The Philosophy of French Beauty

As someone who has just returned to the U.S. after spending a semester in France, I find myself reflecting on some of the things I have learned while being abroad. Things like French slang words, which neighborhoods in Paris have the best shopping, and which bakery makes the best pain au chocolat (the answer is all of them). But the one that fascinates me most is the French attitude towards makeup and beauty. 

Throughout my time away, I met many chic French women who exuded confidence and charm in the most effortless way. One of these women being my host mother, a lovely woman who radiates warmth and beauty in the most understated of ways. One instance stands out to me the most in regards to her beauty: it was a Friday afternoon and I was walking upstairs to my room after a day of class. As I rounded the corner my host mom came out of the bathroom, followed by the scent of her Dior perfume. She was glowing and had a twinkle in her eye as she greeted me and told me she was going out with her boyfriend that evening. She was hardly wearing a full face of makeup, but looked as radiant as ever.

My time in France taught me that in the case of makeup, that sometimes, less really is more. Letting your skin peek through your makeup, enhancing your natural features, and letting your face do the work is really the secret here. Within French beauty there is no reshaping of the jawline, carving of the cheekbones, giving ourselves two completely new eyebrows, or cutting people with how sharp your winged eyeliner is. I found it refreshing to see women embracing their faces with makeup rather than using it to cover it up. 

Witnessing this new philosophy of beauty had me reevaluating my own makeup routine. Was I trying to cover up my face rather than embracing what it was already offering me? After some time I found myself applying less product when doing my makeup and even leaving out some steps altogether. I began skipping foundation and just using concealer, skipping bronzer and only using blush, and completely ditching highlighter and mascara *gasp.* It was liberating to realize that I didn’t need to cover up my face like I was doing before. Although I was still wearing makeup, I felt like an enhanced version of myself, not like someone I wouldn’t recognize once I took it all off at the end of the day. 

As I have already experienced my own French beauty revolution, I want to offer some tips and tricks on how to approach this French philosophy of beauty if you’re looking to try it out. 

1. Take Care of Your Skin

French pharmacies are like nothing I have ever experienced, and skincare that is available there blew my mind in the best way. French women know how to take care of themselves and are in it for the long haul. They avoid “quick-fix” products that promise immediate results, and I encourage you to do the same. Focus on finding a consistent routine for whatever your skin needs may be.

2. Foundation Doesn't Always Have to Be Your Base

Many foundations can be heavy and completely mask your natural complexion from the world, which results in the application of even more makeup to bring shadows and color back into the face. Opting for a lighter coverage and more sheer option can help avoid this. I recommend checking out a BB or CC cream and pairing it with a concealer to cover blemishes as needed. 

3. No Mascara, No Problem

Surprisingly, ridding my routine of eye makeup was perhaps my greatest lesson and smartest move. I had never really liked wearing mascara and it was a pain to take off every night. I realized that I wasn’t wearing it because I liked to, but because I felt like I had to. I recommend freeing yourself from whatever (in your makeup bag and in life) that is not giving you pleasure.

4. Consistency Really Is Key

Something I’ve noticed about the style of makeup worn here in the U.S. is the act of transformation. Meaning that sometimes, we don’t look anything like ourselves after we’ve applied our makeup. One of the things I think French women do right is consistency, meaning that they don’t need to go home and completely transform themselves with makeup in order to go out for a drink. They generally wear whatever makeup they had on during the day and see no need to beat their face for the bar.

5. Balance

As I completely ditched eye makeup, I began experimenting with lip color. I found that since I didn’t wear any makeup on my eyes, I could get away with a bold lip and still look like I wasn’t wearing an excessive amount of makeup. Whatever you prefer to put on your face I recommend keeping it balanced to achieve that effortless look that is completely your own.