As an only child and heir apparent to the Leonor Greyl legacy, Caroline Greyl grew up immersed in her mother’s luxury haircare business.
Caroline practically lived at L’Institut on Rue de Chateaudun in the heart of Paris and remembers being that little girl who passed pins and rollers to the hairdressers and watched her mother, Leonor Greyl, prescribe botanical treatments for clients.
That girl went on to earn an MBA from Columbia University, work for international cosmetics companies, and then return to the family business to work side-by-side with her mother and father.
Now, at 53, Caroline helms the renowned beauty brand that she helped grow to include 45 exclusive haircare products sold in 45 countries. Leonor Greyl is celebrated by stylists, influencers, and loyal clients across the globe. Leonor Greyl products famously help award-winning celebrities get red-carpet ready – from Hollywood premiers to the New York galas.
In honor of Mother’s Day, which is celebrated May 9 in the U.S. and May 30 in France, we sat down with Caroline at her home in Northern California to chat about growing up Greyl, the most important lesson her mother ever taught her, and the perfect picks for Mother’s Day presents. Although social distancing and travel restrictions will keep Caroline and her mom, who lives in Paris, apart this holiday, the two remain close and talk on the phone several times a week. Caroline plans to spend Mother’s Day this year at home with her husband and 16-year-old son.
Let’s start at the very beginning. A year after you were born, your parents – Leonor and Jean-Marie Greyl – opened L’Institut Leonor Greyl and launched their natural haircare line in 1968. What are your first memories of L’Institut?
We didn’t have babysitters, so I spent a lot of time there with my mom or in my father’s lab. Being a little girl, spending time at a hair salon was so much fun. I remember helping the hairstylists, passing over the pins and rollers. It’s a family-owned company, so even the customers were welcoming with me.
What was your relationship like with your mother when you were young?
My strongest childhood memories are of my mom styling my long hair all the time, especially for school picture day. I have photos of my hair styled like Princess Leia, like this (Caroline indicates big buns on each side of her head). And everybody would say to me, “Your mom must be a hairstylist.” And me saying, “How did you know?” (laughs).
Now you are president of the brand your parents built. Not all families can work so cohesively together. How did the Greyls do it?
Everybody has their own role, and their synergy makes it happen. We don’t step on each other’s toes. My mom was working at the Institute, my father was in the lab along with Tom (Caroline’s husband and LG’s director of research and development), and I was taking care of marketing and overseas development. It’s all complimentary.
How would you describe your relationship with your mother today?
Believe it or not, my mom and I barely talk about business. But I talk to her about everything else. She’s my best friend.
What is one of the most important life lessons she taught you?
To stay positive, even in tough times. Despite the difficult childhood she endured, she was a fighter, stayed positive, and always tried to see the light. (Leonor grew up in Spain during the civil war. She lost both her parents by the time she was 19.)
Staying positive helps you through hard times like we are experiencing today with the coronavirus. It is better to see the positive side of this thing, which for me is spending time with my family and having time to do the things I don’t usually have time for, like cooking and reading.
What did Leonor teach you about hair?
Growing up, I was so close to hair all the time that her passion passed to me.
(Leonor, who is in her 80s, remains just as passionate about her brand. She still stops by the Institute a few mornings each week to visit).
I also have her ability to look at a person’s hair and know exactly their diet and their lifestyle. Hair says a lot. My mom taught me that. She was able to detect if a person had a problem with their liver or stomach just by looking at the scalp. She taught that sometimes it is not just the shampoo. Sometimes it is an internal problem, like a person who is on a diet and missing nutrients so she is losing some hair. You need to be able to see this and then ask the client.”
And, of course, she taught me about the best treatments.
Caroline Greyl’s Pampering Picks for Mother’s Day Gifts
While most of us are social distancing, we might not get to hug and kiss our moms on Mother’s Day. But we still can shower her with appreciation by sending one of these spa-worthy gifts:
1. Leonor Greyl Natural Beauty Oils
- Huile de Magnolia – Treat mom to this luxurious face and body oil with a gorgeous floral fragrance. It will moisturize the driest of skin – even sunburn – and is an excellent post-vacation tan reviver.
- L’Huile de Leonor Greyl – Busy moms love this pre-shampoo treatment for dry hair. She might feel the difference with just one overnight application! Coconut and mongongo oil are the star ingredients.
- Huile Secret de Beauté – Moms are arguably the world’s best multi-taskers, just like this oil. Huile Secret de Beauté is a blend of natural and organic oils packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins E and A, which leave hair unbelievably soft and shiny. It also can be used as a detangling styling tool or massaged into skin for moisturizing TLC.
- Huile Apaisante – This anti-inflammatory oil is formulated to soothe sensitive and irritated scalps. It’s also a perfect salve for insect bites and other skin irritations. Caroline always keeps this in her travel bag.
2. Masque Quintessence
Pamper your momma from afar by sending this ultra-rich hair mask. Packaged in an elegant golden jar, Masque Quintessence is perfect for anyone who frequently colors or styles their locks. Thirst-quenching oils from the cupuaçu nut and manketti seed help nourish even the most brittle hair.
3. Soin Repigmentant
Our award-winning, color-enhancing conditioners make perfect gifts for moms who are stuck at home right now and unhappy that their hue is growing mousy, ashy, or brassy. Soin Repigmentant comes in five subtle tints:
Not sure which one is right for your mom’s mane? Click here to consult with our Leonor Greyl Hair Concierge.
To all the multi-tasking, chicken-soup-making, hair-braiding, tear-drying, hard-working moms, mums, mères, and mamas out there: Happy Mother’s Day from the Leonor Greyl family!