Do French Girls Really Do Beauty Better?

Try as we might, we’ve never been able to thoroughly master the art of French beauty. Nor have we been able to give a distinct answer when pressed to describe it. We’ve obsessed over it for as long as we can remember, but can’t quite quantify what exactly “it” is — they don’t call it je ne sais quoi for nothing. Not to get all philosophical on you, but in order to understand the look, one must first understand how a French woman views herself.

A French woman harbors no illusions about her beauty. She celebrates her imperfections as iconic assets: the gap in Vanessa Paradis’ teeth, the delicate crow’s feet around Isabelle Huppert’s eyes, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s prominent jaw line. From adolescence to old age, her beauty is understated, yet dynamic, sexy yet unpredictable. Most importantly though, a French woman never takes her beauty for granted. It is tended and maintained, hydrated and coddled, but, above all, it’s enjoyed. A French woman revels in her beauty and relishes her seductiveness, which is, in France, both ageless and priceless.

By contrast, many Parisiennes see American beauty as an excess; something that is too much, overdone and over-the-top. This is a direct contrast to the unspoken rule of French beauty that one should always err on the side of understatement — calculated, polished understatement.

To dig a little further though, we needed to go straight to the source. We wanted to hear what makes these fashionable femmes tick (and lets them look so damn amazing in the process), so we stopped three real girls on the streets of Paris and grilled them about their beauty routines, tips, tricks, and the differences between French and American beauty. Read on for the dish—c’est magnifique, we swear.

1-a

Catherine, 25, stylist

How do you define beauty?
“As the opposite of an archetype, I see beauty in what is foreign and unique. As an emanation from a person or from an object. As something sensitive which touches one deeply.”

Is there a particular way of being or looking French?
“Ease, spontaneity, nonchalance, being elegant in the same clothes from morning to evening.”

How do you think American and French women differ?
“American women see beauty in having confidence in oneself, in opening oneself to others; they believe it has a social aspect. French women want to be natural and elegant at any price, even if their beauty is, in fact, very calculated.”

Vintage Vivienne Westwood men’s T-shirt (worn as a dress), vintage jacket, vintage Sonia Rykiel cape, Stuart Weitzman boots, vintage Yves Saint Lauren scarf, vintage jewelry, Emmanuelle Khanh sunglasses.

1-b

Why do you think Americans are so obsessed with French beauty?
“Because they have a vision imbued with romanticism, a myth inspired by Paris.”

What’s one thing you love about French beauty and one thing you hate?
“I love what is chic, elegant, classy, a minimalistic style. I like nude makeup, discretion, to be impeccably coiffed and made-up without looking like you are. I hate exaggerated or outrageous makeup.”

What’s one thing you love about American beauty and one thing you hate?
“I love that certain women are always dramatic. And I love the attention that Americans pay to their hair, which always looks so shiny and healthy. I hate long fingernails, the French manicure, and too much plastic surgery.”

1-c

What is your daily beauty routine?
“I’m very particular with my hair because it is very curly. I only brush it when it’s wet and I use a special shampoo, moisturizing masks when I have time and nourishing oil to style it. Then I brush my teeth with an electronic toothbrush and with Marvis toothpaste. I moisturize with a moisturizing serum from Aesop. I put my perfume directly onto the skin and I make myself up by applying powder, a line of brown or gray crayon on the eyelids, black mascara, liquid blush, and sometimes lipstick.”

What do you do for your body?
“I watch what I eat and I practice yoga three times per week.”

What products can we find in your makeup bag?
MAC StudioFix Powder Plus Foundation for my face, liquid blush from Benefit, MAC crayons for my eyes, black mascara from Benefit, lipstick in matte red from MAC, and red nail polish from Essie.”

What is your signature fragrance?
“I mix two perfumes — Nuit de Longchampand Mughetto — because they complement each other. I can’t have one without the other and I love the idea of wearing a very unique scent, which only belongs to me. Nuit de Longchamp is from the House of Lubin, founded just after the French Revolution and and supplier to the royal courts of France, England, and Russia, as well as the U.S. It disappeared and then it was relaunched a few years ago. Lubin is especially known for its “eau vivifiante” known as Eau de Lubin, which my grandmother uses. Mughetto is by Santa Maria Novella, a house founded 400 years ago in Florence. It’s one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, founded by Dominican friars.

“I adore the world of perfume. I love the idea of mixing them and being able to wear all perfumes regardless of whether they are considered masculine or feminine. I love it when they have a history, when they are very old or of great quality.”

1-d

There’s an old French saying faut souffrir pour être belle — you have to suffer to be beautiful. Do you believe that’s true?
“Certainly not, unless it’s for a pair of shoes. Clothes and beauty should provide confidence and not imprison you. Today we understand that to be beautiful we have to feel good, which defies the longheld idea of ‘woman as object’ or ‘slave.'”

Do you have a beauty role model that inspires you?
“Tilda Swinton for her uniqueness, her strangeness, for her elegance, for the way she holds herself and for her timeless beauty. And because she always seems stupefyingly natural even in the most sophisticated outfits. I am also inspired by my friends and loved ones because admiring people that we love is a source of daily inspiration.”

2-a

Clémence, 24, freelance stylist

How do you define beauty?
“Beauty is a delicacy of wrists and ankles, a unique face, but above all elegance and a subliminal message that one sends.”

