Fashion & Beauty / Who, What, Why

The Eco-Friendly French Pharmacy Brand You Need To Know

We take a look at Leonor Greyl, the botanical hair care range that is equal parts romantic and serious, and eschews all holier-than-thou connotations of bio beauty products

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Artwork by Jack Bushrod

Who? In 1968, hair care and beauty obsessive Leonor Courtin met husband-to-be and botanist Jean-Marie Greyl. Leonor’s brother Jacques Courtin had founded Clarins in 1954 so her knowledge of, and access to, luxury skincare was practically unparalleled but she was frustrated by the fiercely synthetic hair products of that era – so, long before the trend for bio beauty began, the couple’s shared love of plants inspired them to build a beauty range that eschewed harsh chemicals and harnessed the nutritional value of their beloved botanicals. All the while they built their life together.

Today, second generation Greyl, Caroline Greyl, is at the helm of the brand – and in many ways besides, the brand’s DNA remains the same. History repeated itself when Caroline married biologist, chemist and plant lover, Tom Brooks, and brought him into the Leonor Greyl family fold and business. Brooks and Greyl continue to champion her parents’ pioneering ethos, though today the brand is represented in 450 hair salons, in over a hundred department stores, and in more than 40 countries around the world. Free from harsh chemicals and parabens, and oozing with natural floral fragrance, the range is still created with the purity and simplicity with which it was first conceived. 

What? Contained in glossy white tubes, delicately lettered with a serif font script, the Leonor Greyl products rather resemble those for-professional-use-only ointments you might see on the shelves of an old school Parisian spa – the kind of place where they do extractions with the severity of a school headmistress and scold patients for not using toner. At first glance, they are more closely aligned to beauty medicine than the contemporary school of ‘free-from’, yoga shala worthiness.

However, once these austere objects are cracked open, a symphony of botanicals is unleashed. Rich and luxurious – though never overpowering – their scents unpick all first impressions. The Lait Lavante à la Banane is a pale banana milkshake, mild and mellow; using the Shampooing au Miel is like bathing in milk and honey. And the Masque Fleurs de Jasmin is iconic in the truest sense of the word: its magic formula is a pale butter made from creamy white flowers, sultry but discreet. Such Ambrosian delights come at odds with their outward appearance, though their medicinal appeal makes such perfumed luxury all the more enjoyable: it is as if they are prescribed.

Why? Because this brand’s attitude to beauty long precedes the fashion for holier-than-thou holistic beauty. Huile de Leonor Greyl has been a global favourite for decades: a pre-treatment that’s slathered onto the hair before shampooing and harks back to an old school beauty routine that comes complete with cucumber slices on the eyelids. It has since come full circle to join our rekindled love of oils. To this day, narrow-hipped Parisian girls fling Leonor Greyl’s tinctures into their baskets at City Farma. And staying true to her namesake’s 1960s roots, Caroline Greyl know that there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke. Pure and simple ingredients don’t date and naturally (no pun intended), the French know a timeless classic when they see one.

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