The beauty secrets of French women

The French approach to beauty can teach us much about both skincare and confidence. Stephanie Smith finds out more.

Naturally beautiful: A model wears a creation by Roland Mouret at the Autumn/Winter 2019 fashion week runway show in London, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Naturally beautiful: A model wears a creation by Roland Mouret at the Autumn/Winter 2019 fashion week runway show in London, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, Lea Seydoux… perhaps more than any other nationality, French women exude a timeless beauty, whatever their age. While we here in the UK tend to obsess over how old we look, French women prefer to age gracefully and celebrate their natural beauty.

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Mathilde Thomas, founder of French beauty brand Caudalie, says in her book The French Beauty Solution, “Our beapauty routine is predicated on prevention and upkeep and is regarded as an essential, ongoing investment.” This contrasts with quick-fixes such as plastic surgery often resorted to in the United States and increasingly in the UK. Sleep, water and organic food play an important role in maintaining good looks and health for many French women – and a glass of red wine doesn’t seem to hurt.

Sisley Blur Expert, a high-tech compact powder that creates a flawless skin effect. Blur Expert | £66.00 |

The focus is on skin, rather than make-up. They love micellar water and spritz it on before putting anything else on the face. Micellar water can be used as a first step for double cleansing. Spray on and wipe your face, then follow with a rinse-off or wipe-off cleanser. Then there’s a focus on nourishing the face and neck to moisturise, restore and protect, investing in the best quality skincare products they can afford from beauty brands they trust most.

Many French women get away with using just four or five make-up products, because they keep make-up minimal, enhancing with just a touch, and often highlighting just one feature. A daily face might start with a little concealer, groomed eyebrows and cream blush to warm the complexion. For going out, this is stepped up by highlighting one key feature, perhaps a smokey eye or a classic red lip.

Beauty is not the same as looking perfect. French women embrace what some might call imperfections. A slightly crooked or larger nose, for example, is not to be corrected in any way, either by surgery or with contouring make-up. Accept, and vive la difference.

LOccitane has come up with a lovely new collection of lip scrubs, balms and balmy lipsticks infused with fruits, vegetables and herbs from Provence and the Mediterranean Basin. There are eight shades of fruity lipstick, including this one, Flamingo Kiss, which costs £18 at LOccitane shops and outlets.
L'Occitane Soothing Mask: This is a great at-home treatment for reducuing redness and it's made with freshly picked blackcurrants from the Ardèche, and contains magnesium and calcium - both minerals the skin needs to function at its best. Apply a thick layer to a clean, dry face and leave on for five minutes. The blackcurrant seeds gently exfoliate and provide an instant refreshing and soothing sensation. It's £28.
Guerlain Super Aqua Gel: Used as a primer with a matt finish and a refreshing, hydrating effect, this is part of a range developed to deliver deep and long-lasting hydration with a new cellular self-hydration system using a protein to ease the entry of water into cells. Skin is steeped in moisture and plumped up with healthy glow. Its refreshing and hydrating. Its £38.99 on the Guerlain counters.
Soleil Tan de Chanel: A cream-gel bronzer created to warm up the face, to contour or mix with your foundation or moisturiser. It's buildable and lightweight, leaving a matte velvety finish, and can be worn either on top of or under your usual foundation for a sun-kissed glow. It's £40 on the Chanel counters.