Ever been curious about how probiotics can help with all kinds of problems? You and French pharmacist Marie Drago, founder of Gallinée, have that in common.
The London-based 39-year-old gets candid with Miss FQ exclusively on how being French, a female and living with an auto-immune disease have helped shape her career. Plus, she spills the beans on her top beauty secrets and the products she swears by for a flawless complexion. (Umm, we’re listening!)
What led you to create Gallinée?
I always wanted to create my own products, and my plan when I was a kid was to become a witch. I studied pharmacy instead, which was close enough and allowed me to learn a lot about skincare and how products are made.
I also have a weird auto-immune disease, and it got me interested in the microbiome, bacteria, and how probiotics can help with these kinds of problems. One day something clicked in my head and I decided to create a brand that would take care of your skin bacteria and give you back the skin you’re supposed to have.
Can you briefly describe what you might get up to in work/life on any given day?
I wake up around 6.30am, have a nice breakfast with homemade gluten-free waffles (I am really intolerant to gluten), a prebiotic smoothie (with a lot of fibre and kefir) and walk to the office. In the morning I have meetings with the Gallinée team. We are a very small team, only six of us, and it’s hard to keep track as so many things are happening right now!
We are based in East London in a very vibrant neighbourhood, so we usually go to cool food trucks for lunch. Most of us are French, so eating is always a very important affair. Our sales manager is Chilean, and luckily loves to talk about food too.
The thing I love about having a small company is that no two days are the same. Only this week I was on live TV for QVC, talked in front of 150 scientists at a microbiome congress, planned our first pop-up shop, discussed crazy product ideas with some suppliers, had lunches with journalists… I am learning so much every day and I love it!
At night I try to go bouldering, but if there is any opportunity to spend time with my friends around a nice dinner, I am easily convinced to do that instead.
What was your career trajectory prior to starting your own skincare line?
I originally trained as a pharmacist in France, but I had some problems with the ethics of the Pharmaceutical Industry so I quickly shifted into the beauty sector. I moved to Ireland at the end of my studies, and then to London and have been living here for the last 10 years. I always worked in skincare and beauty, usually in business development. I was lucky to work for small companies and amazing entrepreneurs, such as Marcia Kilgore of Soap & Glory. I was working a lot with international markets and it gave me the opportunity to discover the world and MECCA.
Can you talk us through the point of difference of your products vs others on the market?
Gallinée is the first beauty brand to focus on your skin and its microbiome. We see the skin not as a piece of leather that needs to be oiled, but as a living breathing ecosystem that we can protect and support. The formulas are based on my pharmacy thesis and the use of probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics. I love how our products are a pleasure to use, they smell and feel so nice but are extremely technical and innovative. We now have four patents and a lot of very happy users!
What are the benefits of probiotic/prebiotic skincare products and what do they do for the skin?
Probiotics are very interesting for their soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. When added to skincare products they will help sensitive skin and will also prevent ageing. Prebiotics are nutrients that will feed your own microbiome, helping to rebuild the skin barrier and also balance the right kind of bacteria on skin. We use prebiotics that reduce the growth of the C. acnes (the acne bacteria) and of the S. aureus (the bacteria linked to eczema), which means the same product will have different effects on different people.
In Gallinée we also add lactic acid, which is a postbiotic. It will create the best possible environment for your good skin bacteria and bring your skin pH to the perfect level.
What products or steps would you recommend someone with sensitive skin might take when introducing new products to their routine?
The easiest product to try if you have sensitive skin is our Foaming Cleanser. It is our best seller, is super gentle, smells so fresh and leaves your face feeling amazing. Usually for sensitive skin foaming cleanser can be a bit drying, but our is pH5 and the prebiotics inside make the foam really creamy, like a little Chantilly cloud.
What is your skincare routine on a daily basis (morning and night)?
I am quite a lazy person so I have quite a minimalist routine. In the morning I try to avoid washing my face (the skin microbiome replenishes during the night), so I just use a cotton pad soaked with our Face Vinegar and follow up with our Face Cream and a few drops of our Youthful Serum. In the evening I wash my face with our Cleansing Bar (I even use it to take away my makeup), follow with the Face Vinegar, the Youthful Serum and the Face Cream. I love how it makes my skin really plump and soft in the morning.
How do you care for your skin in summer?
For the face, I use our Youthful Serum as it is oil free so very light when the weather is warm. I love our Body Milk as an after sun; the lactic acid inside will soothe and smooth the skin. It might take away a bit of the tan, but it will last longer. And I usually have horrible sandal feet and the Hand Cream makes them super soft really quickly.
What’s your philosophy on beauty?
Less is more, and also if your skincare is good, you don’t really need makeup. I like to say that if the canvas is nice, you don’t need a lot of paint. I also encourage people to be nice with themselves and with their skin, gentleness pays off!
What have you learnt about skin that you wish you had known when you were younger?
That clean doesn’t mean sterile! I was obsessed with squeaky clean skin when I was younger, and I was using a lot of alcohol-based products. Now that I have learned to work with my skin ecosystem, not against, my skin is much happier for it. I am a lot gentler than I used to be.
What’s the latest trick you’ve learnt that’s changed up your beauty game?
It sounds so simple, but don’t rub your face with a towel. It causes micro-aggressions and leads to puffy skin and dark circles. I was told that by a beauty journalist with amazing skin, and it changed my life! I used to have the worst puffy eyes and dark circles, and now I barely notice them.
What’s the skincare product you tell everyone about?
Our Face Vinegar! I am so proud of this product. We have two patents on it, and amazing results. It is both purifying and refining while also helps to soothe and calm redness. Something quite rare in beauty products, we have the indication for oily skin and sensitive skin.
What’s the secret weapon that you know gives you your best possible skin?
I would say our Face Vinegar. I use it all the time, as I love how smoothing it is. It also gives an instant glow to the skin, which means you almost don’t need to use foundation.
What are your beauty essentials for travel?
I travel a lot at the moment and I noticed my little airport bag is getting emptier and emptier. This is due to the fact our Cleansing Bar is not a liquid and takes care of face and body cleansing (I even use it on hair). I really like also to drench my skin with our Youthful Serum when I fly, it prevents my skin from getting too dry. Other than these two, I have my Beauty Pie Mascara, L’Oréal Liquid Liner and my magic little Soap & Glory KickAss Powder. That’s it.
What’s the go-to product that gives you instant body confidence?
I really like our Body Milk for that. It instantly transforms the look of the skin, making it smoother and more radiant. For me, it really helps with my body confidence.
What is next for Gallinée? Is there a new product or line you are excited to release?
We are working on a lot of really exciting projects, and also new categories, as there is a lot of bacteria on the body to take care of!