One thing I’ve been more exposed to more since moving to Paris seven years ago—besides good wine, baguettes and French men—is great skincare and overall more respect for it. I’ve always looked after my skin, but that’s because my mother instilled in me the importance of a good beauty routine from a young age and my knowledge came from her.
I’ve generally found that when growing up and entering the workforce in the UK, unless one works in an industry that has more emphasis on appearance or has a mother that had you cleansing, toning and moisturizing early on (I even had the three-step Clinique products as a young teen), this hasn’t been the norm compared with the other side of the channel. It’s usually been me advising my British friends on what to use and buy, or looking at their face and telling them that they should probably be wearing eye cream. In France, I discovered that there is a very different story and attitude. Good skincare seems to be engrained into a woman’s daily routine, even from childhood.
The French are infamous for knowing a lot about what to put on one’s face. So much so that French pharmacies have earned iconic status. There’s even an American beauty brand named after our French female cousins: French Girl. The French champion natural beauty, the notion that less is more, there is less emphasis on perfection, they’re not afraid of growing old gracefully and they shy away from quick fixes. As such, I have learnt a lot about beauty from the French far beyond what my mum and the odd magazine I read in my 20s taught me. So here are a few things I’ve learnt about skincare thanks to the French…
Because my mother always had luxury skincare products, I thought that good skincare equalled expensive. She’d even forgo other items just so she could buy a costly night cream. But in France, there’s a reason why pharmacy products have become so renowned: It’s because they really are that good for affordable prices.
I’m generally of the mindset that you get what you pay for, but in France, you just have to walk off the street into any pharmacy to find a range of products that are reasonably priced, such at Avène, Roche Posay, Caudalie and Vichy. A few of my current favourite products are the beauty essentials created by newish kid on the block, Oh My Cream, which includes a daily SPF moisturiser and serum. My personal top pick is the oatmeal-scented Cleansing Balm, which really does thoroughly clean my face of makeup upon one application.
If there’s one product that almost all my Parisian friends have in their beauty cabinet, it’s micellar water by Bioderma. It’s a French beauty icon, used (as I found out) by skincare experts and makeup artists alike. It’s their secret weapon. I had never even heard of micellar water until I moved to Paris, but now I use it almost every day. It’s hardworking but incredibly gentle on your skin (mine is very sensitive) because it doesn’t contain any alcohol. In fact, it feels like you are only applying water and doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight or oily which so many cleaning products and makeup removers do. Use it to remove makeup or as a gentle toner after cleansing to remove any excess dirt and oil.
There is another reason why French women have such great skin (in my opinion): It’s because they drink a lot of good red wine. Red wine is full of antioxidants, which are anti-inflammatory, cell-restoring and that help your skin produce collagen—all knowledge that one of France’s most prominent skincare brands, Caudalie was founded on and the reason it is so successful. Caudalie has used these elements by utilising grape extracts in its skincare range. Try Vine(activ) Glow Activating Anti-Wrinkle serum and the Vinoperfect Radiance Moisturiser SPF 20.
I’ve found that the same generally goes for beauty and skincare in France as it does with fashion: Less is more. While there are a lot of brilliant brands and products on the market, the point is not to pile them all on your face at once. Keep your skincare routine simple.
Really, it doesn’t get any better than sticking to three easy steps: cleanse, tone and moisturise. But then again, the French can keep things simple in the skincare department because they don’t generally wear a lot of makeup that can clog up pores and dry their skin out. Of course, I add in eye cream, do a mask and exfoliate every other week, but the base is simple and my skin is better and healthier for it.