Smile, Please!

three diffrent flavoured toothpastes on a green background with mint leaves

I’m always fascinated to talk to fellow entrepreneurs. I first stumbled across Lebon in Paris, in the new Printemps beauty store – and realised it was one of those ‘duh-why-didn’t-someone-think-of-it-before’ products. Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to talk to the creators of the first toothpaste brand that looks as good as it smells, smells as good as it tastes. (And happens to be organic, with it. Which definitely matters to those of us who care about what we put in our mouths.)

So no wonder this up-and-coming brand – created near perfumery’s capital of Grasse, working with one of that town’s leading fragrance houses – is revolutionising the toothpaste market, stocked in 30 countries around the world and in spiffy department stores including Joyce in Hong Kong and Le Printemps in Paris (and of course, right here on VH), just five years after launch.

Lebon turns out to be the ‘baby’ of former art historian and photographer Stephanie Palacci and her cosmetic scientist husband Richard. In fact, they were on a sojourn in Costa Rica, where the couple spent chunks of time with their two children, when the idea came to her. ‘It’s a country where smells are so powerful,’ Stephanie explained to me. ‘It was rainy season, and there were so many scents in the air – the grass, the forest, the jungle, the flowers, all the smells that you have after a tropical downpour. And it clicked for me: I wanted to have that experience when I brushed my teeth. I wanted to bring the beach, the forest, a sunlit afternoon, the joy of travel right into the bathroom for people.’

Both from entrepreneurial families, the couple had previously thought about creating a skincare brand together. ‘But everything has already been done, and we couldn’t imagine bringing something that was better to the market than was already in existence.’ Oral care, however, offered a gap in the market much, much wider than the one in Lara Stone’s smile. Sure, there was a new generation of luxury whitening toothpastes on the market. Yes, natural food stores now offered effective alternatives to the ultra-foaming mainstream brands who’ve dominated the toothpaste industry for forever. But a toothpaste that also whisked you to a desert island, a Côte d’Azur swimming pool or a beach in Rio, just as perfume can…? That had never been done. ‘When I told him my concept, Richard said: “I could do that.”’

At that time, when not ensconced in the jungles of Costa Rica, the couple were based in the South of France, where Richard worked teaching cosmetic science. Tentatively, they approached one of  most prestigious and historic perfume houses, founded in the 18th Century in nearby Grasse, which works with haute couture fragrance names and other leading international perfume brands. (Their identity remains a guarded secret, Stephanie explains – and I’ll let her off for being coy; when big brands get a whiff of start-ups’ success, there’s often an attempt to copy what they’re doing, which can crush a small brand with limited resources.)

Not surprisingly, the fragrance house became as excited by the project as the couple themselves. More surprisingly, Stephanie didn’t use her library of travel photographs as part of the briefing process. Instead, she explains, ‘we talked a lot about my memories of travel and the scent that places conjure up for me.’ It was a given that every fragrance for the range should have mint somewhere in its flavour/fragrance formula. ‘Above everything else, what you want a toothpaste to deliver is a sensation of freshness in the mouth – and nothing does that like mint,’ Stephanie acknowledges. But the complex aromas were built from there.

Tropical Crush, for instance, gives us mint in the background, playing up notes of luscious pineapple– conjuring up memories for Stephanie of drinking cocktails on Brazilian beaches – alongside anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial rooibos red tea. My own favourite, Sweet Extravagance – described by Lebon as ‘haute couture and sexy’ – offers very detectable notes of orange blossom and rose, with just a whisper of cool mintiness; a very different sensory experience, for sure, to the usual tooth-brushing drudgery. And you can turn the page for the globe-trotting stories behind the rest of the collection.

