French Girls Look Better Because They Care About Skincare, Not Makeup

by Emily Arata

It's a Thursday afternoon in the Hamptons when my bus pulls up to the house. Or, more accurately, the estate.

The narrow gravel path opens up to a rustic guest house, picturesque swing and ultra-modern mansion that blends into a hill so well you know it has to be ludicrously expensive.

Out of the front door comes Mathilde Thomas, one half of beloved French skincare brand Caudalie.

Like every French stereotype you've ever seen, she's wearing little makeup, bare feet and a shift dress — a low-key style statement for an enormously successful lady.

Because Thomas' family lives on a vineyard in Bordeaux, she's built her life and career around grapes. Caudalie was one of the earliest brands to research the positive effects of the polyphenols found in grape seed extract. She even owns a wine-themed spa.

Today, we're at the estate she and husband Bertrand (her business partner, too) share. At a rosé-filled lunch, we'll toast a new edition of her all-purpose Beauty Elixir, in a lace-print bottle “dressed” by fashion designer Jason Wu.

Because Thomas comes from France, lived in New York and spends the majority of her year in Hong Kong, bringing Caudalie to another market, she's soaked up beauty influences form cultures around the world.

Of American beauty, Thomas says there's a distinct gap separating it from the kind she grew up with. To be a French girl, you really have to commit to this whole "graceful aging" thing.

Legs curled under her, she tells me,

American people want quick fix, instant gratification. It's now a selfie, Millennial nation... When I look at my kids, they are going to steal my makeup, not my skincare. I will tell them… you have to put some skincare underneath your makeup.

She even adds that her three Americanized children do apply SPF before heading off to surf camp during the week. (The family summers in New York, winters in Hong Kong. Oh, the life.)

While women might once have had time for luxurious beauty routines, we're living in an ultra fast-paced world. Thomas' fix? A product that does many things at once.

Starting with a basic eye cream, Thomas added shimmer to the magic recipe. You're not only moisturizing, but also creating a more beautiful face without any kind of cosmetics.

She says,

You put it on, and you have this shimmer and this glow. Ninety percent of the formula is going to be anti-wrinkle, anti-dark circle, anti-puffiness, anti-oxidant, moisturizing, but the 10 percent is makeup.

When it comes to beauty, Thomas is a busy woman. She's personally tested every launch from Caudalie many times over. Being the beauty nerd I am, I ask about her daily skincare ritual.

The response is probably the most glamorous sentence I've ever heard:

Alors, the one when I live in New York or when I live in Hong Kong?

In New York, of course, the land where smog is going to make us all wrinkly before our time. According to Thomas, there are only two steps that should absolutely be laid down as commandments.

She explains,

In Europe we are told by our mother, grandmother or friends that we absolutely need to put some skincare on our face, and we need to remove our makeup at night.

Well, then. There's no excuse for sleeping in mascara.