Ready to commit to the French skincare routine? Here a very detailed step-by-step guide to building a French skincare routine. French women take their skincare routine very seriously, not only for great skin today but for great skin in the future.
French women don’t have a bathroom cabinet filled with a million different skincare products. And they usually don’t get distracted by the latest and greatest hype. Instead, the French always seek up qualitative (maybe expensive) beauty products. And they use to stick with what they know works instead of changing their 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.
The French Skincare Routine Explained
To build a proper French skincare routine, the first step would be probably to declutter your entire beauty shelf. I’m sure your current skincare routine is probably very complex as we’re constantly encouraged by the beauty industry to use more products. You might find yourself layering on multiple serums and moisturizers, and always on the hunt for the next must-have beauty product. The result might be an increasingly complex routine that incorporates everything on your beauty shelf.
The truth is that too many active ingredients have the potential to counteract each other or irritate the skin. Other times, they may not absorb properly, causing clogged pores or breakouts. Also, layering many different products can make your skin prone to red, flaky, or itchy skin that’s sensitive to the sun.
The French skincare routine can be beneficial for all skin types, but especially for sensitive or problem-prone skins. Indeed, the French beauty routine is all about choosing fewer products, but only the ones with the highest quality ingredients and cleanest formulations. The French philosophy is to scale back skincare to just the products that really give results. Sticking to a new minimalist approach will not just maximize your time in the morning, but will keep your skin in check too.
A Step-By-Step Guide To Building A French Skincare Routine
I’ve broken the French skincare routine to the basic steps that many French women follow already: cleanse, tone, and moisturize. Remember less is more! And, if you want to target specific skin concerns you can add 2 extra products like an exfoliator and a serum.
Step 1: Cleanser
Cleansing may be the most important step of the French skincare routine. That’s why I recommend choosing the best face cleanser that suits your skin’s unique needs, whether you’re oily, dry, or combination. French women usually opt for creamy textures (cleansing milk, oils) which are really good to break down makeup, removing all impurities and pollution. Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil and Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser are two of my favorites face cleansers.
In France, we never have been brainwashed to value “squeaky-clean skin”. And most of the time, French women avoid any type of soapy, foaming cleansers with surfactants that strip and dry the skin. The French prefer to opt for very gentle cleanser lotions like the Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion or the SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser With Orange Oil. Finally, French women who don’t like to have a greasy film left on the skin will opt for micellar water like the Bioderma Sensibio H2O.
Step 2: Toner
In the French skincare routine, toner serves as a complete and important beauty step. It creates a dam environment for rapid, deep penetration of following skin care treatments and restores skin pH. French women love to use floral waters (distilled water infused with the essence of flowers) as a toner. One of the most popular floral waters is rose floral water also called rosewater. Rose floral water comes from Morocco and has been used for centuries for skincare remedies. It contains nutrients like Vitamins A, C, D, and E and also reduces bacteria on the skin, decreases inflammation, and soothes the skin.
French women either use it with a cotton pad to refresh their skin in the morning or after cleansing their skin in the evening. My favorite ones are the Sisley Botanical Floral Toning Lotion, the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner, or the Rose Floral Water Toner.
Step 3: Eye Cream
Repeated eyelid movements and environmental factors may cause the emergence of premature wrinkles around your eyes. Indeed, due to its delicate skin, fine lines and crow’s feet can appear around the eye area before they may appear on the rest of the face. Thankfully, there are a number of french eye creams that smooth wrinkles, depuff bags, and minimize circles. My two favorite ones are the SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex and the La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Eye Cream.
To help you find the best eye cream that delivers on the specific issues you want to address, you can read my previous article on the best French pharmacy eye creams.
Step 4: Moisturizer
French women know that moisturizing is the key step to achieve plump and bouncy skin. This step allows your skin to replenish its natural storage of hydration and moisture. Moisturizers maintain a strong barrier, prevent water loss, and maintain balance. In addition, it’s probably the most important step in the French 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.
Here are a few tips to choose your moisturizer according to your skin type. First, if you have dry skin you should gravitate towards richer oil-based creams. On the other hand, if you have normal to oily skin you should seek humectant ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. Also, make sure to have two different moisturizers: one for the day with SPF and another one for the night. Finally, French women usually adapt their moisturizer to the season; by using a rich and comforting cream during the winter and a lighter cream formulation during the summer. Here are my top 5 French moisturizers that I’ve tried so far.
- Avène Skin Recovery Cream – An amazing face cream for those very sensitive and irritated skin types. If your skin needs a heavier texture I recommend the Avène Revitalizing Nourishing Cream as well.
- Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream – One of the best moisturizers that I’ve tried, it worths the investment. I know this cream is expensive but it can replace all of your beauty products combined.
- Clarins Multi-Active Day Cream – An amazing moisturizer for women in their 30s to help skin fight the effects of daily stress. Great for sensitive skins as well.
- Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre – I do love this moisturizer, I usually use it as a primer before applying Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer.
- Lancôme Hydra Zen Anti-Stress Moisturizing Cream – A really great moisturizer for every day, and even for sensitive skins.
Extra Step 5: Exfoliants & Peels
Even if exfoliating is important for clearing away dead skin cells, unclogging pores, and smoothing skin’s texture, daily exfoliation (with cleansing brushes, intense face scrubs, or with acids) is not the French way. Indeed, French women prefer either using a gentle scrub on average once a month or going to a facialist to get a deeper cleansing. French women are very gentle with their skin, as they are afraid of causing skin irritations with acids and mechanical exfoliants. For the French, hydration equals healthy and plumpy skin. And if you’re exfoliating your skin too often, this can be damaging your skin’s protective barrier and making moisture escape easily.
Nowadays it can be very easy to overuse 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.
There is no rule to follow on how many exfoliants you can use, which type (mechanical or chemical) you should use or what frequency. But, this should be tailored to your skin type. Personally, I have a very sensitive skin type and even if I love using a very gentle acid peel or facial scrub, I make sure to give my skin a break at least one month until the next exfoliation. This is to ensure that the skin is not left stripped of its barrier. In terms of very gentle facial peels and scrubs, I recommend the Chantecaille Bamboo & Hibiscus Exfoliating Cream, the Dior Prestige Rose Sugar Scrub, and the Caudalie Glycolic Peel Mask.
Et voilà! Now you know exactly how to build a French skincare routine! I hope it’ll help you to create your own, tailored to your skin’s needs.
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Bonjour! I’m Leonce, I’m French and I’m a Parisian expat currently living in the city center of Amsterdam (I previously lived in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, on the Ile-Saint-Louis). I created Leonce Chenal back in 2018 when I was living in London and missing my home country way too much. Because I truly believe you don’t have to be French or to live in France to experience the French art de vivre, Leonce Chenal is a French digital magazine to help you live your French life, wherever you are. Enjoy <3