The other ‘given’, for the couple, was that their toothpaste should be organic. ‘I don’t want to have to compromise between my health – or that of my family – and a good, pleasurable moment, brushing my teeth,’ says this mother of two teenagers. The 97% natural formulas avoid sulfates, PEGs, artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings (the flavours, which all come from Grasse, are 100% natural, using the best press of essential oils). More recently, Lebon added whitening options to their range, innovatively using papain extract (from papaya) for its natural brightening enzyme effect. ‘They won’t make your teeth unnaturally super-white,’ she says, ‘but they will stop staining from tea or wine.’ The chosen sweetener, meanwhile, is the natural, calorie-free plant Stevia rebaudiana.

For logistical reasons, meanwhile, although the toothpastes – and now mouthwash – are all manufactured in France, the Palaccis relocated to the countryside outside Brussels. ‘From the office I can see cows and lambs,’ smiles Stephanie. ‘But I’m 20 minutes from the Eurostar or from flights to many different destinations. Brussels is a hub, whereas Provence just isn’t. And besides,’ she adds, ‘with a growing business and a family that was growing up, I needed the support system of being near my family.’

For world-class shoppers and brand aficionados, meanwhile, there are two last factors which make us happy to trade up from our usual toothpaste choices to Lebon – despite the fairly hefty price tag. (Though in my experience, a tube of Lebon lasts three to four months. As a fragrance-lover, I definitely spend way longer brushing my teeth now my toothpaste makes me close my eyes and think of St. Tropez or Costa Rica than I did before. And what price a great smile, eh?)

Lebon toothpastes also look completely fantastic – almost certainly, the first toothpastes on the planet which will have you re-arranging your bathroom shelf, to show off your toothpaste. They couldn’t do a better job of catching the customer’s eye from across a store. But in common with many start-ups, Lebon didn’t realise quite how clever they were being there, either. ‘It’s the icing on the cake,’ Stephanie maintains.‘It just reflected our aesthetic and our taste. People often talk about how cool the packaging is, now – but we haven’t been to business school and we certainly never used a focus group. We simply did what felt and looked right, to us.’

But what customers will also notice about Lebon is that they’ve taken inspiration from the fragrance industry when naming each toothpaste. ‘You don’t buy a perfume that is just called “Rose”, do you?,’ notes Stephanie. So Lebon offer us Cap Ferrat Mood, Back to Pamplelonne, Fearless Freedom… I wanted to recreate the experience I had when I put on my Hermès Un Jardin en Mediterrannée,’ explains Stephanie. ‘The name already gets my brain working in a particular way, I know what to expect… It takes me somewhere, even before I’ve sprayed my fragrance, and I wanted Lebon to offer an experience like that.’

We’re all used to our fragrance transporting us to far-flung places, as we dab and spritz. How exciting for perfume-lovers that the formerly mundane task of brushing our teeth can has been pimped into a magic carpet ride, too. Just don’t blame Stephanie Palacci if there’s a queue for your bathroom, from here on in.

I asked Stephanie to share her other travel inspirations for the Lebon range…

Cap Ferrat Mood ‘This is the freshest one. Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat is a peninsula in the South of France; there are a lot of pine forests where people walk and jog. The mixture of different mints conjures up the freshness of that, but with a touch of vanilla for sweetness. A great kick-start to the day.’

Villa Noacarlina ‘A combination of my children’s names, Charline (now 16) and Noe (13). We were staying in Costa Rica and we had cinnamon candles burning in the villa, so we recreated that in this toothpaste.’

Une Piscine à Antibes ‘Conjuring up the famous pool at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc hotel in Antibes, looking out over the blue Mediterranean, where we love to swim.’

Sweet Extravagance ‘A reminder of a visit to Hollywood; there’s so much glitter there, and this combination of rose and orange blossom seems very extravagant, yet also has a delicate side.’

Le White ‘With antioxidant sweet mint, from Morocco, to evoke Moroccan tea.’

Fearless Freedom ‘This is more a mood than a place, from one of Richard’s ideas – designed to make you feel strong and courageous, with its powerful blackcurrant note.’

