Throughout the course of my career I’ve been lucky enough to spend plenty of time in Paris, so I had the opportunity to observe the unique specimen that is the French female in her own habitat. And – c’est vrai - there are a few unique characteristics to how they approach their beauty routine. To celebrate Bastille Day, Lancôme (who many of my Paris trips were hosted by!) asked me to share my best tips to emulate French girl style. So, stylo and carnet at the ready, here are the secrets to Parisienne preening….
How would you describe the French woman’s approach to beauty?
French women put a lot of effort into their skin, but when it coms to hair and makeup, it’s all about not looking like you’ve tried. Tousled hair, a bit of definition on the eyes and a slick of lipstick is de riguer. It’s no coincidence that most of the words we use to describe that cool, relaxed style are actually French – think “insouciant”, “nonchalant” and “laissez-faire” (which translates to “let it be”)… Funnily enough I interviewed one of Paris’s top hairdressers (who happens to be an Aussie) David Mallet the other day and he mirrored this sentiment exactly. He said “They like to look like they don’t care- but they really really do…” Everything is considered but nothing looks like it is.
Do you think they spend more time on taking care of their skin than the average Australian woman?
Perhaps on a whole, as a nation, yes, but many Australian women are pretty cluey about their skin care these days. French women are taught the basics of skincare from a young age, they are generally happy to invest in their beauty products and facials are considered essential BUT they’re not as good at protecting their skin from the sun as Aussies. They love to sunbake – in fact it’s virtually impossible to get a decent spray tan in Paris (trust me, I’ve tried!)
What’s do you think Australian women could take from the French approach?
I think we could take a lesson from their ‘undone’ approach to hair and makeup – sometimes it’s nice to leave the contouring and fake lashes out and embrace the beauty of clear, flawless skin and a simple slick of lipstick.
In your mind, what differentiates French brands?
Quality and heritage. Many of the French beauty houses have been around for decades and have elite teams of scientists to hone their formulas and packaging. There’s also often a certain fragrance and texture to French brands, too – it’s more floral and luxurious. French creams are not afraid to be heavy and unctuous.
Do you think French women have a different relationship with fragrance?
Perfume is just a non-negotiable to French women. Coco Chanel once said “A Woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” which is very dramatic, but kind of sums up the attitude a bit! It’s so ingrained in French culture - it’s a true love affair. Australians love perfume too, but it’s often a more casual and capricious flirtation.
That effortlessly chic look is a cliché but is so often true! What insight can you offer Australian women on pulling together a look, French style?
Add texture to your hair with dry shampoo and hair powders, go easy on the foundation (only use it where needed) and always define the eye. I like to use a dark brown eyeshadow with an angle brush instead of eyeliner as it’s softer but still emphasizes the eyes. And never forget your lipstick. It’s essential!
We seem to think of classic, timeless habits when it comes to French women. What has surprised you about the typical modern French woman?
How much money they spend on “slimming” and cellulite creams! They also hate the gym, but they do walk a lot (particularly if they live in Paris).
You’ve peeked into the beauty cabinets of hundreds of women. What’s a common thread?
Organised chaos! They usually tidy and do an edit of their favourites for my arrival, but there’s always a drawer or cabinet that is crammed with products they don’t use, too. It’s reassuring to know that almost every woman is alike when it comes to amassing a gargantuan collection of cosmetics.
Name a beauty habit you’d recommend to every Australian woman?
Curling your eyelashes. Makes such an incredible difference to your eye, but it’s a step so many women skip!
Name a beauty must-do or see in Paris?
A facial at L’institute Lancome, a haircut with David Mallet and a wander through some of the perfumeries including Diptyque in the 5th Arondissement, Annick Goutal in the 6th and Editions De Parfums de Frederic Malle in the 7th. Oh and it's not a beauty must-do, per-se but you have to try the galettes at Cafe Breizh.
Who are you loving on Instagram right now?
Garance Dore always, @louisefollain (she’s like the new Jane Birkin) @marieangecasta and @louloubianca (those brows!)