There are luxury vacations that revolve around one highly coveted restaurant reservation — a trip to Modena, Italy, to eat at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana or a Sonoma, California, jaunt booked just for a three-starred Michelin meal at SingleThread Farm. Similarly, we travel halfway around the world to sample Champagne in Épernay, France, or whiskey distilled in the Scottish Highlands. This past fall, I tried a different kind of sightseeing: beauty tourism. More specifically, I toured Switzerland with Valmont Cosmetics to see where the all-natural ingredients packed into the iconic skin care brand’s products are sourced and learn how this small-scale beauty company has become a coveted spa amenity at five-star hotels. By Maya Kachroo-Levine
From the alluring gold packaging used for Valmont’s iconic, 20-year-old L’Elixir des Glaciers line to the deliberate sourcing of each ingredient in their 124-product arsenal, this brand has a meticulous approach to luxury. The results-oriented products — and the user experience attached to their skin care regimens — are painstakingly well thought out.
Valmont Cosmetics’ journey to becoming one of the most luxurious hotel amenities brand
That same diligence has gone into the curation of Valmont Cosmetics’ garden, located within Val d’Hérens, an alpine valley in Arolla, Switzerland. On a sunny September morning, I took a bus along with three other journalists to reach the in-demand patch of Alps acreage where Valmont grows a lush display of flora and fauna used in their products. The blossoming phyto-alpine gardens, on the foothills of a snow-capped mountain that looks straight out of The Sound of Music, overflow with sea buckthorn brambles, echinacea, and a series of plants that I identified thanks to a workbook our Valmont hosts had brought along. It’s not hard to see why the cream of the beauty crop sources from this part of the world, where the air is so clear I couldn’t help but inhale deeply as soon as I stepped off the bus in an effort to somehow combat eight years of LA smog inhalation.
After matching the herbs in the garden to their corresponding products, we went to yet another site that gives life to Valmont Cosmetics: the glacier from which their water is sourced. A few km from Valmont’s jardins, I hiked the base of Glacier d’Arolla, where a stream of pristine water cascaded down the mountain beside my path. That water is the lifeblood of every Valmont Cosmetics’ product — including the Primary line I use at home every day. I fought the urge to submerge my face into the glacial stream on the off chance one dunk would slow the worry lines forming on my forehead.
Standing on a glacier that produces the very ingredients seeping into my visage from my morning skin care routine is as experiential as beauty gets. And interacting with the Valmont brand while travelling feels authentic to the brand’s ethos. In fact, that’s exactly what they’ve set out to do at luxury hotels around the world.
At Le Meurice, the Dorchester Collection outpost opposite the Tuileries in Paris’s first arrondissement, travellers experience two different takes on beauty tourism: one of the world’s most extravagant facials at Spa Valmont, and La Maison Valmont, a beauty boutique located within the hotel. The latter feels more like a high-end jewellery atelier than a cosmetics emporium (by design), with well-lit, gold-plated Storie Veneziane perfume displays, makeup and face creams exhibited behind thick glass, and a discreet consultation room for VIP clientele.
Spa Valmont at Le Meurice is a separate space entirely. There are only 12 Spa Valmonts in the world, including the one at Airelles Château de Versailles and the most recent Spa Valmont debut at The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel. But it’s at Le Meurice, home of the only Spa Valmont in Paris, where I tried the pièce de résistance of spa treatments worth travelling for: the 90-minute Majestic facial, which costs USD 450 (INR 33,513) and incorporates a finely honed sculpting massage and three face masks, including the penultimate collagen mask. The spa also offers treatments tied to specific Valmont lines, like an L’Elixir des Glaciers facial, which starts at USD 330 (INR 24,576) for a 90-minute treatment.
Experiencing Valmont products as hotel amenities while travelling abroad is a core pillar of the coveted beauty brand. Valmont CEO Sophie Guillon, who has been with the brand for nearly 30 years since she came over from Saint Laurent (then Yves Saint Laurent), was the one who initially integrated Valmont into five-star spas. She launched the idea of Valmont spas in 2003 with her partner, Didier Guillon, when, as she explained, “every [beauty brand] came to this new spa business.” But while a number of luxury beauty brands attempted to set up shop in five-star hotels, only a handful stood the test of time.
“We are one of the brands surviving from that business. [Many beauty brands] went into [spas] but disappeared. How did we succeed? It’s the ‘wow’ effect. After one hour of treatment, you can see the effect on the skin,” Guillon told me. That’s how Valmont “replaced other brands in spas,” she added.
The “wow effect” isn’t an overstatement. For an hour and a half, numerous high-priced Valmont products (with price tags north of USD 500 or INR 37,237) were rhythmically pounded into my cheeks and forehead. I lost track of the products used on me — somewhere around the half-hour mark, I slipped into a trance and quite possibly achieved nirvana — but when my treatment concluded, my specialist walked me through an evaluation of my skin and the products used to address each blemish.
Guillon said one of the clear reasons Valmont has excelled in the luxury hotel space over 20 years is that they exceed the expectations of hotel spas’ most discerning clientele. She pointed out that, at a five-star hotel, you can’t offer guests a brand “where they don’t see the difference before and after” a treatment. These travellers are accustomed to the very best, which is why Valmont’s treatments are so results-oriented.
“It is very Swiss,” Guillon said. “There are no surprises. We don’t pretend. We don’t make promises we can’t keep. This is how we found our way.”
Related: Air France Just Opened A Luxurious New Airport Spa With This French Beauty Brand