Achieving that Beautiful Effortless French Look
The French Beauty Philosophy
We all know the look, the elegant sophisticated French woman glamorously sporting her full locks of hair, pouty lips, and haute couture outfit, full of je ne sais quoi. What is the secret? How can we busy women and moms learn from French women?
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci.
Let me start out by saying that I have always had a very clear beauty philosophy rooted in the principle of laziness. I will never be one of those girls following a Korean 10 step face-care regimen, or getting a monthly facial. I have nothing against it, I am just way too lazy for that and don’t get enough pleasure out of those activities to inspire me to do them religiously. And I think I may have found my soul mate in French beauty culture, which values keeping it simple, and doing it right; of the course the right part is the challenge. What strikes you walking down Parisian streets is how the women look lovely, put together, and sophisticated, yet when you look more closely their hair is unstyled and makeup is minimally to tastefully done (I rarely see French women with makeup-mask-face). How is this possible? How can you seem to do nothing, and look fabulous anyway?
There is a French expression, d’etre bien dans sa peau. It alludes to being comfortable in one’s skin, and I believe the answer is partly in investing in the basic elements of your physical appearance but also cultivating a strong sense of self, together this gives you a sense of confidence that becomes clearly visible to others. Having a simple strategy and routine that helps you feel good on a daily basis, but does not require excessive effort or time will keep you feeling energized and put-together. For example, having a generic outfit (for Parisians this almost always involves at least one item of black clothing) that makes you feel elegant and stylish (and comfortable) but does not require much effort, since you repeat this strategy over and over. Or a 5 minute makeup routine that highlights your favorite features and works for you. It’s about developing good habits that require little effort or thought on your part, once established. This strategy works for other aspects of life too, but I’ll stick to the aesthetic benefits here!
From a cosmetic standpoint, this means investing in good products that you use regularly and work to decrease how much effort you need to put into your daily beauty routine. There’s an extra 15 – 60 minutes in your morning to energize: enjoy extra quality time with your morning cup of joe, do yoga or light stretching, do some light reading, or just getting that extra bit of sleep to feel your best all day. How do you discover those wonderful products? Luckily, in France, pharmacies are wondrous institutions with knowledgeable salespeople that patriotically and exclusively sell high quality French beauty products. Here are my discoveries that I cannot live without:
Face care: I used to be one of those people who religiously washed their face; I actually could not fall asleep at night unless my face was freshly washed.
This all changed when I became a new mother. When your stubborn little blessing refuses to fall asleep for hours, and out of sheer exhaustion and acrobatic manipulations you get them to fall asleep on your shoulder, arm, or breastfeeding bosom, a level of sheer exhaustion is reached; for me, that meant learning how to fall asleep without a freshly washed face. Once I finally got the little angel to fall asleep, there was no way I was getting up to wash my face. I still cheated and stashed facial cleansing wipes in any place where I might conceivably pass out with my munchkin, but those were horribly irritating to my skin, and I once opened a new package with visible green mold inside. Yuck!!
Now my munchkin is a little older, but my beauty regimen has changed forever. I’ve realized that washing my face, while a godsend through my teenage years, may not be the best strategy for my sensitive wrinkle-prone Caucasian skin. And here is where French beauty products have come in handy.
My favorite face wash is Avène extremely gentle cleanser lotion. If you must choose only one product to have this is the one to have. You can use it as a traditional facial cleanser with soap and water, or you can squirt a small amount on a facial cleansing pad and use it without water. It is a very mild cleanser, but also removes oily shine making it a good product for use throughout the day. Another favorite is Avène Micellar lotion. It functions as a gentle makeup remover. It’s most effective for facial makeup. As a note Avène uses thermal spring water in all of their products and is known for gentle healing products geared at sensitive skinned individuals.
Hair care: When I first moved to France my hair went through culture shock. It became frizzy, unruly, and impossible to detangle. In my desperate search for a solution I discovered Klorane. This brand creates plant-based products that balance beauty with the desire for natural products. I particularly love the peony shampoo and flax fiber conditioner. It takes a few washes to see the results: your hair becomes fantastically sleek and well behaved. I no longer even need to use my usual post-wash hair serum, I just wash and let my hair air dry. Klorane is perhaps better known for their famous dry shampoo, which leaves your hair soft and fluffy. I like the oatmeal based version, which is very gentle. It is not only eco-friendly but they also have a non-aerosol version which is probably healthier for your poor lungs that inevitably get a hefty dose of whatever hair spray you use.
Voila! Beautiful hair and skin the French way, with top notch maintenance and minimal fuss.