Oh la la, what is it about French women that is so effortlessly chic? From their nonchalant bedroom hair, supple skin and barefaced la bohème approach to beauty (think Charlotte Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy), the French have been mastering the art of the undone for decades. The good news is that achieving that particularly Parisian je ne sais quoi is considerably easier than you think. Frenchifying your beauty routine relies on familiarizing oneself with a few simple home truths, the most important of all being: ‘beauty is an attitude, you won’t find it on a shelf or in a bottle.’
1. First things first, leave your hair in peace.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, French women have ridiculously sexy hair. Whether it’s long and loungey or choppy and à la mode these ladies are certainly doing something (or should I say not doing something) right. The gritty ‘I-just-rolled-out-of-bed’ appeal they have down to a tee when it comes to hair care is quite often exactly that, as most French women limit washing their hair to once a week, to avoid stripping their hair of natural essential oils. Using a quality boar bristle brush, flipping and brushing your hair nightly from scalp to roots will avoid grease build up and keep you going between washes. The Mason Pearson is a stylist favourite.
2. They bake, bake, bake.
Since we’re all well aware of the danger of the sun (especially laying out beneath that gaping hole in the ozone layer) it’s best to fake it until you make it. ‘Spray Tan’ is a bit of a dirty word in many parts of Europe, but DIY products like St Tropez Dark Self-Tan Bronzing Mousse have made bronze so believable your tan-admirers will be none the wiser…
3. Hydration, Ma Cherie!
You’d be pretty hard-pressed to spot a gym bunny in Paris, with many French women opting for outdoor workout alternatives like aqua aerobics or provincial hikes (and yes, strolling to the Boulangerie counts). Hydrating the skin, whether it’s through a deep facial mask or hydrating mist is all the more important if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. Marie Antoinette supposedly spritzed with rosewater from her gardens in Versailles, a beauty staple for women worldwide still. Thermal water sprays or Eau de Rose are hugely popular as the water in France can be quite harsh on the skin.
4. Moisturize religiously.
The formidable Coco Chanel once said “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty’”, so merit that face, and merit it well. If you’ve ever wondered how the French can spend so much time in the sun and not look like leather Birkin bags, it all comes down to an endless fixation with serums, elixirs and state-of-the art dream creams. Pioneers of the nocturnal skin care beauty rule of thumb (a day cream for daily use, and a formulated night cream at night) many French women also alternate their cream cleansers at sunrise and sundown. Voila! Secrets out!
5. Minimalize your nails.
We’ve all heard of the ‘French Manicure’ (traditionally white tips and an all over gloss) what could possibly be Frenchier, you say? Try nothing at all. Many French women opt to keep it polished sans polish. Neatly trimmed cuticles, a handy nail file and a beautifully velveteen hand cream is the paired back Parisienne alternative. A sheer nude or an understated manicurists go-to hue like Yves Saint Laurent ‘Rose Romantique’ can be just as tidy. So simple, so chic.
6. Define the line and lash - just once.
Keeping your all over beauty routine minimal is essential. Whilst whipping out a statement lip from time to time, the French approach to make up is as refined and classic as their approach to hair. To keep it basically barefaced, match a matte foundation to your jawline, and apply scarcely or for simple blemish control like you would a concealer. Line the upper lash line with liquid eyeliner just once (try Nars Stylo Liquid Eyeliner in Noir for a kittenish Brigitte Bardot effect) and coat with mascara, one coat during the day and two for night. Meow.