Is there a particular way of being or looking French?
“I think so but I am not objective. French elegance is a fact, it is visible but like everywhere, one person’s taste is not the same as another’s. But to be born French does not ensure an understanding of the science of fashion. Fashion is a science and you have to work at it.”

How do you think American and French women differ?
“The commercial vision and practice of fashion is different among American women.” 

Carven leather jacket, Raphaëlle H’limi dress, Céline shoes, Emmanuelle Khanh sunglasses, jewelry by Corpus Christi and Vanessa Tugendhaft, Hermès watch, scarf, and bag.


2-b

Why do you think Americans are so obsessed with French beauty?
“No idea! Is it the exoticism of the packaging? The historical influence of the country on fashion?”

What’s one thing you love about French beauty and one thing you hate?
“I love the simple and chic looks that French women can have in the blink of an eye. I love the ‘non-colors’: beiges, blacks, navy blues… they are very French, they are divine. I also love soft tints and matte red lips. I don’t hate anything. I am glad to see that French women are, unlike Italian or American women, not constantly on the lookout for logos or ostentation. They love truly beautiful things and that is their strength.”

What’s one thing you love about American beauty and one thing you hate?
“I love the spontaneity of the looks. My favorites are dramatic nails and Dallas hair. I hate the too much, the overdone.”

2-c

What is your daily beauty routine?
“When I wake up I put a mask on my face and hair while I am in the shower, then face cream, makeup, and perfume after breakfast, before leaving my apartment. In the evening, I cleanse, rinse with cold water, put on face cream, and sleep.”

How do you care for your hair?
“Blue shampoo to keep the whiteness and ashy highlights of my blonde hair color — I’m anti-golden highlights! — and a mask.”

What’s the one product you can’t live without?
Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment With Avocado. Some of my other favorite skin care brands are Aesop, Shu Uemura, Chanel, but above all else, Nuxe.”

2-d

What products can we find in your makeup bag?
“Carmex for the lips, Yves Saint Laurent nail polish, Bobbi Brown foundation, Shu Uemuraeyeshadow, Helena Rubinstein mascara, Monoprix black crayon for the eyes.”

What is your signature fragrance?
“I mix in order to find what I am looking for and create a perfect equilibrium. Dior Homme Intense mixed with Amber by Prada, plus a sugared touch of Margiela Replica or ofLostmarch.”

Do you have a beauty role model that inspires you?
“Grace Kelly, because she has an Hermès bag named for her.”

3-a

Pauline, 35, archivist

How do you define beauty?
“Beauty is more than a beautiful appearance: It implies a sense of peace with oneself, or at least an intense inner life. It is harmonious and graceful, a little extra which renders a person radiant and attractive. For me beauty always includes a bit of mystery.”

Is there a particular way of being or looking French?
“I admit that I have never asked myself that question. Perhaps French women have their own certain kind of elegance… an elegance which is linked to a sense of ease, and a ‘let it all go,’ which is very calculated underneath it all.”

How do you think American and French women differ?
“American women seem to me more exuberant than French women. In terms of clothes, they choose colors and extravagant materials more easily. That seems to go along with heavier makeup and elaborate hair. Perhaps there is also a clearer differentiation for American women between their everyday clothes and their clothes for parties or evening.”

Claudie Pierlot blouse, Ba&sh jacket, Topshop pants, Coclico shoes, H&M bracelet, vintage bag, necklaces, and sunglasses.

3-b

What’s one thing you love about French beauty and one thing you hate?
“I love that sense of ease which emanates from ‘French’ beauty. But on the other hand, French women are not very audacious, and sometimes one has the impression of a certain monotonousness.”

What’s one thing you love about American beauty and one thing you hate?
“I am always struck by American women’s beautiful hair. As for what I like least, the recourse to plastic surgery, which seems more frequent in the U.S. than in France.”

3-c

What is your daily beauty routine?
“I cleanse and moisturize my face morning and evening. I have a moisturizing cream specifically for the day and a cream for night. I adore the texture and scent of the Nuxe heavenly Crème Fraîche rich cream. Two or three times per week I apply an exfoliator and then a rose clay mask. I also love making masks from essential oils like musk rose oil or argan oil. For my hair, I use a very gentle shampoo with an oatmeal base and I moisturize with mango cream. I also get some help from my grandmother’s recipes, like homemade masks with eggs and olive oil. In terms of makeup, I have two indispensables: mascara and a touch of blush.”

What do you do for your body?
“I use Aleppo soap and I moisturize with jojoba oil. And I dance and practice yoga regularly.”

What products can we find in your makeup bag?
“Blush, mascara, an anti-wrinkle cream, and a lipstick.”

What is your signature fragrance?
“I wear Grand Amour by Annick Goutal. I searched for a long time before discovering this perfume but I have now worn it for seven years and I would like to change.”

3-d

There’s an old French saying il faut souffrir pour être belle — you have to suffer to be beautiful. Do you believe that’s true?
“No, not really. Taking care of oneself is more of a pleasure, even a game.”

Do you have a beauty role model that inspires you?
“Not really. I pick up a little bit everywhere: in the magazines, in movies, but also on the street.” 

Photographed by Easy Fashion Paris

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29.

Related Articles

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


Confirm you are not a spammer! *