Your Guide to French Beauty: The Effortlessly Cool Kid of Skincare

Photo via Messy Nessy Chic

There’s something about having a French spin on, well, just about anything to make you feel a little more bad and bougie. Maybe it’s because since, like, the beginning of entertainment, France has always been romanticized as a hub for beautiful design, iconic architecture and the place you go to find true love. But whatever the reason, it’s no secret that the French have always embraced their natural beauty, and that alone, is reason enough for us to look into the world of French skincare culture. We tuned into the expertise of French Girl Founder and Creative Director, Kristeen Griffin-Grimes, to find out more about a typical French skincare routine, the French’s philosophy towards beauty, and how to earn that certain, je-ne-sais-quoi, if you know what I’m saying?

What are some basic principles of French beauty?

Generally, the French have a very relaxed approach to beauty, especially in comparison to Western and Asian culture, which translates to heavy nourishment of skin and very minimal makeup. Kristeen says, “The cornerstone of French beauty is skincare, with a capital S. It is something that is deeply ingrained, and like much of French culture, is still passed down through the generations and seen as a necessity rather than an extravagance. In a nutshell, the mantra is: ‘Take care of your skin, first and foremost.’” But in addition to caring immensely for your skin, the French also have a strong belief in “a sensible diet composed of natural, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and proteins and, of course, cheese, which is a component in maintaining la santé et la beauté (aka health and beauty). Kristeen adds that, “Not eating well and healthfully is definitely a beauty no-no.”

What’s the deal with French pharmacies?

And like there is a Starbucks on virtually every block of New York City, you can find French pharmacies flooded with covetable potent creams, micellar waters, and sunscreens on almost every corner in urban parts of France. Kristeen says, “This is where you can accomplish so many things -- receive over the counter advice from a trained pharmacist for your minor ills, get help in identifying the mushrooms you gathered in the countryside, and most importantly, pick up a beautifully curated selection of the best in French skincare, now with an ever-growing list of natural and green brands inhabiting the shelves.” Among the arsenal of cult classic French skincare are names like Avène, La Roche-Posay, and Bioderma

What about French salons and spas?

But the emphasis on caring for your skin doesn’t stop at the French pharmacy meccas. There’s also a myriad of French salons that offer incredibly nurturing facials, exfoliating peels, and deeply moisturizing treatments with facial massages. And though some of these treatments can be done at home, Kristeen says, “The French love to take advantage of the salon of these treatments.”

What’s a typical French skincare routine like?

Kristeen says, “A typical at-home routine is a paragon of simplicity.” Skincare essentials are a healthy mix of newer scientifically-advanced formulas, as well as tried and true necessities that their mother or grandmother before them used. Kristeen adds that, “In general, you’re less likely to find the Instagram-worthy excessive “shelfie” style product lineups in many French women’s homes. Minimalism reigns supreme and if a product works for them, they’re loyal to it.” A French skincare routine sticks to the basics, and though we love French beauty, you can use the same minimalist philosophy with international brands you may already know and love. 1. Cleanser - The French tend to use gentle makeup removers (think micellar waters) and facial emulsions, as Kristeen says they “leave the skin moisturized and not overly dry.” For acne-prone skin, she adds that, “Washing with soaps and drying cleansers with an alkaline pH can actually cause an increase in oil production, so harsh cleansers are definitely avoided.” 

French Girl Cleansing Wash - Rose du Jardin

2. Toner - Though toners aren’t as heavily used in the Western side of the world, the French are quite fond of them to “restore the pH balance of the skin and calm and hydrate,” according to Kristeen. Rather than using traditional, more astringent toners, the French are bigger fans of more hydrating formulas, like micellar water and facial sprays.  

French Girl Floral Toner Rose du Jardin

3. Serums - Known for their impactful efficacy and benefits, serums are an essential in French skincare routines. And that could be because France has long been a hub for expertly crafted beauty for ages. 

Baré Alchemy Protect Mini for Everybody

4. Moisturizer - Kristeen recommends to “follow up your serum with a slightly heavier crème that contains hydrating ingredients, like plant oils or butters, such as shea, which might have a lighter consistency, depending on the season.” 

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré

5. Sunscreen - Shockingly, Kristeen says that sunscreens used to only be must-haves for vacations, but have since been incorporated into many French skincare products that are considered as daily necessities. She notes that the French’s use of sunscreen is “not as lavish as in the US.” 

Drunk Elephant Umbra™ Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

If you’re used to a simpler routine (think just a cleanser and a moisturizer), you may be thinking this is still pretty complicated —daunting, even. But don’t fret, low-maintenance guys and gals. Kristeen says, “The idea is to accomplish your beauty routine in an uncomplicated way, incorporate it into your daily life, and most importantly, don’t over-obsess about it.” So, basically, French beauty is like that cool kid who always looks effortlessly good, but just doesn’t really give a F. And we couldn’t be more intrigued. Kristeen says, “The more time I spent in France, the more I understood that the ability to be comfortable in your own skin -- bien dans sa peau -- creates an aura of attractiveness around you. French girls have learned from an early age to accept the imperfections and cultivate self-worth and inner beauty -- the ‘forget perfect, I am who I am, and that’s enough” attitude goes a long way in creating that je ne sais quoi quality we all so admire.” And to that, we say, amen, mon cheri. BY KIMBERLY ARNOLD

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