“If you haven’t heard of Sophie Guillou,” said French graphic designer Helena Ichbiah, “you soon will.” I had been flipping through Helena’s portfolio when my interest was piqued by a little black box; on closer inspection it turned out to be deep, dark blue, embossed with the words Claudius N°1 – the name of Guillou’s newly launched dream cream for which Helena had created the brand identity.
Guillou, I discover, is a professional make-up artist, readying French movie stars, celebrities and models for their close-ups in film and print. Many of the famous faces in her chair confided the same desire: to find an all-in-one face cream to restore firmness, to reactivate cellular regeneration, plump up the skin, soothe irritation and reduce the appearance of lines – while also being natural.
It just so happened they were knocking on the right door; Guillou had been documenting the regenerative power of plants and natural sources of collagen for years. Her research led her to Centella asiatica, an Asian plant with phenomenal skin-healing properties first observed when wounded tigers were seen to roll themselves in its bushes, and immortelle, a wild Corsican herb found to stimulate cell renewal. Her longest quest, for the optimum source of natural collagen, led her to the ocean. “Marine collagen is closest to human collagen,” she says.
Convinced by Guillou’s research, I splurged on the resulting “miracle cream” (€180 for 50ml), which features 19 active ingredients including coconut, jojoba, argan and sesame oils, hyaluronic acid and oat extract, as well as the all-important sea elastin and sea collagen. Claudius N°1 comes in an opaque pump flacon, to protect the contents from air and light. One small pumpful is enough for the face and neck (although, naturally, I cheat and use three). It is delicately scented with a light texture instantly absorbed by the skin. Results are quickly tangible: after just two weeks my super-sensitive skin is less dry and reactive. Patchiness and redness are dissipated; my face and neck feel smoother, firmer and slightly more taut. It also means that, satisfyingly, my skincare regime is pared down to a good neutral cleanser followed by this single all-purpose cream.
I’m not at all surprised to learn that the first production run was snatched up by ultra-cool Paris stores Colette and Liquides “before I had time to write a business plan,” says Guillou, who is currently developing a second product that she refuses to reveal. Please, please, please let it be an eye cream.