We’ll say it: No one nails the art of effortless beauty like French women. Call it a stereotype if you’d like, but the French always seem to have the most beautiful makeup looks. Since France is home to some of beauty’s biggest names (think L’Oréal, Guerlain, and Clarins), it only makes sense that the French way of life is laced with nods to the country’s roots in beauty.
It only takes a couple of minutes roaming the streets in Paris to spot that French women know how to apply their makeup. Their skin is plump, smooth, and glowing; their brows appear effortlessly preened; and their cheeks radiate a flush so healthy it leaves you wondering what their secret is. Wonder no more because we've reached out to French makeup artist Ewa Ciezkowska to uncover the six makeup tips French women swear by.
1. Skincare Is Makeup
This rule comes out on top, as it is something that French women worldwide echo. That plump, radiant glow? It’s all down to their skin prep rather than their makeup. "The most important thing is to really take care of your skin. You should massage it, mask it frequently, and have good treatments. Before you apply a beautiful makeup look, you need a good skincare routine,” says Ciezkowska.
This face cream from one of our favorite French beauty brands By Terry is truly exceptional for delivering plumping hydration. It contains different weights of hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plumps the skin at every level, meaning it’s a great way to prep the skin first thing.
Another French beauty staple, this soothing and softening facial mist makes for the ultimate skin refresh. It helps to reduce redness, boost glow and relieve skin of any dryness.
For a supercharged glow, slather this creamy mask over freshly cleansed skin before makeup, leave it on for 10 minutes, and remove the excess with a tissue. Skin will be left feeling pillowy and plump.
2. Red Lipstick Is a Staple
What is a French makeup routine without red lipstick? "Since the pandemic, many people’s makeup preferences have changed. People spend more time on their complexion and have swapped their lipsticks for a balm. But we all know that a red lip that you can’t take your eyes off is probably the most iconic French makeup look,” says Ciezkowska.
This lipstick from Dior (999) is potentially one of the most universally adored reds around. The cool tone makes lips pop and is flattering on virtually every skin tone.
Guerlain is an iconic French makeup brand, and these refillable lipsticks are about as chic as they come. Not only are the shades and formulas beautiful, but the changeable cases turn applying your lipstick into a very aesthetically pleasing art.
This Fenty lipstick is beloved around the world.
A bright, cool-toned red like this one is what French women reach for as soon as the weather starts warming up. Whether you're heading to the beach, popping to the shops, or going out-out, an über-luxe red like this one won't go amiss.
3. Use Mascara Wisely
French makeup never looks particularly "done.” Yes, the look is typically neat, polished, and radiant, but the secret to a really great look is to disguise the makeup altogether—which French women know how to do. Ciezkowska says, "It’s all about keeping your complexion looking fresh and bright and making sure your eyes reflect that too, with just a dashing of mascara. You want to feel fresh and well in your skin.”
This super-lengthening mascara delivers French lashes in just one coat. Wiggle the brush into the roots of your lashes and drag through for a lightweight length that still looks natural.
Another way of keeping lashes looking natural and your eyes looking radiant is by swapping your black mascara for a brown one. It’s not as heavy but still gives a polished look.
If you want to create the illusion of thicker lashes without adding too much drama and length, simply wiggle this volumizing formula into the roots of the lashes and keep the tips bare.
4. Foundation Isn't Important
Covering up all of the hard work your skincare does to boost glow and deliver radiance will only leave your skin looking dull and unnatural. Instead, French girls like to opt for lightweight bases. "Start with a good face cream, and then use a brightening CC serum to give a radiant glow. By Terry Brightening CC Serum is a hero product in my makeup bag,” says Ciezkowska.
Available in four colour-correcting shades, from apricot to rosy pink, it can be applied on its own, under a tinted moisturiser or used as a light-reflecting highlight. "It really freshens up the skin and evens out your skin tone, no matter what you’ve been through the day before. It’s particularly good in the morning if you’ve had a late night,” she adds.
This leaves the skin glowing and effortlessly radiant.
This serums adds a rosy glow to the complexion and looks great worn alone or underneath foundation.
This shade adds warmth to the skin. Think a long weekend spent in the sunshine kind of glow.
The peach undertones in this shade instantly brighten lackluster skin.
5. Use Lipstick for Everything
A great French makeup routine shouldn’t take much time or effort. "Use your lipstick for almost everything. You can use it on your lips, on your cheeks as a blush, and even on your eyes. You end up with a makeup look that ties in really nicely that is really quick to do,” says Ciezkowska. For a versatile lipstick, look for a wearable nude or blush pink that will work well for a monochromatic look.
This balmy lipstick has a glowing sheen that will look just as great on cheeks and lids as it does the lips.
A subtle wash of poppy red is the perfect way to freshen up your cheeks.
This rosy-tinted lipstick is formulated with nourishing hydration, leaving lips plumped and cheeks looking radiant and dewy.
6. Liquid Formulas Reign Supreme
Matte formulas like powders and full-coverage putties are out of the question when it comes to trying to nail that iconic French-girl glow. "Liquid products hydrate the skin much better and achieve a glowing look quicker than matte products. They deliver the perfect natural-looking base,” advises Ciezkowska. And the best bit is they can be applied easily with fingers or a multi-use blending brush for super-quick application.
Beauty editors and influencers alike have been freaking out over this affordable liquid blush from SHEGLAM. Just a few dots (and a quick dab and blend) creates the most ethereal flush.
Nars might be predominantly considered a U.S. brand, but the founder, François Nars, was born and raised in France, meaning he understands the French makeup ethos. This tinted moisturizer provides lightweight coverage that leaves natural skin shining through in the most effortlessly beautiful of ways.
Dab this tinted jelly onto the apples of your cheeks for a fresh flush that oozes health and radiance.
This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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