Domaine Clarins à Serraval


Domaine Clarins

A secret garden next door to Lake Annecy
Nov. 2023
5 min.

Created in 1954 in Paris by Jacques Courtin-Clarins, the iconic cosmetics brand stood out at the time as a pioneer with its holistic approach by harmoniously integrating wellness and beauty together. The application of this visionary combination, took full advantage of the intrinsic power of plants

Did you know that recently, Clarins chose a plot of land in Serraval as the place to cultivate its truly extraordinary plant garden?

Domaine Clarins, an open air laboratory

Cultivating fields in the mountains is not a mere fad, the idea of planting an alpine garden grew for several years in Christian’s and Olivier Courtin-Clarins’s heads, the founder’s sons, before sprouting in 2016 when they purchased 10 hectares of mountainside property in the nearby town of Serraval.

During the process, they verified that no farms were nearby, thus avoiding any potential soil contamination. This new venture takes the brand back to its roots; from the very beginning Clarins has heralded the benefits of alpine plants in its cosmetic and skin care products, this includes the world-renowned makeup remover it perfected in 1967 and the still remains a standard-setter today.

Christian Courtin-Clarins

© Clarins / Christian Courtin-Clarins

“This garden is a dream come true, a real-life love story between Mother Nature and the brand, and a peek into the future of beauty products.”

Nestled at 1400 meters elevation, Domaine Clarins is an alpine botanical garden dedicated to plant observation and cultivation. Lemon balm, wood sanicle, houseleeks, gentian flower, sweet grass, alpenrose… on 10 hectares of land: more than thirty species of plant are organically grown using permaculture farming techniques.

“We keep a careful eye on every plant, applying an almost scientific approach to ensure that we make products of the highest quality,” explains Jean-Pierre Nicolas, an ethnobotanist who works closely with the Domaine Clarins’s staff, and who knows the hidden secrets of plants in the Alps and beyond.

Domaine Clarins in Serraval

© Clarins / Domaine Clarins in Serraval

“The location is like a theater where the plants take center stage for us to watch them perform.”

Here, horses are used to plough the fields to preserve soil quality and maintain the area’s biodiversity. This careful, respectful approach to agriculture means the plants overflow with the highest-quality active compounds. As Christian Courtin-Clarins emphasizes, “A high-quality product is the result of high-quality raw ingredients.”

In 2019, 1.5 metric tons of fresh plants were harvested, approximately 290 kilograms when dried. The drying process also takes place in the fields above Serraval, following a specify process to preserve the qualities of the active compounds. Domaine Clarins has already integrated six organic extracts into its products: alpenrose into My Clarins face care, houseleeks in the Clarins Men balm, and gentian flower into the Velours makeup remover cream, as well as lemon balm, butterburs, and soapwort.

The initial results look promising, but Paris, like Rome, was not built in a day, and in the short term the brand would like 100% of its production to be sourced straight from field to bottle. This means expanding beyond Domaine Clarins.

Domaine Clarins in Serraval

© Olivier Loser / Domaine Clarins in Serraval

The queen of the night, the latest Clarins recruit

This is where the queen of the night enters. Contrary to what the name would have you believe, this is not the latest pop star to hit the dance floors, but a plant from Central America whose singularity is that it grows by moonlight. Its white, velvety petals lined with specks of gold, along with the majesty of its corolla, measuring 40 cm in diameter, reveal the flower’s delicate nature.

Imported in France around fifteen years ago, it has taken very well to the climate in Brittany. A rare gem “casted” by the ethnobotanists at Clarins who, after studying it for years, revealed its quintessential nature through high-technology: cryoextraction. The flowers are frozen just after harvesting to preserve their active molecules, and then dipped in liquid nitrogen at -196°C.

Clarins boutique in Annecy

© Luca Lomazzi / Clarins boutique in Annecy

The result is a unique range of skin care products, at the crossroads between nature and scienc, capable or reactivating a skin cell’s natural resilience. 

The brand launched its Clarins Precious line of products last spring. To learn more, visit the new Precious counter at the boutique in the Nouvelles Galeries mall. Take advantage of a 5 to 15 minute time slot to learn all about how to use these products.

The Clarins Annecy boutique, an ode to sustainable beauty

To come full circle, and add to its founding philosophy that taking care of yourself, others, and the world around you makes life beautiful, Clarins just opened an eco-friendly boutique in Annecy’s Nouvelles Galeries mall.

The brand integrated its sustainability initiatives into the boutique. All materials were chosen with care and respect for people and the planet. Everything is recyclable, and water and energy use are as efficient as possible. The wood, 100% natural, comes from PEFC-certified forests (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), the tables and counters are made with KRION® K-LIFE, which has air-purifying properties when in contact with light.

Clarins boutique in Annecy

© Luca Lomazzi / Clarins boutique in Annecy

The floor is made with leftover bits and fragments of marble, the lighting uses only LED bulbs, and the screens are as eco-friendly and low-energy as possible.

The magnificent Clarins herbarium, staged as a plant wall, showcases a selection of the brand’s 208 active ingredients, all ecologically and sustainably sourced.

Sensory immersion into the Clarins universe

Halfway between the institute, spa, and boutique is the ideal location to take a break anytime of the day to focus on beauty in one of its many forms. Stop by for a quick 30-minute treatment, for advice about beauty products, for a quick look at your skin, and even try some makeup for free. If you have a little time, opt for a 30-minute to 1.5-hour treatment. 

As soon as you walk in, the unique fragrances surround you and awaken your senses. The olfactory and sensory-stimulating journey adds an amazing dimension to your treatment. And the youthful results are immediately visible.

Clarins boutique staff in Annecy (Audrey – Fanny – Liza – Lara)

© Clarins / Clarins boutique staff in Annecy (Audrey – Fanny – Liza – Lara)

In addition to the magical properties of plants and the art of mixology (combining several products to maximize their effects), you will learn about the importance of “Clarins technique,” an exclusive hands-only method where every gesture has a purpose and target; an integral part of the brand’s unique trademark. 

A special thanks the staff in Annecy – Audrey, Fanny, Liza and Lara – for their hospitality, attentiveness, and kindness. In short, you just have to stop by the boutique. Note that Domaine Clarins gardens in Serraval are not open to the public, but the boutique does offer a virtual tour.


  • © Clarins / Domaine Clarins in Serraval

Journalist: Aude Pollet-Thiollier

Translation: Darin Reisman