A French Aesthetician Wishes Girls Would Stop Doing This to Their Skin
Skincare rituals are vastly different from culture to culture, but the women in France seem to be doing something particularly right. Of course, we have always had an infatuation with the French, but their objectively more effortless, less neurotic approach to beauty makes us wonder: What can we do to make our skincare products and habits a little more... Français?
According to Sophie Strobel, a French skincare guru from Talika's Research & Development department, "The main difference in French beauty routines is a cultural one. ... "In France, we're very 'Latin.' We are hedonistic and we don't like obligations."
These cultural values translate to skincare in that they motivate women's obsession with hygiene (how many times have you heard the words "squeaky clean skin?"). "People believe their skin has to be over-clean, cleansed like you clean your sins," Strobel says. "They take a long long time in the bathroom, and they have a precise routine. ... What always surprises us in American movies is when a girl goes to refresh herself in the bathroom before making love. That doesn't exist here in France!"
Meanwhile, the French skincare regimen is "less controlled, more natural, and instinctive." As Strobel says, "We like to take pleasure in every task we do (like eating!), we don't like pressure, and we tend to criticise the rules." The French embrace imperfection and consider spending more than a few minutes on their daily routine a waste. French women also tend to perceive other cultures as overly made-up and fixated on looking flawless, and women would do anything to conceal imperfections. "But secretly, we envy their wonderful hair, their unmatched complexion, and their perfect wardrobe—but shhh, this is only between you and us!" Strobel confesses. (So the infatuation does go both ways.)
Here's the other fascinating thing about French skincare: You'll rarely catch a French girl at the dermatologist's office unless she has some sort of medical issue, like psoriasis or allergies. Generally, the French like to avoid prescription products whenever possible in favour of natural, plant-based formulas. That's not to say they don't seek professional skincare advice. "As a preventative measure, French women begin getting facials at a younger age," says Regine Berthelot, a French aesthetician and Caudalie's Director of Spa Education. In between facials, they keep their routines down to a few core products: cleanser or micellar water, moisturiser, perhaps a gentle exfoliator, and a weekly mask. All others are considered extraneous.
[In France], we like to take pleasure in every task we do ... we don't like pressure, and we tend to criticise the rules.
To learn how to make our skincare routines a little chicer, we asked three French skincare gurus to give it to us straight: Keep scrolling to discover the six products a French skincare expert would never recommend (plus, what to use instead)!
A French skincare expert would never recommend
Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer ($50)
When women get a pimple, generally our first instinct is to do whatever it takes to kill it as quickly as possible: We'll lance it, squeeze it, laser it, dry it out with spot treatments, we'll even go to the derm and get it injected with cortisone. But the French are way more relaxed about blemishes. According to Berthelot, drying lotions have no place in the French skincare routine. If pimples happen, they let them run their course, using a tinted moisturiser or BB cream in the meantime "to treat the skin while covering any blemishes."
Daily exfoliation, especially with sonic cleansing brushes and intense face scrubs packed with microbeads, is so not the French way. "Over-exfoliating can lead to irritation and broken capillaries," says Vichy Consulting Dermatologist Erin Gilbert, MD.
Instead, to make your skin French-girl glowy (but never irritated), Berthelot recommends using a glycolic acid serum (try Pixi by Petra's Overnight Glow Serum, $42) or all-natural brightening serum formulated with purifying essential oils (try Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum, $270), no more than a few times a week. Caudalie's Glycolic Peel ($47)—used just once a week—are also French-aesthetician-approved.
Avene Gentle Milk Cleanser ($35)
Because we have been brainwashed to value "squeaky clean skin," we often opt for soapy, foaming cleansers, products a French girl would never buy. "Stripping the skin by using harsh soap-based cleanser may make your skin feel cleaner initially, but ultimately it leads to dryness, an imbalanced pH, and removes some of the healthy bacteria you need to keep your skin healthy," she says.
Micellar waters and gentle cleansers formulated with natural, hydrating ingredients are the way to go. The Avene pick above is loaded with thermal spring water to leave your skin feeling moisturised, never tight.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution ($43)
"No layering," Strobel advises. "Less is more. While we love our multi-step acne systems, cleansing routines, and masks, the French prefer the opposite. "The less you overwhelm your skin, the better it will be," Strobel says.
So why do one step in three when you can do three steps in one, like with Bioderma's Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution? It removes make-up and dirt like a charm, is non-irritating, and restores your skin’s pH.
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré ($35)
"I’ll be the first to admit that makeup wipes make your nighttime beauty routine a breeze," says Gilbert. But the preservatives in many makeup wipes can be "irritating or too industrial strength to keep on your skin overnight." If you're addicted to your makeup wipes, at least make sure to wash off the residue afterward with a super gentle cleanser, like Cetaphil's Daily Facial Cleanser ($16).
And always follow up with moisturiser, arguably the most important step in the French-girl skincare routine. Makeup artists and dermatologists are all obsessed with Embryolisee's face cream ($35), which Gilbert says "provides a ton of moisture, has a wonderfully rich texture, and is an affordable option for those who don’t want to blow half of their paycheck on Crème de La Mer ($445)."
Invisible Zinc Facial Moisturiser SPF30+ ($29)
Strobel says that French girls never use chemical sunscreen, because they're filled with endocrine disruptors, but most mineral sunscreens are "too heavy" for every day. In the winter, French girls rarely wear any sunscreen at all—not an option we'd recommend for Australian women any time of year. Look for a lightweight lotion with an SPF of 30 or higher that wears well under makeup, like this one from Invisible Zinc.
Want more French beauty tips? Don't miss seven things French women never do to their hair.