Not a day goes by that we're not bombarded with headlines claiming to have cracked the code to French style, from the effortless wardrobes to the minimalist makeup. The covetable cool-without-trying aesthetic made famous by the French is something so sought after that we dedicate tons of time to researching it here at Who What Wear. And one specific area that's always bubbling up as the ultimate mood-board inspiration is French hairstyles.
For many, the quintessential French shag haircut you can spot all over Instagram might be the first style that comes to mind, but it's so much more than that. Parisians have a very specific philosophy when it comes to hair that greatly differs from that of the philosophy more commonly accepted stateside. "The biggest difference [between French and American hair rituals] is French women do not visit the salon as often as Americans," says Paris-based celebrity hairstylist Ciara Costenoble. "They definitely have their hair person, yet salon visits are usually one to four times a year."
Being American-born but having adopted the Parisian lifestyle for the past nine years, Costenoble is perfectly equipped to break down the art of creating Parisian-inspired hair with her unique take on exactly what it is that makes French hairstyles so perfect. That's why I tapped her to spill the tea on the top hairstyles French women ask for most, along with all the products and tips needed to carry them out.
Ahead, check out the six French hairstyles Costenoble aligns with that certain je ne sais quoi look the French are famous for.
"I call this the curtain fringe. French women are still loyal to a good fringe moment, but this grown out '90s fringe is taking over and I love it! I'm seeing it worn parted in the middle or swept over and lightly layered."
"We all know how oily a fringe can get throughout the day and week, so this dry shampoo that uses rice starch as its main ingredient is natural but also does not leave a film on the hair and works even for deep brunettes."
"The dry conditioner is really a standout product, as there isn’t anything else like it. Now your roots may be leaning towards oily, but the mid-shaft and ends are often dry. (Especially as we move into colder temperatures.) This spray powder conditioner refreshes and nourishes the hair immediately."
Photo:Courtesy of Ciara Costenoble
"Le chignon is a French classic. It's timeless yet so transcending, which is probably why it is still the go-to hairstyle for any special event! For the French, if you want to be chic for your event, get a chignon and voilà."
Costenoble recommends this medium-sized curling iron to create a base of soft curls in the hair before twirling it into the intricate updo.
"French women do not dress up as often as the movies and media lead us to believe," says Costenoble. "However, there is this new generation of French women who appreciate trying new styles and changing up their hairstyles once or twice a month." She says this soft hold hairspray is a must for keeping more polished styles in place.
This multiuse hair treatment is what Costenoble reaches for finish off her looks. It imparts serious shine.
"Most French women do not have bone straight hair. Most have some texture (wavy, soft curls, or full-on curly or kinky hair). French women are embracing their texture, and the products available to hydrate and define their tresses."
Costenoble recommends products to nourish textured hair and embrace the volume. "Aveda France launched the Nutriplenish line this year aimed towards fine and thick textured hair. Their leave-in conditioner is the absolute best!"
"IGK texture spray is perfect for fine curls and waves that are looking for more volume. Both products are light enough to be used every day if needed."
If mechanically drying the hair, she recommends using a diffuser attachment for best results. "Finish off with Dyson diffuser for more defined texture," she explains.
"Braids are requested nonstop and are very popular here. With a strong African and Caribbean-French community, you can be sure to see intricate braided hairstyles all through these Parisian streets and on the runway."
"Cantu products have a strong presence in France. Their avocado styling cream is ultra hydrating and creamy. It's a perfect base to hydrate the hair before braiding."
The Curls Blueberry Bliss Control Paste by Curls is another go-to Costenoble calls out. "It's my go-to product for smoothing the roots, edges, and braids with sheen."
"To maintain a healthy scalp before and after braided styles, I turn to the Purifying Scalp Scrub With Sea Salt from Christophe Robin," she adds. It helps to remove product buildup and soothe sensitive, flaky, and oily scalps with purifying sea salt and hydrating sweet almond oil.
"Then, there's the 'I barely tried' wavy bob. I think French women embrace a bob hairstyle so well. Never over-styled but yet perfectly tousled. This haircut and style grows out well, which fits into the French seldom hair salon visits."
"This is a well-known product that can be used on the roots to give a bit more volume or on the ends for a faint effortless wave."
"Sisley Paris launched its haircare line and the volumizing spray must have been designed with this hairstyle in mind! It is amazing!"
"Long tresses with extensions have become more and more popular! I know, shocking. Now, French women are not openly telling the world they have extensions, but they are proudly getting them on the regular for long lush lengths."
"During the quarantine lockdown, there was an outcry from Americans about how to care for their hair during this time. None of my French clients or friends spoke about this (unless they have grey hair). The message here was to take this time to wash the hair less and splurge on deep conditioners and rich hair oils." Here's one that Costenoble calls out specifically for caring for extended tresses.
As a little hair cocktail, Costenoble recommends mixing the aforementioned Aveda hair oil with this IGK hair balm. "This makes for ultimate detangling, light hydration, and natural shine," she says.
It's easier than ever to add extra length and volume to your hair with hair extensions, without ever setting foot inside a hair salon. One way to get the look at home is by opting for a set of clip-in hair extensions that can be easily added to create the illusion of longer, thicker hair in minutes. This set from Insert Name Here comes with all the pieces you'll need for a total transformation, and best of all, they can be removed with ease.