Their sexy, easy glamour is legendary. Learn from those Gallic girls, here.
We South African women may not wear trench coats on sunny days, quote Voltaire or view butter as a food group, but we are as fascinated as the rest of the world when it comes to the abiding allure of French beauty.
And the off-hand elegance and pouty sex appeal of icons like Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve are only the beginning of the inspiration. A new, chic wave of Gallic ingénues and trendsetters have developed a softer, looser, cooler and even more indefinable aesthetic.
The hair is full, but not quite voluminous; lips are classic red, but smudged; moody eye makeup stops just short of smoky. And the whole look is nuanced, home-grown, effortless and as hard to obtain as a bottle of the award-winning French wine Château-grillet.
That’s why we’ve decided to stop admiring from afar and get closer to our chic subject matter. We asked French actresses, designers, bloggers, makeup artists and hairstylists to break down the intricacies of their beauty routines, reveal their best products and spill their beauty secrets. Follow their foolproof advice and take a little of the “I don’t know” out of that certain je ne sais quoi.
When a woman heads to a bar for a blowout instead of a glass of wine, rest assured, she isn’t French.
1Press your coffee, not your hair
“The ideal here is bouncy and full,” explains Parisian stylist David Mallett. “French women don’t ever use straightening irons.”
2Use masses of the cult L’oréal Paris Elnett Hairspray (R84.95)
“I have some at home, the office and in my car,” says model and L’oréal Paris spokeswoman Inès de la Fressange. A quick blast at the roots adds volume.
3Ease up on the shampoo
“French women wash their hair three times a week, max,” reveals Parisian colourist Christophe Robin.
4Try a splash of white vinegar
“It adds shine and protects colour,” explains colourist Sophie Georgiou. “It’s our best trick.” Dilute three drops in cold water and apply after conditioner. And it’s cheap, too! Don’t think of a fringe as a school-girl look. “It’s a tool of seduction,” says Christophe. “It’s sexy when a woman pushes back her fringe. You see her eyes for a minute, then they’re gone. Exciting!” Here’s how to get the style.
1Keep it long
“The most flattering fringe length grazes the eyes,” recommends David. Ask your hairstylist to dry-cut so that you can see where it will fall.
2Keep it light
“French women despise thick, blunt fringes,” reveals David. “They just sit there.” Have your fringe cut in a soft arc with feathery ends.
3Keep it lifted
“My clients style their fringes with a Velcro roller,” says Christophe. Roll it under (not up) while your hair is dry, do your makeup, and remove the roller five minutes later, combing through with your fingers. “It adds great volume at the roots,” he says. The signature French smoky eye isn’t all that smoky, but it is almost effortless. “We like accidental beauty,” explains makeup artist Violette. “Too much dark, heavy makeup looks forced.” French women are known for simplistic beauty. Style icon and editor Carine Roitfeld follows this classic makeup style, and her motto in life is: “Do what you’re not supposed to do.” To rock this sultry finish, begin here.
1Start with a creamy eye pencil
Draw the liner along your upper eyelid, squishing the tip between your eyelashes to fill in any gaps. Repeat on the bottom lashes. We love Dior Diorshow Khôl in Smoky Black (R415).
2Smudge the line
Using petroleum jelly or lip balm on your fingertip, rub your liner back and forth and up to the crease. TRY Labello Lip Butter Original (R32.99). “This covers your lids in transparent blackness,” explains Violette. Easy!