I’ve been fascinated with how French women do their makeup even before I touched down in the City of Lights for the first time this spring. They use what looks like so little and manage to look so good. On the bus, in the train, at cafes and restaurants the women I observed (all while trying not to look like I was staring) seemed like they didn’t spend too much time or effort on hair, makeup or dressing up.
I later learned the French have a term “troi fois rien” which loosely translates to “next to nothing” or effortless, and it seemed to sum up their makeup philosophy as well. Let me break it down for you.
Use foundation sparingly
The number one way to achieve this look is by cutting back on your full coverage foundation, and opting for something that looks like second skin. French women prefer to let their skin show through using concealer only where needed or a very light, sheer foundation like the MAC Face and Body Foundation. They believe that you shouldn’t look like you’re wearing any makeup. The focus instead is to look like you have great skin.
Find your signature red lipstick
Every French woman, irrespective of skin tone, has a favourite red lipstick. She will wear it as a stain, applied with her fingers or pigmented, applied straight from the tube, with little else. It is a statement. You may need yours with a cool undertone or one on the warmer side depending on your skin tone, but the sooner you find your signature red, the more chances you have of someone greeting you with a “bonjour!”
Follow the rule of moderation
As with desserts, wine and bread, French women apply the rule of moderation to makeup as well. Doing a smoky eye? Keep the lips neutral. Wearing the aforementioned red lipstick, only apply mascara. Of course, just like the language, there are exceptions and if you’ve got a bit of drama on the eyes and lips, keep your complexion pared back.
Create a natural glow
French women don’t believe in contouring or strobing. Instead they prefer draw light in a subtle manner to all the right angles of the face, giving them a youthful, but natural radiance. Make like a French femme and apply highlighter to the high points of your cheeks, the inner corner of your eyes and on top of the cupid’s bow of your lips the next time you do your makeup.
Never look too done
Air-dry your hair, yes, even for a night out. If you must get a blow out, do it the day before the event, this way it won’t look like you had your hair done. And eschew your favourite hair brush; instead run your fingers through your hair if you want that French “I-didn’t-try-too-hard” look. Natural, undone hair also helps balance out that red lip making it look less formal and stuffy.
Et voilà. Will you be doing your makeup like a French woman soon?