It was probably around 2010 when I discovered my first beauty crush. I may have been wearing a pair of Uggs at the time. I was a newb beauty editor at a major fashion mag and this was long before oils were a thing. I was experiencing a heavenly Decléor aromatherapy facial at The Bay in Toronto. The waft of neroli oil—a warm orange blossom—had me hooked on the first nostril hit, and I treasured the little frosted flask of the Aromessence oil serum every time I'd pack for a press trip. Post-flight, I would pour out a few drops onto my palms, spread it around and press it onto my face, giving my skin a miraculously non-greasy glow and my spirit an instant boost (neroli is also known to aid in anxiety, so no joke it was a travel must for my finicky system).
Truth be told I never thought about who created that first love of mine until I was invited to meet the founder a couple of weeks back—didn't even know that person was still part of the company! Turns out she is, and her name is Solange Dessimoulie. She reminded me of a French Betty White. Besides the physical resemblance, I loved how this 70-something woman gave zero effs about what it was that she was supposed to say, instead speaking her mind because you know, she’s earned it. Of course, I didn’t understand much of what she said as she chatted on in French, but thankfully, I had an interpreter who worked hard to condense five sentences into one.
In 1976 Dessimoulie was a beautician studying aromatherapy at the University of Bobigny in France. It was then that she met up with an aromatherapist thirty years her senior named Caroline Colliard. Taking one look at the ‘energy’ in her face, Dessimoulie said, “You have a secret I want.” Together, they went on to pioneer the introduction of aromatherapy in skincare, something many of us spoiled spa-goers may take for granted today.
“The most difficult thing is to mix different essential oils and plant oils because of the complex molecules,” says Dessimoulie. “To retain good smell and good results, is truly a savoire faire, otherwise it can irritate or even burn the skin.” In the forty years since she started, essential oils are about as common today as a poké bar, but on both fronts, freshness of ingredients count, as does the proper recipe. The gold standard is a blend that mimics your skin’s natural pH and oil consistency so it penetrates rather than leaving a slick layer.
Equally as remarkable about Decléor though is its sparky founder, who has stayed close by even after the company has changed hands three times in her lifetime (in 2014 it was purchased by L’Oréal), and even as Dessimoulie floats through her Golden years. “I’m a dolphin in the industry, because I adapt and dah dah dah, dah dah dah,” she concludes, her hand gesturing as though it’s leaping through waves. No translation needed. – Carlene