Back to Pamplelonne ‘Pure sunshine. When we visit Le Pamplelonne beach, we always have mango salad: little slivers of mango, layered with mint leaves. For me, this instantly brings back walking along sandy Mediterranean beaches.’

Shop the full range of Lebon toothpastes, here.

The Beauty Bible August Essentials

Orange paper with a tear in the middle with the number 6 inside and the word six below

Over the years, we’ve seen that, slathered this, tried that. (And sent literally thousands of products out to be trialled by our Beauty Bible testers, too.) So as true connoisseurs of beauty products with (blimey!) 50+ years’ experience between us. we like to think we recognise a great product when we see it. As of course, does Gill, which is why all the following, chosen over the past months as ‘Beauty Bible Loves’ picks on our own website, can be found on VH. We bring you six of the best, which we’ve raved about recently – and share what we said about them on our own website.

Sea Magik Turmeric Serenity Salts

Unusually, Jo was felled earlier this year by a nasty virus and spent a couple of days in bed. (Nobody can remember this in recent history.) She needed something to get her back on her feet, however – and these came up trumps. They’re Epsom salts – known to be amazingly restorative – but with some added extras. The first is anti-inflammatory turmeric (which gives the bath a pale yellow tinge). Jo was super-generous and added half a pack, being in the midst of a real health S.O.S., but a cupful would do for a typical bath. The second is bitter orange oil, which is wonderfully mood-lifting and definitely helped ramp up her energy levels a few degrees. And then there’s safflower oil – enough of it to leave skin really quite soft and silky. The result? She definitely experienced a Lazarus effect – enough to get her through a weekend of guests and a christening, and put her back on the path to feeling ‘normal’.
Sea Magik Turmeric Serenity Salts, £8.99

Lebon Organic Toothpastes

Now, this was a beauty/wellness category ripe for some serious innovation. So: say ‘bonjour’ to a range of luxury toothpastes created in tandem with perfumer/flavour experts in Grasse. Which, as you might guess, means that Lebon oralcare offers a very different sensory experience to the usual tooth-brushing drudgery. The first flavour to capture our imagination was Sweet Extravagance, described as ‘haute couture and sexy’, in which ‘rose embraces orange blossom with a hint of mint’. And yes, it’s just as delectable as that sounds.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed Rhythm is Love, featuring citrusy yuzu and ylang ylang, ‘the flower of the flowers’. (Next on our toothpaste wishlist – and who knew there could be such a thing? – is Tropical Crush, which blends pineapple with rooibos and mint.) Above and beyond that, though, they’re all so colourfully and stylishly packaged that Lebon will have you rearranging your bathroom shelf, to show off your toothpaste.
Lebon Organic Toothpastes, from £17.99

Weleda Skin Food Light

Well, this only happens once every few decades. Weleda have never been a launch-a-minute kind of brand – it simply doesn’t fit with their ethos. (Weleda products are NATRUE-certified natural and with high levels of organics, always, NB.) Skin Food’s been around since 1926 – and it’s taken them almost 100 years to add to the line-up! Personally, we love the richness of the original Skin Food – it’s something we often advise people to turn to when their skin’s flaring up. But not everyone wants that kind of rich texture (notably combination skin types). So, with its slightly more grass-green packaging, Skin Food Light has an airier texture, yet includes all the same healing botanicals: calendula, chamomile, viola tricolor and rosemary. (It retains the signature sweet orange and lavender light fragrance that so many love.) We really hope it doesn’t take them another 93 years to extend this wonderful skincare line even further…
Weleda Skin Food Light, £12.95

