How a French beauty blogger cares for her skin
I read so many articles and blog posts about French beauty secrets, French skincare routine and how French take care of their skin, most of them written by non-French beauty bloggers or foreigner journalists that I wanted to write a blog post about this topic. In this post, I’ll share my personal point of view and observations about a French skincare routine, which may not be representative of the entire French population. For the record, I’m a French beauty blogger, I grew up in the French Alps (close to Geneva), I lived for 4 years in Paris before moving to London.
I think in France, we take our skincare very seriously, not only for great skin today but for great skin in the future. We don’t have a bathroom cabinet filled with a million different skin care product options like American or British do, and we don’t get distracted by the latest and greatest hype. French will always seek up for qualitative (maybe expensive) beauty products and we use to stick with what we know works instead of changing our skincare beauty routine every week. Skincare routines are usually passed down from a generation to the next one (grandmothers, mothers), that explains maybe why French girls take their skincare very seriously from a young age.
Clean your face like the French do: with no harsh cleanser
It’s a fact: conventional soap-based cleansers are made with industrial surfactants (sulfates) that strip and dry skin. Stripping the skin by using a harsh soap-based cleanser can lead to dryness, imbalanced pH, and removes some of the healthy bacteria you need to keep your skin healthy. It seems logical as well to use a soap-based cleanser on oily skin that will blitz the grease away, but the fact is if you go too harsh you’re making the problem worse, as skin’s natural response when it’s stripped is to just produce more oil and sebum. Even soap-based labeled “moisturizing” have added moisturizer to the surfactant base, rather than removing it. So basically, even a soap-based labeled “moisturizing” can dry your skin which will be less able to defend itself as it diminishes the skin’s pH. The more the acid mantle is diminished, the more the skin is prone to infection (even acne) and oil imbalance (another cause of acne). Dry skin is not just less able to defend itself, it looks also older: less even, less plump, less dewy and can speed-up the formation of wrinkles.
“Stripping the skin by using a harsh soap-based cleanser may make your skin feel cleaner initially, but ultimately it leads to dryness, an imbalanced pH, and removes some of the healthy bacteria you need to keep your skin healthy” Source
I’ve always seen my mother removing makeup with a good cleansing milk and I’ve never seen her washing her face every single day with a soap-based cleanser. French women like to use creamy textures (emollient aspect) which are really good to break down makeup, and removing all impurities and pollution. In France, we never have been brainwashed to value “squeaky-clean skin” and contrary to other countries, we do not opt for soapy, foaming cleansers with surfactants. Some French girls, who don’t like to have a greasy film left on the skin when using cleansing milk will opt for micellar water which perfectly whisks away dirt, oil, and makeup without drying the skin.
So if you would like to clean your face like the French do, think of protected cleansers to keep your skin’s pH balanced, and opt for either a good micellar water or good cleansing milk, oil or balm without harsh surfactants. So go for Grown Alchemist – Hydra-Restore Cream Cleanser Olivier & Extrait de Plantain, Suzanne Kaufmann – Cleansing Milk Lait Nettoyant or Patyka – Lait Velouté Démaquillant.
French girls love floral waters
Floral waters are distilled water infused with the essence of flowers; there are so many different kinds of floral waters and each one has its own benefit for the skin. They’re extremely versatile as they can be used for more things that you may think. They can generally be used safely on the skin without further dilution. I personally love rose floral water (also called rosewater), I use it every day in my skincare routine. Rose floral water comes from Morocco and has been used for centuries for skin care remedies, it contains nutrients like Vitamins A, C, D, and E and also reduces bacteria on the skin, decreases inflammation and soothes the skin.
First I like to use rose floral water after having cleansed my skin with a cleansing milk/balm. With several drops of floral water on a cotton pad, I like to remove any makeup, impurities, or greasy film left on my skin. If I’m using a cleansing balm that I’ve rinsed with tap water on my skin, I like to use floral water to re-balance the pH of my skin. If French girls usually do not use foam cleanser with surfactants to cleanse their skin, we usually do not cleanse our face as well in the morning. In the evening, there’s stuff to remove (makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and pollution) however when you wake up, your skin is in pretty good shape. So, I usually just use rose floral water with a cotton pad to refresh the skin in the morning.
A French girl will never exfoliate her skin daily
Daily exfoliation, with cleansing brushes, intense face scrubs or with acids is so not the French way. The French will prefer either using a gentle scrub on average one/twice a month or going directly to a facialist/dermatologist in order to do a deeper cleansing. French women are very gentle with their skin, as they are afraid of causing skin irritations. For the French, hydration equals healthy and plumpy skin and if you’re exfoliating your skin too often (with very aggressive products), this can be damaging your skin’s protective barrier (skin’s hydrolipidic film) and making moisture escape easily.
“Over-exfoliating can lead to irritation and broken capillaries,” says Erin Gilbert, MD, Vichy consulting dermatologist.
Nowadays it can be very easy to overuse of chemicals exfoliation products. If you’re using multiple blended acid products (like a glycolic toner, a glycolic-salicylic cleanser, with a serum enriched with lactic acid), it can be very easy to tip the scales. Overuse of chemicals exfoliation products can lead to the skin not looking moist and bouncy, and can also contribute to skin rednesses, inflammations, and even breakouts.
I love a good acid peel or facial scrub like everybody but I give my skin a break at least two weeks until the next exfoliation. I think there is one rule to follow on how many chemical exfoliants you can use, which type of exfoliators you should use (mechanicals or acids) or which frequency. This should be tailored to the individual and the skin type, however, make sure to give your skin a break before the next exfoliation to ensure that the skin is not left stripped of its barrier. I’m using the Konjac sponge from Oh My Cream and the Facial Exfoliating Powder. You can go as well for the Pai Kukui & Jojoba Skin Brightening Exfoliator or the Resurfacing Mask from Tata Harper.
Moisture is a key component to French skin care
French girls know that moisturizing is the key step to achieve plump and bouncy skin. And for them, it’s probably the most important step in a skincare routine to prevent skin aging. As we age, moisture loss can set in causing everything from deep wrinkles to fine lines that can make us appear to be much older than we are. So no matter which moisturizer you incorporate into your routine if you feel your skin is well-hydrated.
Those with dry skin should gravitate towards richer oil-based creams and normal to oily skin types should seek humectant ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to help hydrate the skin. The French, usually have two different moisturizers: one for the day and one for the night. A day moisturizer should aim to soothe and protect the skin from all skin’s aggressors (UV, pollution, stress, etc.). On the other hand, a night moisturizer should aim to help to mimic the skin’s key repair activity during deep sleep in order to leave the skin smoother, radiant and well-rested. French girls usually adapt their moisturizer to the season; we tend to use a rich and comforting cream during the winter and a lighter cream formulation during the summer.
After refreshing my skin each morning with a rosewater, I focus on moisture. During the day I use an eye contour cream, a hydrating serum to plump my skin and a moisturizer with SPF that mattifies and refines skin texture while protecting my skin. I always finish with a touch of nourishing lip balm. For day cream, I’ll go for the Oh My Cream Creme Universelle or the Antipodes Light Facial Day Cream. For the night I’ll go for the Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream.