We've noticed an inarguable trend over the years—fiendish obsession and intrigue surrounding French beauty and all it encompasses. From imperceptibly perfect strands to a signature rouge-painted pout, we're here for—and want to try—it all. We've also conducted tons of research on the topic: tapping French MUAs for their top makeup application tips and trend predictions, and even adopting a French skincare regimen. Yet, despite being well-versed in the chic beauty aesthetic, we felt that something was missing.
After scanning our makeup collections and pricking up our ears whenever our French friends and fellow beauty experts talked top brands and products, we realized we hadn't published a list (served straight-up) featuring the best French makeup brands—both iconic and lesser-known. So without further ado, we bring you the ultimate guide to everything French makeup.
Ahead, 13 of our favorite French brands and their top products to your cart ASAP.
To kick off our list is none other than world-renowned, luxury powerhouse Givenchy. While the brand might be best known for its haute-couture, it also excels in covetable cosmetics products—from playful color-changing lip and cheek balm to everyday essentials like mascara and highlighter. Its Volume Disturbia Mascara ($27) delivers dramatic lashes with up to 24-hour wear. Meanwhile, its Bouncy Highlighter Cooling Jelly Glow is a must-have. "The cooling jelly effect is refreshing, dewy, and perfect for every season. I put it on my lids, cheeks, brow bone, and Cupid's bow for an allover glow that never dries down," Byrdie associate editorial director, Hallie Gould, tells us.
Although his initial career plans involved architecture, Christian Dior and his eponymous brand have succeeded in becoming one of the most exciting and delighting fashion and beauty houses in France and the world. Since its inception over 70 years ago, Dior has been synonymous with timeless beauty and elegance. And while the brand's fragrance collection is highly sought-after we happen to be partial to what it rolls out in the lips and eyes department.
Ethereal, pink, and perpetually pretty, its infamous Lip Glow ($35) is a must-have object of affection within any makeup lover's lip kit. You can't go wrong with any of the Lip Glow shades or finishes, but the subtle shimmer of its rose gold number is perfection in a tube. In mascara news, the cult-favorite original Diorshow typically takes top prize but we happen to prefer its latest rendition, Diorshow Iconic Mascara ($30), for mastering unbeatable length, curl, and overall lash happiness. Iconic is one of the only mascaras we've ever tried that encourages curl and staves off limp fringe come midday. Our nitpicky eyes have never witnessed a rogue flake or smudge, either.
Founded in 1935 by perfumer Armand Petitjean, Lancôme has been dedicated to creating innovative and elegant cosmetics across the categories of fragrance, skincare, and makeup. As for which products you should be on the lookout for, collectively, Team Byrdie adores the mega-watt results of the brand's ever-popular formula of Monsieur Big Mascara ($26). After all, French celebrity makeup artist Patrick De Fontbrune, says that the French woman—or any woman for that matter—will never leave home without a dependable tube of mascara stashed for safekeeping in her purse. "For someone who needs more coverage with a foundation that can go on sheer and build to complete coverage, Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear Foundation ($47) is breathable and will look like skin instead of layers of makeup," celeb MUA Tracey Levy tells us. "Plus, it holds up through water or sweat and won't clog pores." In other words, it's the perfect option for the Metro, subway, or wherever your wanderlust heart takes you.
Sisley Paris prides itself on being one of the pioneers of phytocosmetics, a fancy term for using plants in cosmetics. Its high-quality, plant-derived ingredients are, of course, key in its skincare line but they're also important in its makeup products, as well. And while we believe that every makeup product within the Sisley Paris family is golden, its lip twists consistently manage the perfect ratio of color payoff, moisture, and durability. Plus, the shade range looks gorgeous on all skin tones. And then there's its handy twist-up cream blush that looks pretty, blends seamlessly, and wears well—regardless of whether you're swirling it onto bare skin or layering it atop foundation or powder. Plus, the shade Petal is just so effortlessly flattering.
Not all brand stories involve a founder who is passionate about beauty and driven to create cosmetics; in fact, Parisian brand Talika came about by happenstance. During World War II, nurse Danielle Roches, short on pharmaceutical supplies, created an herbal balm to treat burn patients. Interestingly—and surprisingly—the makeshift treatment not only healed her patients but it also dramatically stimulated the growth of their eyelashes and eyebrows. Long story short, in 1948, Talika and the first-ever eyelash growth cream was born.
Since then, the brand has expanded its products to include arch-changing eyebrow pens that are too good not to talk about. The result is natural and feathery and stays put for however long you need it to. "French women will never go without adding a good curl to the eyelashes and will always use a lash conditioner," says De Fontbrune, noting that lashes are a very important part of a French woman's beauty routine. "Talika offers an amazing lash conditioner that promotes growth and thickness," he adds.
Yves Saint Laurent
No matter what you call it—Yves Saint Laurent, YSL, or Saint Laurent—there's no denying that the legendary fashion house founded by Dior's protégé over half a century ago has forever changed the face of fashion, specifically, the way women dressed—but that's not all. It has also made a name for itself in the world of luxury beauty with cult-loved products like its Touche Eclat Radiance Perfecting Pen ($38). It's sheerer than an actual concealer (but with brightening perks you have to see to believe), and we can honestly say we've never seen a makeup artist without one in tow. For a heavy hit of color, hydration, and staying powder (10 hours, to be exact), YSL's Vinyl Cream Lip Stain in Carmin Session ($38) is the ultimate wingwoman. For a stain, it boasts impressive coverage, so if you're looking for something sheerer, tread carefully. (But of course, that wouldn't be very French of you, now would it?)
