The French are often associated with an effortless, timeless, elegant sense of style – and their makeup techniques are no exception. France is my favourite country in the world and I am constantly enamoured by their laissez-faire attitude towards getting ready whenever I visit. There’s something about a French woman’s purposefully smudged lipstick, hint of undereye bags peeking through, and lack of foundation that emboldens me to embrace my natural beauty every time I visit – it’s like a breath of fresh air (which is ironic because smoking is huge in French culture). Having been lucky enough to annually summer in France and to have talked to my mother about their style (she lived there in her 20s) I have compiled a list of how to achieve the effortless, barely there, one-and-done French approach to makeup.
The key to capturing the French makeup style is definitely to encompass the ‘less is more’ approach. Basically, there is no need for primer, they don’t really believe in it and they don’t wear enough complexion products to even need to secure it for the whole day.
- Foundation is commonly not really worn at all – they embrace natural beauty, there’s no need to mask your face! But, if foundation is worn then it’s typically very light coverage – think Giorgio Armani’s Luminous Silk foundation – so it isn’t noticeable that they are wearing it. It’s also very common for women to just apply it with their hands and rub it in with their fingers so the product melts from the warmth of their skin and becomes sheerer coverage.
- Next, they will wear concealer but it’s to enhance their natural beauty – not to look perfect and flawless. Hence, a light coverage, brightening concealer is opted for over a full coverage, thick concealer that will hide their undereye bags completely. Touche Éclat concealer by Yves Saint Laurent is a must have beauty product for every French woman, as it helps make them look more awake due to it’s brightening aspect, but it still allows some darkness to peek through and create that effortless appeal.
- A powder is not used all over the face to set the makeup because they typically don’t have makeup all across the face! Instead, they opt for a matte powder – the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish pressed powder is ideal for this scenario – and only powder areas where they naturally get shiny (think T-zone area).
- Bronzer is a must-have product! The beauty ideal in France is a sun-kissed, tanned tone to the body because this is viewed as looking healthy. There is only ONE bronzer in the world when it comes to a French woman’s cosmetic bag and it is the Guerlain Terracotta Bronzer. Fournier says “Nothing will ever replace Guerlain Terracotta Bronzer for a French woman” and I couldn’t agree more. Apply it on your cheekbones, potentially even sweeping onto your cheeks slightly if your face shape allows for it, forehead, nose, and neck to achieve this essential aspect to French makeup.
- Contour is not a necessity in France because they don’t like to alter their face shapes, and they don’t like anything that takes too long. Kim Kardashian style of contouring is perceived as too over-done and does not capture their essence. Blusher is used to achieve the ‘healthy’ look they strive for, but a very sheer cream/liquid blusher is definitely preferred over a powder because they also perceive too much blusher as ‘clownish’. The same rule applies to highlighter, as they like to look healthy but not greasy – so keep it sheer!
Eye makeup is either the focal point or it is very natural looking. If it is the focal point then black kohl eyeliner smudged with a pencil brush (or their finger) is an easy way to dramatize the eyes. For natural, they tend to stick to neutral colours and never do editorial makeup such as a cut-crease or bold eyeshadow colours. It’s either a sweep of subtle powder or even an eyeshadow stick that they blend with their fingers in seconds.
Now of course, this could not be an article about French makeup if red lipstick did not make a feature. The French believe in only having one focal point on your face, which is why the complexion is always kept natural and then you can either dress up your eyes and opt for a lip balm on your lips. Or, you have very light eyeshadow or even just mascara alone on the eyes and draw all of the attention to the Dior 999 Lipstick – a signature red that is in every French woman’s handbag. The key to the red lipstick though, is to still make it look effortless. Apply it in the centre of your lips, and then use your finger to spread it out and smudge it slightly so you encompass the French aura of romance and passion by making it look like you’ve just been kissed. Et, voila!