Beauty the French Way: A philosophy worth passing onto my daughter

In the last few years, I have become conscious of two things when it comes to beauty. Skincare has become the most important consideration as I age, and I no longer want to put toxic junk on my face (or anywhere else on or in my body for that matter). So I was excited when I came across the book, The French Beauty Solution, written by the founder of Caudalie Paris, Mathilde Thomas. When I picked up the book, I hadn’t yet heard of Caudalie skincare products but the excerpt described exactly what I was looking for:

“Cofounder of the international beauty company Caudalíe shares the simple, natural, time-tested beauty secrets she learned growing up in France that any woman can use to look younger, healthier, and more radiant without harsh products or drastic procedures.”

After starting her company, Thomas met many American women who considered beauty a priority, but she found that most American beauty habits were “too complicated, too expensive, too painful or simply not effective.”  This led to her writing this book – to dispense some of her French beauty wisdom.

According to Thomas, the main difference between the two philosophies is that the French beauty routine is predicated on prevention and upkeep as essential, ongoing investments, while here, there is much more of a tendency towards a quick solution – crash diets, “miracle” products that burn and irritate the skin, plastic surgery, etc. For the French, prevention means applying SPF every morning starting in your teenage years, washing your makeup off every night, using effective natural ingredients on your skin, and realizing that how you treat your body in other ways (diet, environment, sleep, stress, work, and love) has as much of an effect on how you look as your beauty routine.

But the most important message of this book is Thomas’ description of French beauty as an art de vivre (“art of living”). At an early age, French women figure out what suits them best, and they set the trends – not follow them. They know that less will always be more, there is no “right” way to beautiful, and most of all, how you feel about yourself, no matter what your age, is even more important than how you look. And being savvy, smart and cultured are as essential to beauty as having great skin.

This message is especially important today because of the increasing lengths North American women of all ages are going to in order to look “perfect” on the outside, and the impact this is having on our daughters who are starting to believe that their physical appearance is what matters the most. The constant bombardment of photoshopped celebrities, models and even their peers on Facebook only makes matters worse, not to mention that all of their child-idols come of age by becoming generically “hot” and hyper-sexualized.  It is no wonder our girls lose confidence and self-esteem when they don’t measure up to these impossible and unrealistic standards.

On the other hand, the French way emphasizes embracing one’s idiosyncrasies and the oft-forgotten truth that self-confidence is always more attractive than self-consciousness, no matter your genetic attributes.

Below are a few of the French beauty rules Thomas lists in her book that most embody this philosophy and that I hope to pass onto my own daughter:

Be Comfortable in your skin: The French believe their bodies are wonderful creations and are raised to always feel good in their skin – one reason why the French make beauty seem so effortless. We Westerners, on the other hand, have a “Puritan squeamishness” about our bodies, exemplified in the ridiculous disapproval of breastfeeding in public, and our reluctance to discuss and embrace “female” bodily functions. As a result, Thomas has found that American women tend to hide behind a mask of makeup. But if the woman behind it all is self-conscious, it shows. Beauty radiates from within and cannot be faked.

Embrace your quirks: Perfection is boring. French women are more accepting of idiosyncratic beauty, even flaunting it, while Americans fixate on the quirk or flaw and ignore everything else, even that which is most beautiful.

Never look as if you’re trying to hard: The French love the no-makeup makeup look more than any other – think smoky eyes with bare lips, red lips and nude eyes. There is always a calculated nonchalance in French behaviour, makeup and hairstyle.

Never go on a diet and don’t eat processed food: Diets don’t work and only serve to deplete nutrients necessary for radiant skin as well as cause physical and emotional stress. Eating whole, natural foods on a regular basis is key to looking good from the inside out. And a glass of red wine at dinner is good for your skin too!

Less is More: You don’t need to be on an endless starvation diet, take a multitude of supplements, slather on ultra-expensive creams and shell out thousands for laser, fillers and other painful procedures. According to Thomas, all you need for prevention and maintenance is to eat nutritious whole foods, stay active, and follow this daily ritual: cleanser, toner, eye cream, serum, SPF moisturizer in the morning, a SPF-free moisturizer at night. Exfoliate at least twice a week to remove dead skin cells. Use masks regularly for treatment and hydration.

Beauty does not only mean youth: Women look better when they look like themselves. And I have to agree – in most cases, women who try too hard to remain youthful with surgery and botox look scary and uncomfortable in their own skin – beauty lies in aging naturally and with grace.

The French Beauty Solution also covers nutrition, lifestyle, skin basics including DIY skincare recipes, French makeup and hair philosophies, and instructions for a three-day grape detoxification regimen.  I also went out and purchased a couple Caudalie products to try out. For a review of the Caudalie tinted moisturizer with SPF and Instant Detox Mask, join me on Facebook.

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