Founded by Coco Chanel in 1910, French highness Chanel has grown to be one of the most iconic fashion houses of all time. And while we fawn over its ready-to-wear, leather goods, and accessories, so too, do we get googly eyes for its beauty products. Sun-starved skin will love its Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base for winter. It's an epic bronzer that gets the Blake Lively and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley seal of approval. And while "honey skin" is trending, Marie-Laure Fournier, president of Fournier PR + Consulting, explains that "dewy" is not part of French vernacular. Instead, French women go for a velvet yet still glowy finish when it comes to their base. To help pull it off, celeb makeup artist Kara Yoshimoto Bua recommends Chanel's Vitalumière Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Sunscreen Makeup because it's pigmented but leaves a finish that looks like real skin. She uses her fingers to wash the makeup "lightly over red areas and layer as a concealer under the eyes or for spot coverage."
One of the younger brands to make our list—while still being over 20 years old—By Terry understands the makeup of makeup. Before creating her eponymous cosmetics brand, founder Terry de Gunzburg formulated makeup products at YSL. By Terry's Touché Eclat and Baume de Rose are perhaps its most iconic products but the brand also boasts an impressive array of newer bestsellers that prove it knows what French women want.
According to De Fontbrune, embracing a messier makeup application is pivotal to the French product aesthetic. "A popular trend is the casualness of makeup and its application," he explains. "Do a smoky eye by using a pencil, and blend it with your finger. Make it not so perfect and more lived-in." Ombre Blackstar Color-Fix Cream Shadow ($38) in Misty Rock is sure to get the job done. He also tells us: "French women prep the skin before applying makeup with the proper serums, moisturizers, and pharmaceutical vitamins. They'll use a fine water mist all over the face followed by a rich serum and a thin moisturizer to seal moisture into the skin. In cold weather, they use a thicker moisturizer." For an extra glow, Team Byrdie and celebrity makeup artists like Nikki DeRoest love using By Terry's glow-inducing Cellularose Brightening CC Lumi-Serum ($91) in Sunny Flash pre-foundation.
The story of Guerlain began nearly 200 years ago with perfumer and founder, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain. The brand's prestige came soon thereafter when Guerlain created and gifted a signature scent to Empress Eugénie for her marriage to Napoleon III. While the brand is most recognized for its innovations in scent, we've rounded up our favorite products of theirs from the makeup department that are worthy of your attention.
First up: its Terracotta Sunkissed Natural Bronzing Powder ($56). "This is a foolproof and natural-looking bronzer. Swirl a bit with a fluffy powder brush over your entire face, and it's like a fake vacation," celebrity makeup artist Bruce Grayson says quite convincingly. And if you're looking for a sheen that offers some luminosity—albeit with a subtle edge—Guerlain's infamous Meteorites Highlighting Powder Pearls ($64) are your skin match made in heaven. Plus, there's a variety of shades to choose from for your guaranteed finish and tint payoff of choice.
Luxury label Bourjois approaches the chic Parisienne aesthetic with a fun attitude. Its no wonder, then, that the first products it rolled out in 1863 were colorful waxy makeup sticks made for the theater. Since then, the brand has expanded to all makeup categories. According to Fournier, Bourjois is a must and commonly hoarded makeup brand in her French homeland. "I don't know anyone who does not own some Bourjois (especially their eye shadows!)," she tells us. And while the brand's tantalizing collection of quads is some of its bestsellers, its more extensive palette options are also top picks.
The "1944" in 1944 Paris does not refer to the brand's inception—that would be 2017—but rather, the year in which French women were given the right to vote. The "newcomer that everyone is talking about for their lipsticks," says Fournier, is dedicated to "responsible beauty" and people just can't get enough, French MUAs included. "I love that brand, to be honest," Fournier gushes.
Now, don't hate us too much, but unless you physically live in or visit France, you're going to have a hard time getting your hands on the country's latest makeup brand obsession. (Hey, look at it this way: Now you have an excuse to book that plane ticket!) Still, we'd be remiss not to mention its The Color Lips and Cheeks ($20) and Semi-Matte Lipstick ($23) in Simone. While the former offers a convertible finish perfect for both cheeks and lips, we're having a serious moment with the cherry red lipstick that basically looks like our French makeup lipstick dreams come true—just saying.
In 1959, Yves Rocher became one of the first beauty brands to harness the power of plants in its products. Since then, it has continually made natural and sustainable cosmetics available to not only the French elite but the masses, as well. According to Fournier, Yves Rocher is very well established in France and has yet to put the breaks on its new product releases. For instance, its handy Couleurs Nature Vertige Felt-Tip Liner ($29) consistently scores top marks in the review section while its Couleurs Nature Flawless Skin Concealer ($25) is a fan-favorite (and did we mention, astoundingly affordable, too?). Again, since French women typically don't cake their face in a full-coverage foundation, a bit of flawless insurance by way of a natural-looking concealer is key.
In 1881, pharmacist Théophile LeClerc created a hero product that is still considered one of the best finishing powders ever made. "T. LeClerc's loose powder is one of the most iconic French makeup staples," comments Fournier. "It's been around for ages and is still the best powder on the market, especially the Banane shade. French women do not go for the dewy look but more for the velvety or glowy look, so it is great to use a powder to achieve it." For extra definition around the eyes, the brand also makes a highly rated eyeliner which we're especially fond of in Topaze, shown below.