Sarah Chapman Icon Night

This cream is like shrugging on your favourite cashmere sweater. Just comforting and inviting, instantly soothing (and instantly improving skin’s appearance with an ever-so-slightly-radiant-yet-not-shimmery finish, we’ve observed). Since we’re talking about Sarah Chapman, of course, it is fired up by a slew of wonder ingredients. So: should you want the science bit, we can reveal that this cream offers ‘a revolutionary X503 targeted peptide drone delivery system’. There’s ‘retinaldehyde vitamin A’ in there, too. Frankly, this isn’t what interests us about any skin cream. It’s surely clever stuff – and few facialists know more about skin or have higher standards than Sarah Chapman. (Yes, it’s pricy. But there are much more expensive creams out there.) But at Beauty Bible what we look for, always, is a product that delivers sensory pleasure while you use it – and visible results, ideally both instantly (as in this case) and over the longer-term.

After using this for a while ourselves, we’re certainly noticing fine lines are finer, and skin is brighter – but it hasn’t been long, so we’ll stick with it. (No reaction to the vitamin A ingredient, by the way, which we sometimes experience in form of redness and irritation. So that’s a good sign. But it is important to up the daytime SPF whenever you’re using a vitamin A product.) Most of all, we look forward to using it, at bedtime. Almost as much as slipping between cool sheets with a good book and a hot night-time drink. A cream that makes us feel like that will win our hearts, every time.
Sarah Chapman Icon Night Cream, £98

This Works Sleep Power Recharge Mask

Yes, you will look like Avatar when you apply this bright blue mask, via its brush top. (A very soothing feeling, BTW.) No, you should not open the door to the DPD delivery guy wearing it. But when you remove after 20 minutes, skin will be brightened by the fruit acids and plumped by a surge of hyaluronic acid. And yes, if you’re an aromatherapy devotee, you’re going to adore the scent – grounding and uplifting at once, with its blend of vetiver, patchouli, camphor and lemon.
This Works Sleep Power Recharge Mask, £32

Ilapothecary Beat The Blues Shower & Bath Oil and Beat The Blues Pulse Point

Ever since we first smelled Ilapothecary’s Beat the Blues blend, we’ve been spritzing the air at Beauty Bible HQ we are in need of strength, fortification or we’re feeling down or slump-y.. It’s gloriously tuberose-y, with touches of rebalancing geranium, clary sage (for mental strength) and petitgrain, which Denise Leicester – healer and Ilapothecary founder – incorporated in the blend ‘to banish negative energies’. It’s been such a hit that (hurrah and hooray!), Ilapothecary have now extended the range. First up is a sublime Beat The Blues Shower & Bath Oil, which leaves skin beautifully nourished and veiled in scent as we emerge from the fragrant waters. (Just brilliant before bedtime, NB.) It also makes the most glamorous and heaven-scented leg-shaving oil on the planet! Ilapothecary has also just launched a Beat The Blues Pulse Point perfect for the handbag. Can’t tell you how many times, since we recently started using this, people have already stopped us and said: ‘What’s that gorgeous fragrance you’re wearing…?
Ilapothecary Beat The Blues Shower & Bath Oil, £29, and Beat The Blues Pulse Point, £27.

January Newsletter

Janurary spelled with fruit and vegetables

Hello 2019, hello January and hello and welcome to the first newsletter of the year where we have several new launches to talk about. These include products from Garden of Wisdom (of course), Ameliorate and the Vitality Revealed range from Nannette de Gaspé. And then there are the new brands, The Truthbrush (anything with the word ‘truth’ in it is good with me) and Lebon Toothpaste.

Before we begin, I need to tell you that in many ways this is a continuation of the December newsletter (the VH Awards). Throughout I will be referring back to some of those awards as we stand together and share together. Further in the newsletter I will be writing about a ‘Token of Appreciation’ (TOA), but before we get there, there are a few TOA’s scattered around and it gives me the greatest pleasure to share these with you as we continue to keep it real.

Keeping it real is fundamental in all that we are and all that we do together. Together with Shabir, I absolutely pledge to keep it real throughout 2019. It will become evident what we are doing and why we are doing it over time. Let’s go: Read More…