The candid French Girl beauty guide

I am regularily asked what secret products French girls actually stock on. How do we achieve this effortless-glowy-messy look, the make-up-no-make-up type of hype that collective imagination has labelled us with. I never particularly thought that we French girls were doing anything different or special. There is no unicorn or princess genes. I just observed my elders, my peers and grew up surrounded with a version of what beauty was and should be. In all fairness though, having spent most of my 20s in the UK (whom beauty regimes and standards differ vastly), I got side-tracked (I can still hear the sound of my mother´s disapproval). In France, we don´t fake tan, we don´t do hair or lashes extensions, we don´t clip fake nails, we don´t contour, we don´t powder-up or bleach our hair (I had my fair share of that over the student years!). But as I evolved and stopped trying to blend in, and as my self-confidence grew; I started reconnecting with a more subtle, natural and undone aesthetic. The one our mother and grand-mother raised us on, the one I could see in the streets of Paris and on my favourite French actresses. And along with it, I have appropriated their tricks and produits phares.

Jeanne Damas, Instagram
Sabina Socol Instagram

So if you are after the non-bs version of the French girl hype, if you are all about maximum effect with minimum input: here is our honest guide to the French beauty routine. It is all about hydration, glow and subtle dose of common sense.

1. Prep

Skin prep, all French girls seem to agree, is the key to our regime. It starts with drinking a lot of water, and not over doing things. I personally scrub twice a week max. and maybe mask once a week, depending on what my skin needs: detox or moisture. For detox, I have recently started using the Swedish label L:A BRUKET clay mask 155 which smells and feels very gentle for a clay mask. But don´t overdo it. And when I need intense moisture, I repurposed my Lierac Hydragenist Resuce Balm as a mask.

2. Clean

I keep things very simple and only use and have ever only used two key French products. I start with the Avène Cleanance cleanser, and always finish with Bioderma H2O micellar water for sensitve skins. Now, my mother recently Facetimed me to claim that she was told by her beauty therapist that you are actually supposed to wash off your Bioderma instead of leaving it on- but for some reasons, I don`t subscribe to this version of events and let it be. I shall leave you the judge of that!

3. Hydrate and moisture

Again, I think French beauty is all about less is more, and that means a lot of common sense. Skin needs water. So give it water. A quick spray of Avène Eau thermale is fantastic after Bioderma. It is very calming and helps seals the water in together with a serum. As for serums, I alternate between the French brand Filorga and its plumping concentrate and the Korean brand Innisfree hyaluronic acid essence. Truly magical. My best kept secret is the next step. For the ultimate glow and long-lasting hydration: blend a dollop of Embryolisse concentre crème with a drop of Argan oil (mine is straight out of Marrakesh´s souk, call me a wanker; but any pure argan oil will do).

4. Treat

If you need to treat spots or black heads, I highly recommend the French beauty product, king of all products: Effaclar Duo by la Roche Posay (black heads),  which I pair that with Innisfree´s bija trouble spot essence (spots) when need be. Less is more. Don´t be harsh.

5. Enhance

Now onto make-up. French girls tend to avoid any foundation or powder. Bare skin is best. But when it comes to date nights or interviews or nigh-outs, I use Glossier´s perfecting skin tint in medium. It is watery, transparent and never ever cakes. However, my best kept secret is yet to come: I like to enhance my tones and especially as summer is around the corner. So I blend a drop of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Or (the gold edition) with my Chanel bronzer. This is the bomb. You get the subtle sun-kiss look with the hint of oil that a real tan produces. It looks fresh and summery and sexy and messy. Vadavoom. A line of brown (not black!) eye-liner, mascara and red Chanel lipstick (if I´m going out).


And for the very best of French pharmacy products to binge on, I wrote this guide on what to buy in a French pharmacy.

Fellow Frenchies, I would love you to help complete this guide and because beauty has clearly no border, all tips and tricks are welcome! You´re worth it - one would say.

EF x