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As the fashion flock settles down in Paris for the last leg of the spring 2015 collections, that age-old question resurfaces once more: What is it about French women? The country’s unofficial motto—to bear the torch for a kind of covetable, casual cool that relies heavily on mussed-up hair and minimal makeup—is on full display this week in front rows and sunny sidewalk cafes alike. “In each country, I think there is an idea of what beauty is,” suggests the Paris-based editorial makeup artist Violette. “But for the French, it’s very particular: What we want is to be ourselves—not a better version of ourselves. We feel like it’s better to be used to something than to try to change it. So we think: What style can I have with this face, and with this hair? That mentality is 100 percent French.” Still, she admits, there are a few local secrets for how to look perfectly imperfect, without ever trying too hard. Here, Violette offers a glimpse into the French girl’s beauty bible with her eight essential rules for a Paris-approved definition of pretty.
Rule #1: Prep (Don’t Primp)
“French women treat their ‘base’ as best as they can—so we try to have amazing skin, and an amazing body, and amazing hair, so we don’t have to do too much else,” says Violette. Her complexion routine happens to be fairly involved, but we’d expect nothing less from a disciple of the school of Joëlle Ciocco, the legendary Parisian facialist whom Violette calls “a skin god.” After massaging away all of the day’s impurities with La Roche-Posay’s cleansing milk—always with her fingertips to increase circulation—Violette rinses with water and follows with the brand’s calming cream. “Then, in order to make my skin drink, because it needs nurturing, I use these little glass capsules that you break open. One is called ‘granions de manganèse,’ and the other is ‘granions de sélénium.’ I get them from the pharmacy,” she explains. As a final step, Violette slathers on a gel cream called Oxelio Topique, another French-pharmacy staple. “It helps my skin fight aggression, like stress, pollution, and bad food.”
Rule #2: Practice Everything in Moderation
“The way to have good skin is not actually about what you put on your skin,” Violette admits, in spite of her multistep facial routine. “It’s about what you eat. French women try to eat organic as much as possible—and as little sugar as possible. We’re more concerned about sugar, not so much low-fat.”
Rule #3: Only Go to the Gym If You Feel Like It
“A French woman is like a wild horse—she is very rebellious, and she’d rather kill herself than go to the gym!” Violette says with a laugh, before admitting that the workout trend is starting to pick up steam in the City of Light, even though it was nearly nonexistent a decade ago. “We need to take pleasure in everything we do,” she continues, explaining that even newly popular classes, like the barre method, should be fun—the philosophy being: “Never get stuck in a hardcore, rigid habit.”