Most of us know of Bioderma thanks to their cult micellar water, Sensibio H20. The company was, in fact, the first to launch a micellar cleanser (known in France as Crealine), back in 1995. I've been a long time fan of that and also used their Atoderm products when my skin is having a sensitive freak out and on my kids' eczema, so was thrilled when I was invited to visit the brand's factory in the South of France. As I discovered on my four day adventure, Bioderma is one of the top skincare lines in France, with a dedication to dermatology and some serious innovation at its heart.
In The Air
I’m lucky enough to be flying Emirates Business on one of their new direct flights to Nice – which is a bonus, because having to take an additional flight from Paris to Nice can be pretty exhausting after 24 hours of traveling. Before I do anything else I start my in-flight beauty ritual – I like to get my moisture on before the cabin air sucks the life out of me. I pull out my Bioderma care package that Emilie, Bioderma’s Brand Manager - who will be hosting us on the trip - has sent me and make a little video on my routine – eliciting many bemused expressions from my neighbours (story coming soon). I do a few hours of work then reward myself with a movie. After a stop in Dubai, a shower in the lounge and plane switch, the flight attendant comes to put a mattress over my cushy flat bed so I can have a snooze. Six hours goes by in a flash and I arrive at Nice feeling super fresh, considering the epic trip I’ve just made.
We land at lunchtime and drive to Cannes and check into the Majestic Barrière Hotel – which is one of the hotels that hosts the Cannes Film Festival. I take a quick shower testing a few products that were thoughtfully left as a welcome pack in our room. I slick on a generous layer of the Hydrabio Serum Moisturising Concentrate then meet up with Emilie and the other media, Michelle and Bonnie, hitting the Croisette for a walk in the Spring sunshine. There’s a chill in the air but the sun is warm, and the promenade is crowded with people. Dinner is at a little local restaurant – the oldest in Cannes, founded in 1860 – the waiter ushers us in to a beautiful table by a roaring fire and we dine on Provencale stuffed vegetables and roasted fish. By 9 o’clock, we’re all falling asleep in our lemon meringue tarts so we stumble back to the hotel. I slather the Sensibio Soothing Mask on my skin and sleep in it, desperate to put some moisture back into my parched complexion.
I wake to my alarm at 6.30am and my skin is feeling much more comfortable – the mask must have done its work. I throw on some clothes and race downstairs to an indulgent breakfast of crusty baguettes, cheese and croissants – when in France, hey? We set off by 8am for some sightseeing. When we pull up to the Marina in Cannes – surprise! - there’s a helicopter waiting to take us to Monaco. What a way to travel!
The day is bright and the visibility is perfect as we arc over the crystal Mediterranean and bob down into Monaco – the tiny country has the highest concentration of Billionaires in the world and has just been named the most expensive city in the world to live. Despite the high rise apartments that crowd the bay, the yellow-toned architecture and Marina filled with superyachts give it a quaint meets uber luxe vibe.
We jump into a chauffeur-driven car and climb through the streets up to the Monaco Palace to do a tour of the castle. After a wander through the gardens. Then it’s our next surprise transport – a quaint little 2CV French car to take us up to the Eze for lunch. 427 metres above sea level, the ancient fairytale village (believed to have been founded in 2000 BC) is carved into a mountain top and enjoys expansive views over the neighbouring towns of the French Riviera. Our restaurant Chateau Eza has the most jaw-dropping view that stretches out to the impossibly blue ocean. The food is sublime. Even something seemingly as simple as a pea soup takes on epic proportions of deliciousness.
Today we are visiting the laboratory and factory that produces Bioderma under the parent company Naos (they also make Institut Esthederm and Etat Pur). After a two hour drive to through the undulating hills of the cote D’Azur we arrive at a sleek cement building in the industrial area of Aix-En-Provence and head through a presentation that takes through the companies ethos and Bioderma’s points of difference – of which there are many... The main thing that stands out to me is that this is a company that doesn’t make products for the sake of it – they collaborate with dermatologists, paediatricians and key opinion leaders in the scientific world to answer specific skincare concerns and issues.
Bioderma utilise the latest research and employ only ingredients that are proven to work. They have created over 50 patents themselves and many of their breakthroughs into eczema, sun care and acne have been published in dermatology journals. Ever the skeptic, I’m particularly impressed by the lack of marketing hype and the brands sincere dedication to science and innovation.
Lisa takes us on a tour through the most attractive light-filled lab I’ve ever seen – it is filled with natural light and enjoys a view out to verdant foliage. It’s also filled with female scientists – rare in the labs that I’ve visited. Next stop is the factory – a two minute drive away – where we view some pretty impressive machinery and a production line of thousands of bottles of SensiBio – they produce 10,000 bottles of it a day – to fulfil the latent demand. One is sold every two seconds somewhere in the world.
The hygiene standards are impeccable here, they use only medical grade purified water in all of their products (which is the same as pharmaceutical companies but not usually required of beauty brands) and test and retest the H20 several times a day at each stage of the production process. Lisa tells us that each product goes through 125 quality control tests – which is, again, the same standard required of pharmaceutical products.
This is one of the reasons Bioderma is considered a dermacosmetic, rather than a regular cosmetic. In France, dermacosmetics are prescribed by doctors and pharmacists for skin ailments, who are very au fait with skin conditions and their treatment. This is why French pharmacies are such a skincare treasure trove, and why French women trust these brands above all else to keep their complexion looking tres jolie. To really understand the product in context we tour through two French pharmacies and saw Bioderma’s impressive point of sale display with all ten of their lines including Cicabio for damaged and irritated skin and their incredible sun line Photoderm – products from both lines are launching into Australia later this year.
We have lunch in the nearby restaurant at Hotel Le Pigonnet and Emilie spots two French film stars in our midst on two separate tables. Our Entrecote (steak) with Eggplant Lasagne is perfection, with a warm chocolate cake to finish. This is getting ridiculous – surreptitiously pop a button on the jeans on the way home.
It’s nearly home time and we have a flight after lunch, so after one last breakfast for cheese and croissants, I head back to the room to pack and do some work. It’s deadline day so I spend the morning editing copy and checking our newsletter before racing to the lobby to meet up the team. We have our final lunch in the Beach restaurant in front of the hotel and somehow manage to fit in more food – delicious fish and crème brulee. We all agree the trip has been the ultimate introduction to a brand that is a benchmark for seriously effective skincare in France. I can’t wait to introduce you to some more of their products launching in the coming months.
Story by Sigourney Cantelo