It's true—there has been some "French-girl beauty" fatigue in our minds and on the internet, and I'm self-aware enough to know you're not looking for just any French product recommendation. Mostly, the malaise stems from the idea that French-girl beauty secrets solely promote "effortless hair" (meaning: naturally fine and mostly straight with a slight bend); diets of wine, bread, and cheese (that miraculously don't cause bloating or digestion issues); using micellar water and expensive oils to treat any and every skin ailment; and the idea that everyone in Paris looks like that one Jane Birkin photograph. While some of those themes exist (and we've written about them), they're not always the full picture. Clearly, those tentpoles eliminate naturally textured hair; sensitive, breakout-prone, or aging skin; and women who aren't a size two. It's impossible to define a person or a culture by Americanized stereotypes.
That being said, there are a few products we still want to call out and celebrate because we're in love with them—and they're made for everyone. The first, of course, is fragrance. Scent is tied to memory in a crazy, cosmic way that's a mix of brain chemistry, genetic makeup, and whatever other magic exists. Below each Byrdie editor describes their favorite French fragrance based on how it makes them feel and the memories tied to it.
"I'm a huge fan of Vilhelm Parfumerie—it's French fragrance by a Swedish native, aka the best of both worlds, IMO. And while I have many favorites from the brand, my standby is Smoke Show, an opulent take on the Jazz Age that reminds me of smoky, old-world Parisian bars late at night. With notes that include pink peppercorn, rose, vetiver, oud, and leather, it really does have all the trappings of a retro scent and yet it still feels positively modern. It's how I would define the word 'sultry' in scent form, which is why I usually spritz it on before a date or a fancy night out." — Victoria Hoff, wellness editor
"When I was in Paris, I had the pleasure of creating my own bespoke scent at the Ex Nihilo flagship. I sniffed, sprayed, and mixed all my favorite top and base notes to create a fragrance that was very me. (FYI: This perk is coming to Saks soon, so stay tuned.) But I'm still quite partial to one of the brand's most popular eaus, Fleur Narcotique, 'an interpretation of the new Rive Droite's woman, sophisticated and seductive.' It's floral but still subtle and really, really lovely. It reminds me of strolling through the Parisian streets on a sunny day during the first springtime bloom. So, yes, it's magical." —Hallie Gould, senior editor
"At first whiff, this fragrance seems sweet and unassuming—that would be the black currant and iris top notes. But the scent lingers and the sweetness transforms into something a little sultry and a little naughty, with patchouli and leather emerging and drawing you in. One spritz of this fragrance and I'm instantly in Paris, sitting at Chez Julien, sipping the last of my Sancerre, and wondering where the night will take me." — Faith Xue, editorial director
"I'm not usually into citrus-scented fragrances, but when I took a whiff of this perfume at Byrdie Beauty Lab, I fell in love. (Everyone else stationed around the perfume area did as well.) Spicy notes of pepper and sandalwood help prevent the scent from smelling too tangy, so you're first hit with a sweet, refreshing, and musky smell that later bleeds into the subtle tropical notes of clementine and star anise. I can't wait to spritz it with abandon come spring (hurry up, will you?)." —Lindsey Metrus, managing editor
"This one is like the intoxicating smell of suede inside a handbag or sitting outside a Parisian café under an emblazoned heat lamp. It's a mix of pink pepper, rose essence, cedar, vetiver, musk, and suede accord. Basically, it's everything you want it to be" — Gould