What is it about French women? Whether it's the flawless skin, chic wardrobe and effortlessly tousled hair of screen icons like Brigitte Bardot and Marion Cotillard, or their ability to eat pretty much anything they want and remain sylphlike, the French have something everyone seems to covet.
So really, what is it?
Lucky for us non-Frenchies, there's a new book out that can shed some light on this je ne sais quoi. In The French Beauty Secret, Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of cult French beauty brand Caudelie, gives away everything that makes the French so ... French when it comes to beauty and skin care.
Sure, they make it look easy and natural, but here are nine "secrets" French women use to keep them looking — and feeling — beautiful, straight from a French woman.
1. They drink wine every day.
Arguably the most enjoyable activity on this list, French women enjoy a glass of red wine every day without thinking of it as an indulgence. Rather, it's part of their culture, something they'd never think twice about doing (or not doing).
Delicious, sure, but wine also has remarkable health and anti-aging benefits. Full of the antioxidant resveratrol and polyphenols, red wine is anti-inflammatory, can slow the growth of bacteria that causes acne, fights free radicals and helps with heart health, meaning your circulation (and subsequent glow) is improved.
According to Thomas, the best beauty secret she ever learned came from her great grandmother: "Drink one glass of red wine every day, and have at least one 30-minute walk."
2. They don't think of skin care as "pampering."
Unlike their American counterparts, Thomas says French women realize that a skin care routine — no matter how long it takes or how many products are needed — is a necessary part of life. "We know that a little bit of pampering isn't just a luxury," she says. "It is about choosing only the best and understanding that you are entitled to have a beauty routine that makes you look and feel beautiful at the same time."
For them, beauty is an "art de vivre" and should give you pleasure, not pain. Which is why Thomas posits spa treatments, like facials, shouldn't be treated as a luxury. Rather, she views them as a necessary part of a skin care regimen and knows the cumulative benefits of upkeep will only help enhance someone's beauty (even if you have to DIY in your bathroom!).
3. They have sex.
An orgasm a day keeps the dermatologist away, right? Though she's not backing this claim with any scientific studies, Thomas thinks it's pretty clear that sex gives your skin a healthy glow: it increases blood and oxygen circulation, and boosts collagen production.
By no means exclusive to the French, sex should be a regular part of your skin care routine. When in doubt, follow the advice of Thomas' friend's Parisian grandmother: "Always coordinate your lingerie. Because you never know what might happen."
4. They follow the "less is more" maxim when it comes to make up.
When you think of typical French makeup, you probably conjure an image of artfully smudged eyeliner and maybe a light swipe of red lipstick ... You know, the famous "done-but-not-done look." That's because the emphasis is more on healthy, great-looking skin that doesn't need a lot of makeup instead of covering up skin issues with layers of product and color.
“In France we’re about glowing, great-looking skin, so we can have this no-makeup makeup look, and it works,” Thomas says. “In the U.S., I find women looking for quick fixes that leave their skin dry, peeling, or damaged, so they’re buying more makeup, and the difference is that American women find skin care complicated, with many steps, and the French secret is more about simplicity."
5. They eat well and actually enjoy food.
The French approach to food is fairly simple: Eat well. They take time to enjoy food and sit down to family meals. They eat the best quality they can get, and they don't ruin mealtimes with endless snacking. The way Thomas puts it, "the essence of eating like the French is to eat very well, but in moderation."
With an emphasis on fresh produce, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and some dairy and meat, the typical French diet sounds similar to a Mediterranean-type diet, which we all know is a natural anti-ager. There's no need to go out of your way to get the nutrients your body (and subsequently your skin) needs because eating like this will provide you with everything you need.
6. They find a skin care routine that works and stick to it.
Maybe it's a slower approach to life in general or a lesson in patience, but for the French, "beauty is not something you turn to in a panic when a wrinkle or pimple appears." Rather, it's a ritual in figuring out what works best and sticking with it for life. Thomas observes that for many American women, skin care is treated as a remedy when a problem arises, but she thinks the French way is much better: take preventive steps so you never need to treat.
7. They take cold showers.
Blame it on pre-Napoleon plumbing, but according to Thomas, "many Frenchwomen never got into the habit of taking long, steamy showers." It's more common to take warm showers and finish with a jolt of cold water to tone and firm the skin by enhancing circulation.
8. They recognize that skin care extends beyond the face.
And we're not talking décolletage (though making sure to extend skin care down your neck and chest is important, too!). No, what Thomas is getting at here is something she calls the "pleasure principle," the idea that your beauty routine should make you feel good while also making you look good ... for your own sake.
Own your routine and your beauty, and others will fall in line.
9. They embrace wrinkles.
Do as the French and accept the signs that you've lived and laughed. A wrinkle here or a dimple there? Who cares. "Instead of fighting the inevitability of aging, we're going to embrace it," says Thomas. "We're going to try to have a balanced life, to not just focus on our faces but on all the faces in our lives. We're going to live in the here and now so we can be happy with what we've got and not what we'll never have."
The real secret to French beauty? Confidence. Get on it, ma belle!