Caudalie makes Venice its first West Coast boutique

Valdet Bajraktari, a manager of a Caudalíe boutique in New York, helps set up the first West Coast outpost in Venice.
(Christina House, For The Times)

In youth-obsessed Hollywood, the idea of aging, even if it’s like fine wine, may seem hard to swallow. But there may be something to that analogy. Since the virtues of red wine have been extolled for years — the antioxidants are said to prevent heart disease — why not try to harness those powers in anti-aging skin care products?

Many beauty brands have done just that, among them Caudalíe, a 19-year-old Parisian company that opened its first West Coast outpost, a boutique in Venice, this month.

Caudalíe’s products are free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, mineral oils, synthetic fragrances or colors. They feature three ingredients — resveratrol derived from grape vine stalk, which is supposed to firm the skin; “viniferine” from vine sap, to minimize dark spots; and antioxidant-rich grape seed polyphenols — that are supposed to fight the effects of aging.

Not surprisingly, the roots of Caudalíe can be traced to a winery. In 1993, Daniel Cathiard, owner of the Château Smith Haut Lafitte winery in Bordeaux, suggested that his daughter Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas (now her husband) meet a group of visiting researchers. Among them was Joseph Vercauteren, a University of Montpellier professor focused on the science of grape seed polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.


"[Vercauteren] told us, ‘When you are throwing away grape seeds after the harvest, you are throwing away treasures, because they are the most powerful antioxidants created by nature,’” says Mathilde Thomas, who ditched plans to work for a fragrance company and founded Caudalíe with her husband in 1995.

“All of these ingredients are forms of antioxidants, and the bottom line is that people are very concerned about oxidative damage, especially living here in L.A., where there is so much sun that is really structurally damaging to the skin, causing wrinkles and age spots and photo-related aging,” says Santa Monica-based dermatologist Dr. R. Sonia Batra, who is also a clinical assistant professor of Dermatology at the USC Keck School of Medicine. “We do think it’s helpful to use an antioxidant topically on the skin, so it is sitting there almost like a shield, protecting the cells so they stay more intact and trying to mop up that oxygen damage.”

The centerpiece of the boutique on Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a wine barrel-inspired Beauty Barrel Bar, where clients can receive a skin care consultation and complimentary 10-minute facial that includes a cleanse, scrub, mask and hand massage. An adjoining room is dedicated to manicure-pedicure stations.

The menu also includes four 50-minute facial services (from $105), an express 30-minute facial ($65) and three 50-minute body treatments ($95 each). One product offered exclusively in Venice is the Crushed Cabernet Body Scrub ($20), a custom blend of grape seeds, grape seed oil, brown sugar, honey and any combination of six aromatherapeutic organic essential oils, made on the premises and packaged in a glass jar labeled with the recipient’s name.


Products (starting at $9 for travel-size hand cream) are displayed on wooden wine crates, used as drawers and shelving. The brand’s top seller is Beauty Elixir ($49), a complexion-refreshing facial toner mist made of grape extract and the oils of orange blossom, rosemary, rose and mint.


Where: 1416 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
(310) 450-3560,; Château Smith Haut Lafitte red and white wines are available at Wally’s in West Los Angeles, (310) 475-0606,