8 Must-Know Lessons From French Beauty Routines

A lot of people love French style. And, correctly or incorrectly, much of the fashion world idolizes the archetype of an effortlessly chic Parisian who looks incredible in any outfit without even trying. That mythological French woman may or may not exist, but what does exist is a unique, French approach to beauty, which has given the world a wide array of cult-favorite French beauty products.

No matter how much we love the idea of being that woman who never wears too much makeup or puts too much effort into her hair, there probably aren’t too many women who follow all the French beauty rules. Nonetheless, there definitely are some must-know lessons we’ve learned over the years from quintessentially French beauty routines. Read on to check out our favorite tips, and you’ll feel a little bit more Parisian the next time you go through your skin care regimen or your makeup routine.

1. Embrace a natural look

beautiful woman doing makeup

To try out a French approach to beauty, try to accept your features instead of hiding or changing them. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

There’s no rule that says you can’t use concealer, have to ditch your foundation, or need to throw out your finishing powder. But if French beauty routines have taught us one thing, it’s settling for a natural look is a better choice than spending half your morning in front of the mirror.

Kathleen Hou reports for NY Mag’s The Cut that “French women don’t contour” because they aren’t focused on changing their faces. You certainly get the green light to hide dark circles or blemishes, but you don’t need to try to change the shape of your nose or the angle of your cheekbones with makeup.

2. Focus on skin care

young woman with clear complexion in the bathroom

Many French women (and smart women everywhere) prioritize skin care over makeup. | iStock.com

Plenty of women from countries around the world prioritize skin care over makeup. And that definitely seems to be a common philosophy among the French. Caroline de Maigret told Into the Gloss, “[C]leansing is the most important step in beauty for me.”

Before you spend lots of money on expensive makeup, take a look at your skin care routine. You’ll likely find it rewarding to allocate more of your beauty time (and budget) to skin care rather than makeup. And taking good care of your skin will ensure you look great as you age — which is a pretty great side effect. 

3. Keep your look simple

woman applying eyeshadow

There’s nothing wrong with makeup — just keep your look simple. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

We don’t subscribe to most rules on what you can and cannot do with your makeup routine. So, we don’t always believe you can do a bright lip or a statement-making eye, but not both at the same time. Still, if you want to learn from the best of French beauty routines, you may want to try keeping your look simple. You don’t necessarily have to skip the mascara if you want to wear lipstick, but you may want to think about keeping your look and your routine pared down.

Challenge yourself to limit the number of products you use in the morning, just to switch things up. You may just find you like keeping your look simple — especially if you find yourself traveling frequently.

4. Choose multitasking products

woman doing makeup in front of a mirror

If you want to try out a French approach to beauty, try multitasking products. | iStock.com

As Maria Del Russo reports for Refinery29, a great way for American women to try out a French beauty routine is to go with multitasking products. If the less-is-more approach to a minimalist beauty routine seems difficult to achieve, then try minimizing your routine by swapping your lipstick and blush, for instance, for a product that can do both. Multitasking products can save you time and money and can also help you slim down your makeup bag when traveling.

5. Take a new approach to cleansing

Asian woman washing her face on the sink

Swap your harsh cleanser for a gentler option if you want to learn from Parisian beauty routines. | iStock.com/ferlistockphoto

Into the Gloss’s Emily Weiss reports one of the must-know tips about French pharmacy products is to “rethink cleanser.” French women (and American women who emulate them) are known for swapping a stripping soap or cleanser for eau micellaire (cleansing water). Especially if you aren’t piling on a ton of makeup, micellar water offers a gentle way to cleanse your face at the end of the day. That makes it a lot easier to be gentle with your skin, which is an important tenet of French beauty philosophies.

6. Embrace messy hair

calm emotionless model with long windy hair

To take a French approach to your hair, try to embrace a messy look instead of making every strand perfect. | iStock.com/Julenochek

All you have to do is Google “French hair” to realize French women aren’t afraid of messy hair. That may be a little difficult for many American women to understand, obsessed as we all are with making sure our locks are perfectly flat-ironed or curled at all times. If you want to switch up your routine, though, try embracing your natural texture. That doesn’t mean you need to air-dry your hair and be a complete minimalist when it comes to the products you choose. Rather, try a look that doesn’t require every strand to be perfectly in place. You just might find you like the change.

7. Take care of your hair

Woman is washing her hair

Know when you should wash your hair, and when it’s a better idea to give it a break. | iStock.com/esp2k

Not everybody’s good at taking great care of their hair. It can be pretty difficult to do properly if you dye your hair, which is much more damaging than you might think. But an easy way to take better care of your hair is to wash it less — which coincides perfectly with French beauty philosophy.

Louise Follain tells Into the Gloss whether or not she washes her hair depends on if her hair really needs to be clean. Shampoo dries out your hair, so there may be something to be said for using dry shampoo instead of washing at least once or twice a week. After all, dirty hair is the best for great texture.

8. Be choosy about your fragrance

Young woman buying perfume in a shop or store

Think carefully about what fragrance you want to wear in the morning. | iStock.com/kzenon

Fragrances are tough to pick out, and many women choose a favorite scent they wear day in and day out. But as Faith Xue reports for Byrdie, a lot of French women take a different approach. Many, like Adrienne Coléon Gaskell, choose a fragrance like they choose lingerie — by taking into account what they plan to do that day, what they’re wearing, what mood they’re in, and what season it is. Gaskell also recommends applying fragrance before you get dressed, which will make the scent even more subtle.