Posted on: January 25, 2024 Posted by: Comments: 0

I spent the last year living in Paris, and every time I’m back in the U.S., I’m always asked about French beauty secrets. The term “French beauty” gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? To me, it means natural and effortless—looking like you just rolled out of bed, threw on some mascara, and left to grab a morning coffee. It’s less makeup and more skincare. It’s all about using multipurpose beauty products that serve an aesthetic function while also strengthening the skin, hair, and nails. 

Even though I tend to take a more maximalist approach to my beauty routine, I’ve learned a thing or two over the past few months, both through stealth observation and conversations with French women. Lately, I’ve even started merging bits and pieces of the French beauty philosophy with my own. It all started with some tried-and-true beauty products. Below, check out 21 essentials French women can’t live without, according to me and my Parisian friends. 

Red lipstick is the very epitome of l’amour. It’s a color that decorates wine glasses, napkins at the bistro, and, dare I say, the face of a French lover. This satin finish formula from Guerlain comes in a flattering warm-toned shade.

I’m pretty certain border control at Charles de Gaulle Airport sees this French pharmacy find more than any other. The cult-favourite oil can be used on the face, body, and hair, making it a truly multipurpose product. The formula, which is made up of seven botanical oils, simultaneously smooths, moisturises, and strengthens. Plus, it smells incredible. 

Having fresh breath is essential to achieving a French je ne sais quoi, but just any old gum won’t do it. An oral spray is the best way to feel fresh and on top of your hygiene game. This one is vegan and cruelty-free and contains provitamin B5, vitamin E, and aloe vera. It gets bonus points for combining eucalyptus, menthol, and honey; these ingredients coat the mouth with a fresh, pleasant taste. 

One significant change I’ve made in my makeup routine is switching from a traditional foundation to something a little lighter. I’ve been obsessed with Ilia’s Skin Tint because of its airy feel and mid-to-full coverage. It’s got the look of a normal foundation without the feeling of one. Plus, it protects my skin with SPF 40. This formula also contains the holy trinity of hydrating and soothing ingredients: niacinamide, squalane, and hyaluronic acid. 

A hand cream that doubles as a nail treatment? Sign me up. I finish up my morning and nighttime skincare routines with this emollient-rich product that soothes dry, chapped, and irritated skin (especially in the winter).

A signature scent that has those around asking what perfume you’re wearing is a necessity when in Paris. Anything from Parfums de Marly will suffice, but Valaya is my favorite. With notes of bergamot, orange blossom, and musk blending into the skin, it smells just like fresh citrus.

This oil does it all. It’s moisturising, combats sun damage, and is the perfect primer to wear under makeup. Made with rosehip seed oil and sweet almond oil, it contains essential antioxidants and vitamins. 

There are few makeup brands out there that create products as long-lasting and durable as Dior. As an avid user of this kohl eyeliner, I can truly say it lives up to the hype. Its creamy formula is perfect for creating sharp lines, blending into a smoky eye, or placing onto the waterline. I’m a huge fan of the black and brown shades, but the electric blue is incredible for a pop of color.

The fluffy brow look is all the rage, well, everywhere. That includes the streets of Paris. I love this brow gel. It has a mousse-like texture and great pigment payoff. It helps me achieve natural-looking, feathery brows with ease.

A lightweight and blendable formula, this blush blends seamlessly into the skin and creates a flushed appearance. It’s infused with good-for-skin ingredients like elderberry-fruit extract, licorice-root extract, and plant-derived glycerin for extra hydration.

This face mist is special because it contains Avène’s hero ingredient: natural spring water. It offers anti-inflammatory benefits and soothes and softens stressed skin. I spritz it on repeat. 

Sunscreen is no joke overseas, whether it’s on the face or body. When I head to the French pharmacy, I reach for this sunscreen spray. I like that it’s ultra-light and offers broad-spectrum protection, meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays. 

A staple in French haircare, Christophe Robin’s Purifying Scrub cleanses the scalp gently so that your other haircare products can penetrate with more ease and potency. The sea salt is a natural exfoliant that brings balance to the scalp and removes impurities.

I have good news for those of us who can’t restock French pharmacy goods every month or two with a flight to Paris—many of them are available online, like this beloved face cream. This moisturiser serves as a makeup primer, makeup remover, and face mask. 

The “I’ve got five minutes to do my makeup” routine is nothing without a mascara that does the work of lash extensions and then some. This one from French brand Talika has a curved wand that allows you to lift each lash and coat it with a buildable formula. It also contains lash-growing ingredients, making it half mascara, half lash serum. 

Channeling any French icon requires a palette that gives a bit of glow while also giving you the capability of creating a smoky eye. The Pat McGrath Bijoux Brilliance Eye Shadow Palette has all of that and more—metallic, shimmer, and matte finishes curated by a master makeup artist.  

Toner is a skincare step that’s easy to skip, but in Paris, women use it to keep their skin hydrated and glowing. This one uses salicylic acid to clear pores and provide gentle exfoliation, while grape-derived antioxidants protect the skin and provide anti-aging effects. It’s suitable for all skin types but works astonishingly well for acne-prone skin. 

Eye bags from late nights dancing the night away are no match for these eye masks. Instantly firm and lift the eye area with Clé de Peau’s antioxidant-rich complex, nourishing squlane, and hydrating glycerin.

When the French are not sporting striking red lipstick, they opt for makeup that has some duality. This lip oil is the perfect example. It hydrates while providing the lips with a gorgeous sheen. Formulated with honey, hyaluronic acid, and grapeseed oil, it doubles as a treatment, leaving lips soft and supple. 

The French aesthetic is almost always “less is more,” so a neutral nail polish is a must-have in your repertoire. This chic and understated nail lacquer is 12-free, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and Halal-certified—a clean product that won’t leave your nails looking dull or chipped. I love its wide, tapered brush that allows for quick application every time. 

This cult makeup remover is stocked in pharmacies all over France. As gentle as water, it makes light work of removing even the heaviest makeup without irritating sensitive skin.

This story was originally published on Who What Wear US at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Next Up: I Studied the Skincare Routines of French and British Women—Here’s What I Learnt

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