The more we look to French influence as a lifestyle guide, the more it becomes clear that one main things separates us: Motive. Whether we're talking parenting, cooking, or beauty, the French come from a place of simplicity whereas we Americans tend to overcomplicate.
The kid wants a snack at 5 p.m. just before dinner? Fine. Six people have showed up at my door unplanned? A crusty loaf and wedge of cheese will do. And as for a skin care routine? Well, Mathilde Thomas, founder of French cult beauty brand Caudalie, says the secret is easy. In her book The French Beauty Solution she says, ". . . beauty is something to give you pleasure. Because when you feel good, you look good."
With that in mind, rather than a feeling that skin care and makeup is always there to fix or disguise something, here are a few of the tried-and-true ways our friends in France can teach us about embracing our own beauty, without all the fuss.
01. Pare Down
Instagram is full of beautiful shots of medicine cabinets filled to the brim with beautiful products. While it's tempting to want a little bit of everything, the French are famous for keeping it simple. Marine Drago, founder of Gallinée says, "I think we tend to be quite economical in our routine (you could almost call it lazy!), and it is all based on skin care. Because if the canvas is good, you don’t need a lot of makeup to shine." Clear out your cabinet and focus on a simple but effective routine. "As a pretty lazy French woman myself, I created Gallinée to reflect this philosophy," Drago says. "It's a very short range of super effective, very gentle, multitasking products. The biggest compliment I get about them is 'I don’t need to wear foundation anymore!'"
Simple Yet Effective French Skin Care
02. Focus on One Feature—Not All
Can you imagine a French woman with fake eyelashes and a chiseled contour? Never. Instead of imitating their weaker features, they focus on one natural highlight. That could mean a foundation-free face with bold, black mascara to draw out the eyes, or a muted eye contrasted by a red lip. A quintessential makeup bag for a Francophile should include a lightweight foundation or primer, black mascara, a natural-toned blush, and a classic red lip tint. Less products means you can focus on quality; plus, your skin will be less likely to have adverse reactions.
03. Reconsider Water
One of the most common yet confounding French skin care secrets has to do with water. Seemingly innocuous to most Americans, tap water is on many a French woman's no-go list. Paris is notorious for its skin-stripping hard water, so many women rely on micellar wash as a gentle cleansing agent instead. Micelles are tiny oil molecules suspended in soft water that bond to and clear away impurities without stripping skin of its natural elements. If you think a long splash session in the sink is the only way to achieve a clean face at the end of the day, allow the French to change your mind.
French Micellar Waters
04. Turn Your Routine Inside Out
We know health and weight management isn't just about exercise; it's about food. The same goes for good skin. Prisca Courtin-Clarins, global ambassador for her family's eponymous French skin care label, told Forbes that the number one thing she wished women understood about skin care is, "That food plays a very important role in beauty. If you don’t have a healthy diet, it doesn’t matter if you’re applying the best and most expensive creams in the world. Everything is linked." French women are the queens of enjoyable consumption, which means savoring their food in moderation. When it comes to food, one of the biggest problems for the skin is sugar. From encouraging acne-causing bacteria to breaking down collagen, sugar is something French women enjoy in very small amounts.
05. Focus on the Ritual
Remember, the French have many secrets all rooted in one truth: pleasure. Skin care doesn't have to be complicated to be effective, but it should be intentional. Try NYC-based French-born facialist Isabelle Bellis' technique for washing your face, a gentle circular massaging motion, which she shared with Into The Gloss. At first the process of your fingers "swimming," as she says, around your face seems indulgent, even excessive, but give it a try and you'll quickly find your nightly makeup removal to be a moment of bliss, not just a routine necessity.