There’s just something about those French, n’est-ce pas?
The French are renowned for – among other illustrious things – their style, flair, and beauty. It’s not that the French are innately more beautiful than the rest of us (though some are, to be sure), but the way in which they decorate their bodily canvases with scarves, black ensembles, perfumes, and various beauty products, is what truly sets them apart.
Being one of the foremost fashion capitals of the world, Paris is abound with beauty products to compliment the famously fashionable French. These products can be found on shelves throughout the city, from high-end (Printemps) to low-end (the local pharmacie). Yet no matter where you purchase your products in Paris, you’re sure to find some hidden delights.
High fashion department store Printemps has been Parisians’ go-to one-stop-shop for a century and a half. This Paris institution sells nearly every high-end beauty brand imaginable, from Balenciaga to Bio Beaute by Nuxe to Bourjois to Chanel to Dior to Hermes to Jean Paul Gaultier to Lancome to Le Roi Saloon and countless others (phew!). Printemps is comparable to London’s Selfridges in its featuring of high end fare in non-intimidating environment.
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche is the oldest department store on the Left Bank. It boasts an impressive array of beauty products and knowledgeable staff. The beauty departments are located on the ground and second floors near the central escalator. The renowned department store’s website says the following of its beauty offerings: “Placing well-being and beauty at the heart of its focus, this department issues a tempting invitation to pamper oneself.”
Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman now lives in Paris. Portman is the spokeswoman for Dior, so she knows a thing or two about looking good. She moved to France with her Bordeaux-born husband, Benjamin Millepied, who is the Director of Dance at Paris Opera Ballet. (Millepied choreographed and starred in Black Swan, the film for which Portman won an Oscar).
Portman attributes her glowing skin complexion to her vegan diet (though she admits it is difficult to resist croissants). She has stated that her favorite beauty products are French-made Diorskin Star Concealer and Diorshow mascara (No. 90 Pro Black, is a popular style). Another go-to for this expat is David Mallet Hair Serum. Mallet is a Parisian hairdresser whose self-made products have a huge following.
Portman tells In Style her observations on French style and beauty: “There’s this innate chic that French women have; they just know how to tie their scarf right, the right length of the pants with the shoes. Makeup is very minimal. And the hair has that slept-in look, like you got a blow-dry three days ago.”
Though French makeup is minimal at times, it is still as popular as ever. In fact, some brands are so revered that they’ve attracted a devoted cult-like following, such as skincare giant Caudalie, which is known for its anti-aging products crafted from the extraction of the active ingredients in grapes.
Coco Chanel famously said: “Youth is something very new: twenty years ago no one mentioned it.” Nowadays, anti-aging products are big business for beauty product companies, and some like Caudalie develop these products so finely that they are the primary source of revenue. [Be sure to check out the brand’s Marais boutique at 8 Rue des Francs Bourgeois; upstairs there’s a spa treatment room.]
Luckily for Caudalie fans across the pond, the products can be picked up in stores like Nordstrom, and– as the brand continues to thrive– a newish store in the West Village of New York. Among fan favorites are the Caudalie Lip Conditioner and various moisturizers.
The local pharmacie, comparable to Boots or Walgreens in a few ways (though you can’t buy jelly beans or Scotch tape at a pharmacie), has many offerings for a shopper on any kind of budget, and can be found in any arrondissement.
Products like a Bioderma cleanser is a must-have for many fashion industry mavens, and also for the rest of us. Vogue UK spoke with model Ginta Lapina, who swears by the brand, saying at September 2014 Fashion Week: “I love Bioderma Crealine H20, like every model.”
The pharmacist Andre Bouclet is the brains behind water-centric brand Thalgo, now sold at pharmacies. The idea came from Bouclet’s love of the ocean and its skin-enhancing effects. One of their more popular items is Thalgo Reviving Marine Mist.
Embryolisse is practically a household brand name, as it’s been sold in pharmacies in Paris for over 60 years. The company is famous for it’s moisturizer, Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré, a product which has fans worldwide.
French Woman Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano was a national bestseller when it debuted over ten years ago. Nowadays, Guiliano keeps up with her French trade secrets via articles on her website. In her piece titled “5 Top Beauty Secrets of French Women,” she touts basic principles of beauty from drinking lots of water for a glow-y complexion to “navigating the health benefits and risks of the sun,” which include not being a “sun-worshipping lizard.” Rather, many French women are more inclined to use self-tanner and load up on the sunscreen before stepping out into the summer sun, she tells us.
There are thousands of French beauty products in stores worldwide, but often the best beauty enhancers are the simplest. As Guiliano advises, “French women know one can go far with a great haircut, a bottle of champagne, and a divine perfume.”
And there is absolument something to be said for that.
Products available from Amazon: