SOME RECOUNT STORIES about watching their mothers get ready at their dressing tables, rubbing rich creams into their skin before outlining their lips in dark hues and spritzing the air with a cloud of flowery perfume. I didn’t have that kind of mom. My mom is a former hippie who always wore jeans and has never dyed her hair. She washed her face with soap, I guess — if it was a special type, I never noticed — and then slapped on whatever nut oil from the health food store she was currently rubbing on her body. Despite that, and despite spending her teenage years slathering herself in baby oil and laying out in the sun, she is, in her 70s, still mistaken for being a solid generation younger. “Good genes,” she would always shrug, often as she and her husband set out on another march through the misty English countryside to get in their daily 20,000 steps.
I began to dabble in skincare products when I lived in Paris in my twenties. I collected various fancy jars on the shelf of my bathroom, but it was all fun and games because I was in my twenties. I got serious about my skin after my first daughter was born, through necessity. My skin, which had always been easy, suddenly went haywire. Pimples, which I had been blessedly spared in adolescence, cropped up on my forehead. I developed rosacea, along with extreme dryness, and hypersensitivity to products — a fun trifecta that left me with bright red patches on my cheeks no matter what I did.
I began to get facials to combat this, something that seemed like an indulgence until it became a must, and now is wonderfully both. It has also made me an expert in facials. After having had so many over the years, I can state authoritatively that the one offered by Valmont at their new spa at the Carlyle in New York is very, very good.
It is ‘Photoshop in a jar,’ according to Valmont CEO Sophie Guillon.
For the uninitiated, as I once was, Valmont is a cult Swiss skincare brand whose products, produced using pristine glacier water and organically grown botanicals, are packaged in simple white-and-green jars. With an origin story like this, it should come as no surprise that the brand’s adherents can only be described as religious in their devotion. “Valmont,” they sigh, when I tell them I am writing about the brand, drawing out the second syllable of the name in a breathy moan. Particularly coveted is the Prime Renewing Pack, intended as a mask but used by many as a cream. It is “Photoshop in a jar,” according to Valmont CEO Sophie Guillon.
The brand is also family-owned; the company passed to Guillon and her husband Didier through her father-in-law, and their own children are now stepping into leadership roles. Guillon is responsible for the scientific R&D. When I speak to her, she lights up while telling me about how her research seeks to merge natural ingredients with cutting-edge development. “Are you into chemistry a bit?” she asks me, before launching into a lengthy explanation of how her latest proprietary formulas have repurposed the sugars in salmon DNA to provide energy topically to the skin.
The facial I get at La Maison Valmont uses only the brand’s products, rubbed in with a soothing hand technique called “the butterfly” that borders on massage as well. The result leaves my skin smooth, shiny, and smelling like an Alpine flower garden. The aesthetician tells me that although they do offer add-ons such as microdermabrasion, these aren’t necessary given Valmont’s already powerful formulas. As Guillon confirms, “We adapt to the Americans — they like machines. But you don’t need it for the wow effect.”
Skye Parrott Writer and Photographer
Skye Parrott is the executive editor of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor in chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.
Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.