The founder of the Paris cosmetics house Jacques Courtin-Clarins was an erudite and unassuming ex-medical student who described his family business as “a dream fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams”. Clarins was awarded a Royal warrant of appointment by HM The Queen in 2007 as ‘manufacturers of skin care and cosmetics’. If you are invited to stay at one of the Royal palaces, there is a good chance you will find Clarins products in your bathroom. (It is known that HM The Queen’s ladies-in-waiting have been sent out for emergency supplies of its Hand and Nail Treatment Cream)
Instantly recognisable by its distinctive red packaging, Clarins, founded by Jacques Courtin in 1954, is renowned worldwide for its plant-based range of skincare products, cosmetics, and salon treatments. In 1978 he celebrated its success by adding Clarins to his own name.
Born in 1921, Courtin initially intended to become a doctor, and it was as a medical student that his ambition was thwarted by the onset of the Second World War. He turned his back on a conventional medical education in favour of working with the war wounded in the hospitals of Paris.
On the Liberation of Paris by the allies, Courtin decided to become a chiropractor and began, in tandem, to educate himself about his clients’ skincare needs. He became a masseur, concocting his own formula for body treatment oil, which today remains the foundation of the Clarins skincare range. In keeping with his philosophy for complete harmony between mind and body, Courtin cycled around his neighbourhood – often with his young son Christian in tow – to deliver his plant based creations and offering massage to customers to ease pain and promote better circulation.
In 1954, realising that cosmetics could also be considered therepuetic, he founded the first Clarins ‘Institut de Beaute’ in Rue Tronchet in Paris, the first to use 100% pure plant extracts. The institutes attracted a host of international celebrities. He said in 1999;
“From a very young age, I was exposed to the curative effects of plants by my mother and relatives who used herbs for medicine and treatment. Ever since, I looked to plants for answers. I cannot conceive a product without plants”.
As the company’s reputation grew, a chain of Clarins salons was opened in Paris using own-brand products for firming and slimming, together with a special method of body massage which Courtin christened “The Paris Method”. This essentially French technique became truly international, today being used world wide.
In 1977 the company expanded overseas and Courtin’s older son, Christian, was promoted to head the International Operations Division. As his father spoke only French, he turned to his son Christian to devise a strategy to promote Clarins globally. Today, Asia is Clarins’ biggest market, with the Selfridges department store in London the biggest single account.
Despite the phenomenal success of this quintessentially Parisian brand, the Clarins empire has consistently resisted the temptation to turn into an international conglomerate. The Courtin family insists on retaining ownership as a private family owned company.
In March 1991 Clarins launched its first make-up range, Le Maquillage. Again, Jacques Courtin-Clarins scored another first as pioneer in make-up with the inclusion of anti-pollution agents in their range of products.
Clarins was originally developed for beauty therapists to use in salon treatments and so continues to offer a full range of aroma-therapeutic facials, body treatments and massage at Clarins Skin Spa’s and privately owned salons throughout the UK. In 1992 Clarins entered into a partnership with fashion designer Thierry Mugler and launched the now renowned female fragrance Angel. Today Thierry Mugler Parfums has a stable of fragrances for men as well as women, including A*Men, Alien, Innocent and Mugler Cologne
In 2000 Jacques Courtin-Clarins handed over control to his two sons, Christian and Olivier and in 2002, launched their first men’s range.
For many years now, the Courtin-Clarins family have shared the rewards of their success with a number of international charitable organisations with either an environmental or social mission. In the UK this embraces the annual search for the Clarins Most Dynamisante Woman of the Year, a dynamic individual working tirelessly to improve the lives of sick or underprivileged children – who is then rewarded with a donation of £30,000 to her preferred charity.