French women have a special approach to beauty. It’s hard not to be intrigued by their minimal yet perfect makeup, lit-from-within skin, and effortless hair. Arguably, every beauty girl's goal is to walk around looking like they flawlessly woke up like this. So what's their secret? For one, you don't have to go to France to adopt their Parisian ways when it comes to makeup. You just have to use less of it.
In general, French women don't rely on makeup to give them a complete makeover—instead, they prefer it to enhance their natural features. And it starts with the skin. To have casually cool makeup, you have to pair it with a healthy skincare routine. To break down Parisian makeup tips even further, we called on French celebrity makeup artist Patrick de Fontbrune.
Meet the Expert
Patrick de Fontbrune is a celebrity makeup artist in Los Angeles, CA. De Fontbrune counts Sophie Turner and Brooklyn Decker amongst his clients as well as has had work in Harper's BAZAAR, Women's Health, and Sports Illustrated.
To get that flawless glow, read on for makeup tips French women swear by.
Make Skincare the Star of Your Beauty Routine
"French women understand a glowing healthy skin is essential to their beauty regimen," says de Fontbrune. With makeup, the goal is to achieve their best possible self, rather than transforming themselves into a make-believe version of themselves.
Regular visits to the esthetician are a must, as well as very regimented skincare at home. Doing a face mask on a regular basis is a habit French girls grew up with, as well as a rigorously cleansing their skin before bed. One of the most coveted French products is Collosol Eau de Lait, passed on from generation to generation," says de Fontbrune.
"They 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. Most of all, nutrition plays a big part in French women balancing their skin and keeping it radiant."
According to de Fontbrune, the Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($49) is a go-to hydrating mist that French women love to spritz underneath moisturizer. For moisturizer, Sisley Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream ($195) is a favorite because it's lightweight and refreshing, yet hydrating and delicious-smelling. Nuxe Huile Podigieuse ($54) is also a popular product for body and hair as it's an essential oil that'll leave your skin feeling silky without looking like a greaseball. They also show attention to the under eye with Payot 24+ Glaçon Eye Roll ($34), which is perfect for refreshing and smoothing dark circles.
Wear Makeup in Moderation
"The approach to makeup for French women is one of discretion," explains de Fontbrune. "Their makeup must not be obvious, but rather enhance more than cover up. Everything is used in moderation. Rarely will you see a woman in the streets of Paris wearing a full face of foundation. She might dab a little bit of cover-up here and there or even a three-in-one BB cream that's moisturizing, provides light coverage, and has SPF. Payot BB Cream($27) is full of fruit extracts and gives a natural tan French women love. You shouldn't notice her makeup before you notice her. She applies a concealer if needed and blends carefully."
Draw Attention to One Aspect of Your Makeup
"She would prefer putting emphasis on her favorite asset rather than wearing too much," says de Fontbrune. "Either play up the lips with a vibrant lipstick or deepen the eyes with a dramatic smoky look." Opt for a pencil with the texture of a Gel Liner like the Marc Jacobs Highliner Eyeliner ($25). It's easy to smudge, won't move and is perfect for creating smokey eyes.
A signature red lip is a staple of the French look; it adds a little drama and can be worn with jeans and T-shirt as well as a cocktail dress. It will often be worn with a clean face and very little other makeup.
"Less is more is definitely the approach French women are after. She has access to many excellent products. Plus, centuries of research have put France at the tip of technology when it comes to skincare innovations."
Embrace Messy Makeup
"A popular trend is the casualness of makeup and its application," explains de Fontbrune. "Do a smoky eye by using a pencil, and blend it with your finger. Make it not so perfect and more lived-in. Your face shouldn't be over-sculpted, and over-shading is too transformative for an everyday French look. Instead, use highlights and bronzers to capture ambient light and bring your features forward. It's all about a more natural and healthy look."
Find a Natural Flush Blush
"Another favorite of French women is a good blush, to accentuate their healthy skin," says de Fontbrune. He notes that cream blushes are preferred because they look natural and are easier to apply. "Discreet and never too vibrant—a touch of rose or pink on the apple of the cheek can brighten up the face."
Take Extra-Good Care of Your Lashes
"They'll never go without adding a good curl to the eyelashes. French women 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. "She'll always carry a tube of mascara in her purse," he says.
Go Bold With Your Lips
De Fontbrune continues: "1944 Paris is the epitome of French chic because its matte lipstick is very pigmented and comes in many different non-drying, bright shades."
Keep scrolling to see the beauty must-haves de Fontbrune says French women can't live without.