How to look French: 11 beauty secrets

frenchbeauty-intro-4The allure and appeal of the French woman are almost unparalleled. Many a My French Life™ article has mused on the subject

This writer was very pleased, then, to discover a Refinery29 newsletter in her inbox, promising she would be able to look exactly like a French girl.

“While the allure of the French woman is as strong as ever, beneath the shell of effortless, natural beauty is an arsenal of time-honored traditions, religiously-followed beauty rituals, and unique attitudes that help keep these women gorgeous at every age and in every era,” writer Erika Stadler informed me.

And so I clicked on, to discover the 11 beauty secrets of French women…

1. They eat up the sun.


Literally, apparently, in the form of pre-sun pills.

“These pills, which contain carotenoids, selenium, and vitamin E, are reported to both hydrate the skin and speed up melanocyte production, which can add a healthy little St. Tropez-style glow. Tish Jett, an American living in Paris and author of Forever Chic, says that… they are “extremely popular in France.”

2. There’s no phrase for “workout junkie” in French.

Mireille Guiliano, author of ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’ and the forthcoming book ‘French Women Don’t Get Facelifts’, says that French women don’t exercise indoors. “A French woman would not do it if it were boring,” she tells Stadler. “That’s why you don’t see many of them in the gym — because they think it is like torture.”

Mais Mireille, some anglophones think it’s torture too!

Apparently French women opt instead for “AquaGym” or water aerobic classes, and “Invisible Exercise”: “daily routines… spiked with little bouts of activity” like parking further away from your destination, and taking the stairs.

I tried that for a while, but in the end found it was more of an excuse not to exercise, rather than a figure-enhancer.

3. They put a mask on it.

“The use of masks has long hit a fever pitch in France,” says Stadler. “From when they are little girls, French women use homemade masks to nourish hair and skin.”

“‘I remember my grandmother creating a mask with egg yolks for my hair and rinsing with vinegar,’ says French-born Marie-Laure Fournier, who runs Fournier Communications, a New-York based PR agency that represents global beauty brands.”


4. They moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

“French women focus much more on skin care than cosmetics; we like to have a super-healthy, luminous, and clear complexion,” Mathilde Thomas, founder of skin-care brand Caudalie tells Refinery29.

5. They soak in seawater solutions.

In yet another revelation I know nothing about, it seems French women are quite into ‘thalassotherapy’, and have been since the 1800s. Not sure what that is? Neither was I.

“The idea is that seawaters — rich in minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and iodine — help nurture skin. The salty waters can also help detox”

More trips to the beach, then!

6. They leave their hair alone.

Well at least I think I’ve got this one down-pat.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a French woman who washes her hair every day. And, for many, washing every other day is excessive, too.”


7. They indulge in injections — but not the ones you’d think.

They don’t get facelifts, but they do indulge in ‘mesotherapy’: “doctor-administered microinjections of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids… administered into the mesoderm — or middle layer of the skin — to stimulate the metabolism and production of collagen and elastin.”

frenchbeauty-pedicure8. They get polished… without polish.

“Enter the medical pedicure, a service popular in France… The 40-minute, approximately 30-euro procedure employs a medical coat-donning, government-licensed practitioner to groom the feet and toes by using shiny, sharp instruments. The result? Baby-soft feet and perfectly-cut and buffed nails.”

I could get into that!

9. They get massages – for their faces.

“A facial in France often involves face massage or facial exercises to tone the face,” says Stadler. Sounds quite nice, I must admit. I’m not so sure about facial exercises at home though, although Stadler and her interviewee are coy on the details of this one…

10. They take to the waters.

“Since royals stocked their quarters with cornflower water and rosewater in Versailles, so have French women used specialty waters for beauty pursuits,” says Stadler. “Eau de bleuet, or cornflower water, and Eau de rose, or rosewater, often do the duty of modern-day toners for many French women, who spritz them after cleansing.”

11. They see anti-ageing as an attitude, not a product category.

This is the most accessible tip on the list by far – but perhaps the most difficult to emulate.

Personal style blogger Jeanne Damas shares her secret with readers:

“A woman can be beautiful at any age. I think my mother is very beautiful, so I’m not scared of ageing… French women have a very natural approach to beauty. For us, it’s important to look natural, I think. Be happy for who you are and make the best of it.”

Click here to read the full article on Refinery29.
Read more beauty secrets that make French women irresistible, and a list of favourite French products.

Would you try these French beauty tips? Or, if you’re French, do you already follow any? Share your opinions and experiences in the comments box below.

Illustrations by Ammiel Mendoza, originally published on Refinery29.

About the Contributor

Hannah Duke

“I’m a Melbourne-based journalist, editor, photographer, and blogger dreaming of la vie européenne. I love all things French except for the pigeons: film, food, literature, fashion, and I indulge in this passion as often as possible! Find me on Twitter, or Google+.”

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Cécile Mazurier Oct 30, 2013 at 4:02 PM - Reply

    This is such a great article! Thank you Hannah. And to be honest, it is very accurate. I remember, when I was back home, gyms were definitely not popular (I was so surprised when I came to Australia to discover that everyone had a gym membership – although it is so sunny and the perfect place to exercise outdoors), and I used to use orange blossom or cornflower water. The beauty tips from Morroco were a true inspiration too. Rhassoul, argan oil, rose water, olive soap… and the hammam.
    Beauty in France, traditionnally, is much more about having a healthy and balanced lifestyle (because, obviously, food, sun, etc, also have impacts on the skin and the body) rather than cosmectics or hair-straighteners.

  2. Hannah Duke Oct 31, 2013 at 5:35 PM - Reply

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Cécile! And I’m pleased to hear it’s accurate… 😉 It’s really interesting to hear your point of view, as une française. Thank you for sharing!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.