Words by Emily Algar
La Prairie’s story begins on the pristine shores of lac Léman in Switzerland, where Dr. Paul Niehans spent his days inspired by its natural spoils – craggy mountains, crystalline waters and air so clean it was palpably sweet. In the 1920s, Dr. Niehans established himself as a surgeon in Montreux, devoting his time to the intricate – and relatively uncharted – study of cellular therapy. The findings were stunning, and Niehans soon became a leader in the field of cell regeneration, and how it’s interconnected with vital markers of youth.
In 1931, Niehans went on to nurture his philosophy at Clinique La Prairie, a top-secret wellness nirvana that played host to legends like Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis and Marlene Dietrich. Over the many years Niehans spent working at Clinique, over 5000 patients benefited from his masterful therapies, including the healing of Pope Pius XII in 1954. This thrust Neihans into the global spotlight, where he published his findings in Introduction to Cellular Therapy, and The Cell, Giver of Life.
Upon his death in 1971, Niehans left behind an abundance of medical information, including the formulation for a topical cream that was given to patients departing the clinic. This was reimagined by his successors, and in 1978 La Prairie skincare was born. The revolutionary range hinged on the magic that came from combining nature, science and art. In fact, the now iconic blue La Prairie packaging was inspired by French artist and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle and her use of rich cobalt. Saint Phalle just so happened to share a design studio with the La Prairie team, and thus the brand colour story was established. At a time where clinical white packaging was the norm, such a choice was considered audacious!
In 1987, the house research eventually led to the discovery of Skin Caviar: a world-first encapsulated delivery system that worked SKINCARE FIT FOR ROYALTY: CAUDALIE BEAUTY ELIXIR Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir was born from a book of spells dating back to the 16th century found on the banks of the Seine River in Paris. Inside the book was a recipe for an all-natural elixir used by the Queen of Hungary to care for her complexion – legend has it that it was the royal’s radiant skin that actually charmed the King of Poland (who was 35 years her junior at the time). Mathilde Thomas was working at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, a vineyard in Bordeaux owned by her parents, when she decided to rework the original formula with a contemporary (and French!) spin. Already immersed in the skincare space, Mathilde and her husband Bertrand had been exploring the antioxidant power of grape polyphenols, and so combined these learnings with the Queen’s famed formulation to produce Caudalie Beauty Elixir in 1997. The mist-toner hybrid was an instant cult item, loved by French skincare purists and celebrity makeup artists. It became a staple backstage at fashion weeks; a sort of industry secret for refreshing a model’s skin between shows. Public praise from high profile figures – including Victoria Beckham in 2012 and Rosie Huntington Whitely in 2017 – further cemented it as an iconic product, and it’s been an international best-seller ever since. Part of the appeal of Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir is that in the 25 years since it launched, the formula has remained exactly the same: Benzoin to soothe the skin, myrrh to tone, essential oils of rosemary from Tunisia to energise and peppermint to stimulate, along with to contain active ingredients sourced from real caviar. Some 10 years later, this gave way to the launch of Skin Caviar Luxe Cream: a superlative formula that was inspired by Niehans’ early work but through a modern lens. The immediate reception was overwhelming. Considered the Swiss pinnacle in luxury skincare, Skin Caviar was almost instantly inducted into the beauty hall of fame. Lauded for its ability to supremely nourish, firm and lift depleted skin, the Luxe Cream is now one of those products that speaks to more than just skincare – instead, it represents innovation, science, technology and the intersection between health and the natural world.
It did undergo a renovation of sorts in 2018, where the formula was upgraded to incorporate Caviar Premier. The newly formed extract is said to capture all of the regenerating benefits that come with caviar, whereas previously some of it was lost in the extraction process.
However, almost 25 years later, the fundamentals remain the same: an iconic cream that focuses on cellular skin health in order to preserve the luminosity that comes with youth. To use Niehans words, La Prairie aims to ‘not only to add years to life, but to add life to years.’
1931: Dr. Paul Niehans begins his work in cellular therapy at Clinique La Prairie
1978: La Prairie Topical Skincare is born
1982: The iconic cobalt packaging is established
1987: Skin Caviar technology is born, containing active ingredients sourced from real caviar
1998: Skin Caviar Luxe Cream enters the market
2018: The Luxe Cream is upgraded with Caviar Premier