Tag Archives: cultural observations on beauty

Take it from the French: 5 Classic Beauty Tips

September 16, 2012


Before we begin, I’d just like to throw in a small caveat.

When you encounter some magazine or blog article with exciting revelations about “French Beauty Secrets,” be aware…

They may be intriguing and they may be entertaining. But they also contain a lot of sensational and sweeping generalizations about French women.

The French are often depicted as a group of people who have an innate ability to be alluring, seductive and mysterious. And why would French people object to that?

But it’s important to realize that many of these stereotypes about the French, such as skinny, elegant and fashionable people… these stereotypes exist mainly within Paris.

Paris is just something else entirely.

But when you drive out of Paris and visit rural small French villages, you’ll find that they are just normal places inhabited by people you would find in a small town anywhere.

Also, many of these stereotypes, like women who visit spas and get facials every week, are true mainly for women from the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum.

As someone who lived in Paris, I can tell you… Paris brings together a great number of incredibly diverse people and colorful blends of cultures.

People come to Paris from different parts of the world. France, Europe, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia. Everywhere.

Which means, you are not going to find just one group of homogenous people who all happen to be sharing the same beauty habits.

Much less the same beauty secrets!

Ok, so now that we’ve gotten that caveat out of the way…

I would like to re-confirm the idea that there is An Unusual Amount Of Chic And Attractive People Walking Around In Paris!

There are recurring themes on beauty and elegance which I’ve observed far more frequently in Paris than anywhere else I’ve lived.

They are undoubtably the habits which have lead many to conclude that when it comes to beauty and sophistication…

The French, and especially the Parisians, know what’s up.

Here are 5 Classic French Beauty Tips

1) Minimalism

When it comes to their make-up, clothes and hair, French women are the masters of minimalism.

They stick only to the bare essentials.

Apart from a stunning shade of red on their lips, you can barely tell that they are wearing any other makeup. If they wear any other makeup at all, they put them on in such a way that they enhance their own natural beauty rather than try to achieve someone else’s idea of a beautiful face.

Their outfits are often a palette of basic tones. Black, blue, beige, and white.

A well thought-out ensemble of clothing basics such as skinny jeans, a loose fitting sweater and flat ballet shoes are often mixed with a piece of accessory that shows off their flair and provides a splash of color to their look.

The small apartments in Paris and small closet space means women must choose quality over quanity, carefully selecting only a few clothes to add to their wardrobe with each season.

As for their hair, women take great care to keep their hair soft, shiny and healthy.

They avoid extreme changes when it comes to their hair’s color. Anything that puts their hair under heat or harsh chemical treatments, they prefer to avoid.

They also prefer hairstyles that require little maintenance.

2) Skincare First, Skincare Forever

French women can get away with wearing so little make up because they take excellent care of their skin!

Skincare is first and foremost. It is the most important aspect in a French woman’s beauty regime.

I’m similar to the French women in this way because I’m so mad about skincare!

Honestly, I have never been around as many beautiful looking creams, lotions, potions and elixirs as I have in France.

Their pharmacies are more like beauty clinics, lined with products to keep the skin firm, fresh, plump, smooth, hydrated and flawless.

In fact, I have an easier time in French pharmacies finding a bottle of vitamins for the skin and nails than a bottle of aspirin!

There are also spas and esthetic centers in every neighborhood.

French women treat skincare as a long-term investment. So instead of spending a little bit of money on makeup to cover up blemishes, they would rather spend more money to keep their skin looking flawless.

They also have no problems with their natural skin color and so they do not actively go out of their way to cook their skin under the sun.

If they want to achieve that sun-tanned look, well… as with everything else, there’s always a cream for that.

3) Moderation

Real butter. Cheeses. Fresh breads. Beautiful pastries. Deliciously and masterfully prepared meals…

To say that the French eat very well is a gross understatement.

The French have mastered food. Although they eat rich and delicious foods, they also practice control and moderation.

But it’s not just what and how much they eat. It’s also the way in which they eat that matters. The French take their time eating and enjoying their meals. They eat at regular times of the day. And they eat together in the company of others.

When they indulge, the indulgence takes the form of such small portions. So they must take their time to savor each flavor.

The macarond, a small round, brightly colored pastry, embodies this little luxurious indulgence which must be savored slowly.

This practice of deriving great pleasure from small pleasures is the key to the sensuous and satisfied lives which the French are known to lead.

And because they eat and enjoy their food in moderation, they only need to exercise in moderation to maintain their trim figures.

Walking, riding bicycles, skiing, hiking, and swimming. Even making love! All are moderate forms of exercise which the French love.

In fact, usually when they are moving about, it’s not really to exercise or lose weight. There is no goal. The point is to just enjoy time spent outdoors with others.

My thoughts on The Frequent and Small Movement was inspired by this French style of living.

4) Keep It Together

My French friends often talk laughingly about how the English will drink until they vomit all over themselves.

“Ils n’ont pas de classe”, as they like to say.

To the French, class is keeping yourself together.

There is an abundance of alcohol in France, but the difference in how French people behave themselves while they’re drinking is remarkable.

When people are drinking, they may get happy and animated, and they may even start singing, but they somehow always manage to keep themselves together.

Another example of how the French keep things classy. You will be hard pressed to see a French person walking around like they’ve just rolled out of bed.

That’s because they take the time and the effort to maintain a certain level of presentability, even if they’re just stepping out to buy something at the corner market.

A quote by Coco Chanel which is incredibly telling of this French attitude:

“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” ~ Coco Chanel

5) Accept Change with Grace

The amount of anti-aging creams and treatments that exist in the French market might give the impression that French women are terrified of aging. But that’s really not the case at all.

French women know that change is inevitable. But they also know how to negotiate the terms.

They continue to take good care of themselves and live colorful lives well past their 60s.

The fact that French women do not equate old age with decline is evident in the number of older women in Paris who walk around and look like they still have it.

If they do choose to undertake cosmetic surgery, the results are very discreet. And again, the changes are made only to enhance their own natural looks.

They know that when you fearfully cling to a youthful face, the resulting look can be even more terrifying!

* * *

One thing to not take away from the French…

The smoking.

It’s pretty gross. It also baffles me, how can so many women who care so much about their skin smoke that much?

No one really seems to frown down upon it. Not even when young kids smoke among their group of young friends.