An alpine exploration into cult beauty brand Valmont

When you hear the term “going local,” you might think of a stall at the farmers market selling Ontario peach pies. A chilled Niagara-on-the-Lake white served with artisanal cheeses at your neighbourhood wine bar. A small-batch lip balm bought on Etsy.

But you’d be forgiven if a $260 luxury anti-aging cream plucked from the cosmetics counter at a high-end department store wasn’t top of mind. Valmont, however, has built its business on redefining the concept of local. Switzerland’s pristine natural resources, such as glacial spring water and freshly harvested honey, feature heavily in the Swiss skin care brand’s products. As the brand’s animated, ageless CEO Sophie Guillon explains, love is another essential ingredient. “My creations are a message for my customers, for the people I love. It’s a mission,” she says when we meet for cocktails at the chic terrace bar of Hotel Kempinski in Geneva, home base for the alpine adventures that await. Guillon likens Valmont’s use of ingredients to those used by chefs in top restaurants. “If you want to make people come back to your restaurant, you put the best in the dish. It’s a labour of love.”

I had a chance to get intimately acquainted with that labour of love this summer, when I visited some of the far-reaching places where Valmont sources its ingredients. My first stop was the Arolla glacier, Valmont’s fountain of youth, which stands about 2,000 metres tall. The glacier water used in Valmont’s skin care is as pure as it gets: tapped after a journey downslope, it naturally filters through the glacier’s porous rock and collects calming trace minerals on its way. It’s then taken directly to Valmont without a single preservative. I had the chance to dip my fingers into the milky nectar, whose delectably cold tingle made my heart skip a beat.

The fount of Valmont’s glacial water is larger than life, but the source of the brand’s honey is decidedly more intimate — in fact, it’s harvested by one person. I met Valmont’s beekeeper, Stephanie, at her bee farm in Satigny, outside Geneva. At first glance, it seemed wrong to even call it a farm — the only thing distinguishing it from the rolling green fields around it was a tiny white shack sitting 10 metres from the road. But a closer look revealed rows of beehives — 500 hives that house at least 40,000 bees each — where the little black and yellow wonders produce anti-aging, moisturizing, antioxidant-rich and naturally antibacterial liquid gold. Like Arolla’s glacial water, Stephanie’s honey is taken straight to Valmont’s facilities without a single preservative.

Since 1985, the brand has been using the latest innovations in cellular cosmetics to dream up products designed to help customers make time stand still. But it’s not all white lab coats — as Guillon explains, pleasure is just as important as science. “We’re coming up with products that play with textures and the five senses. [Skin care] is like a ritual, not a burden, that brings pleasure and indulgence.”

This fall, the focus is on AWF5 V-Line Lifting and AWF5 V-Shape Filling, two new lines of plumping and lifting products designed to repair collagen and elastin; Guillon said she had “a ball” developing them. With 18 per cent active ingredients (that’s around five times that of most competitors) that took more than three years to develop, it’s clear that when it comes to quality skin care, patience is indeed a virtue.

Travel and accommodations for Jennifer Berry were provided by Valmont. Valmont did not review or approve this story.