Caudalie Founder Mathilde Thomas Loves Wine Way More Than You Do

We consider ourselves total winos and are proud of it — and we didn't think anyone could possibly love a good glass of rosé as much as we did. Well, we're willing to admit when we're wrong and we've found someone whose dedication to vino goes far beyond ours: Her name is Mathilde Thomas and she's created an entire beauty line centered around the healing powers of wine.
Thomas has the unfair advantage of owning a vineyard that's been in her family for generations (lucky duck), and in 1993 she tapped into that resource and created Caudalie, a luxe skin-care line that focuses on the healing powers of the polyphenols found in grapes. From the stem to the vine to the seeds, every part of the grape is used throughout the line to create efficacious, decadent products that are a true treat to use.
Thomas also owns spas around the world, including one at the Plaza Hotel in NYC that features its own wine room stocked with hundreds of bottles. Yes, you read that right — it's a spa where you can both bathe in wine and enjoy a glass afterward. We call it heaven. Read on to get the full scoop on Mathilde's passion for vino and why she thinks it's the best beauty treatment a girl can get.

How did you get your start in the beauty industry?
"Before I started Caudalie, I was actually studying to be a perfumer and was planning to move to Grasse. My career path was re-routed when I met Dr. Joseph Vercauteren, an expert in grape and grapevine polyphenols, and I realized that I had an incredible opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Fortunately, my products still allow me the opportunity to use my passion for fragrance when I'm developing new formulas and fragrances."

How did the idea for Caudalie come about?
"My parents have a vineyard in Bordeaux, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. One of the guests at my parents harvest celebration was Dr. Vercauteren, who was explaining the powerful ingredients found naturally in the grape and vines. After that first meeting, we started doing research on these molecules and the facts supporting the research were undeniable. My husband Bertrand and I realized that we had an incredible untapped resource to work with and from there, there was no turning back!"


Not many people would draw the parallel between wine and beauty. How did you make that connection?
"As we started researching the vines, people began sharing interesting anecdotes that piqued our curiosity. One of my favorites is an old wives' tale that women in the vineyard would rub vine sap on their faces during the harvest to brighten their skin and get rid of freckles. We decided to study the vine sap and found that it contains molecules that are natural melanin regulators. We patented Viniferine a few years later and it's now the star ingredient in many of our products, including the Vinoperfect radiance collection."

Do you recommend a glass of wine as part of a beauty regimen?
"Yes! First, because it's relaxing, but it's also good for you. There is a concept known as the French Paradox: It's the observation that French people suffer a lower rate of heart disease, despite a diet that is quite rich due to foods like cheese and pâté. One explanation is our high consumption of red wine, which is packed with resveratrol and antioxidant polyphenols. My philosophy is that if you feel good, you look good – so enjoy a glass of red wine while you're getting ready [to go out]."

What's your one must-have product?
"I don't go anywhere without my Premier Cru Cream. I spent seven years developing this cream and it features all three of Caudalie’s patents. It's ideal for me because I travel a lot and it offers so many wonderful benefits in one bottle. I find the scent incredibly soothing — a blend of rose and cedar — which is always calming to me after a long day of travel."


Do you have any DIY spa treatments you can share with us?
"I developed my Crushed Cabernet Scrub by combining a selection of raw ingredients and still occasionally use the original recipe at home. Mix even parts brown sugar, honey, grapeseed oil, and if you can find it (online is easiest, unless you're friendly with your local vineyard) grape seeds. Warm the mix and then add a few pumps of your favorite moisturizer. Massage onto the body before stepping into the shower — focusing on areas like the elbows, knees, and the back of thighs — then massage and wash off in the shower."

"For dry hair, I have a great recipe I learned from my mother, which is a homemade hair mask using egg yolk, rum, and olive and grapeseed oil. Apply for 30 minutes before washing hair and it will leave your hair incredibly nourished and silky."

What's the secret to creating a relaxing spa atmosphere at home?
"For me, it's all about scent. Burning a candle is the quickest way to create a soothing atmosphere since you have the benefit of a beautiful fragrance and can dim the lights in the room a bit. Lavender, chamomile, and my Fleur de Vigne fragrance, are always extremely soothing scents for me. Depending on the time of day, have a warm cup of tea or a glass of red wine, turn on some music that transports you, and voila!"

What advice do you have for women who want to go into the beauty industry?
"It's so important to be passionate about what you do. If you are happy and stimulated by what you're working on, the results of your efforts will be that much more impressive. The key is to understand what aspect of the industry suits you. My husband and I have found a great balance, which allows me to focus on the creative side of the brand and the product development, while he runs the business and logistics side of the company. This may take a bit of trial and error, but once you identify what you like, try to build on it and find or create a role that suits your talents."

Photo: Courtesy of Caudalie

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series