It’s no secret we’re obsessed with the French femme. From sourcing the essential home décor every French woman owns to studying their masterful no-makeup makeup look and taking note of the fashion finds they’d never wear, we’re always looking to emulate that certain je ne sais quoi they exude. And while we’re still suckers for the latest TikTok trends (hello, recent hair cycling obsession), we’re making a concerted effort to step away from the trend machine this year and take a page out of our French friends’ books instead. To help us with this mission, we got the 4-1-1 from an expert on the seven beauty must-haves French women can’t go without in their makeup bags, including their secret beauty tip that money can’t buy.
7 Beauty Must-Haves French Women Always Keep in Their Makeup Bags (Plus, Their Secret Tip for the Best Application)
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1. A Trusty Lipstick
This may be a little on-the-nose, but no French woman goes anywhere without a hydrating nude, stiletto red or plum lipstick. “[It’s] very cliché, but so true that we love a good lipstick,” says Yolaine. These beauties also have a clever trick up their sleeves that’ll save you money and space. “We use our lipstick as a blush, so it doesn’t take [up] too much room in our makeup bag.” To do as the French do, simply use your fingertips to tap a little color onto the apples of your cheeks, blending it along the cheekbones for a flushed finish. Because of this application, an ideal lipstick is one that’s both lip and cheek friendly lest it be banned from “French Girl Land,” which Yolaine kept in mind when creating her own beauty French beauty staple.
2. A Multi-Purpose Ointment
Shhh, here’s un petit secret that nearly every French woman is in on: No amount of makeup can mask cracked, flakey skin. Enter: medicinal-grade salves that treat the root of the problem. According to Yolaine, a French makeup-bag essential like Homeoplasmine works wonders on chapped lips and dry patches. While similar in application to Vaseline or Aquaphor, this staple has a few key differences in consistency and make. It’s non-greasy with a slightly matte-finish and contains homeopathic ingredients like Phytolacca, which is a common treatment for various skin conditions like psoriasis. For this reason, Homeoplasmine can be used on blemishes, cuts, scabs and other dry or irritated areas of the skin.
3. A Bronzer for a Sunkissed Glow
While it might look like French women go completely au naturale, don’t be fooled—they adore makeup. “I’m 100% convinced it’s a French mum’s duty to tell their daughters about Guerlain’s terracotta bronzer [a natural-looking shimmery bronzer made with argan oil],” says Yolaine. Rather than trace your bronzer in a figure ‘3’ shape along the profile of your face as we’re often instructed here in the States, the French dust it horizontally across the cheeks and nose for a subtle sunkissed effect.
4. A Lightweight, Creamy Concealer
They don’t call it the French no-makeup makeup look for nothing, people. In fact, most of the time, French women forgo foundation altogether. Yolaine notes that French women selectively cover up any blemishes and discoloration by applying a creamy concealer only where it’s needed. For a natural finish, opt for a light coverage formula for a radiant finish that lasts all day. To apply it the French way, the key is to not overdo things; dab the concealer sparingly on only the spots that need it and blend away the edges.
5. A Tube of Mascara
Home to some of the most masterful works of art at the Louvre Museum, Musee d’Orsay, Grand Palais and L’Atelier des Lumieres to name a few, France oozes beauty. So, it’s safe to say that these connoisseurs keep one belief close: The eyes are the windows into the soul. This explains the importance of mascara for many French women. Yolaine recommends a natural looking formula and sticking to just one or two coats on the top lashes only to avoid clumping. When you find the right mascara that works for you, it’ll feel “like [finding the perfect] nude lipstick for your eyes,” she adds.
6. A Bottle of Micellar Water
You’ll find this bathroom staple on almost every French woman’s countertop, explains Yolaine. Safe to use on sensitive, acne-prone or dry skin and a total lifesaver for late nights, micellar water is a 3-in-1 product that cleanses, tones and moisturizes the skin. Simply douse a cotton round in micellar water and gently whisk away any traces of makeup in a flash so you can get to bed faster..
7. A Soothing Hand Lotion
There’s a reason why French skin looks très élégant no matter the age…moisturization, ladies. Much like multipurpose ointment, you’ll find a tube of hand cream or lotion in every French woman’s bag. Yolaine’s go-to is Avene Cold Cream, a cream rich with thermal spring water for soothing hydration and mineral oil to lock in moisture and help reduce transepidermal water loss. (Au revoir, multiple applications.) Plus, this non-greasy formula contains caprylic triglyceride, a standout ingredient that’s packed with fatty lipids and antioxidants that can work to improve damaged, scarred and inflamed skin.
And the French Beauty Tip That Ties Everything Together?
Less of a must-have and more of a must-know: using your fingers to apply everything. “We love to blur our lip color with our fingertips, then use the red [remnants] on our cheeks.” Her parting advice: Forget about your makeup brushes and smudge your eyeshadow and blush on like a French woman would.
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