten, you will not look sickly.  Do your own DIY facials with turmeric and Indian gooseberry, or use skincare products with them as active ingredients (FYI-that’s a plug! We have both in our line).
So hopefully this winter, you’ll be all cozy in your layers of sunscreen, primer, and balm.  You can nestle by the fire or go ice skating and you will be picture perfect.
All the best,
* Editors note: lots of prayers and well wishes to the people who have been hurt or impacted by Hurricane Sandy- it’s been more than a little rain for many.