I’ve been a people watcher for a long time. I’ll happily sit for hours watching the passing traffic. Sometimes I just watch the show as it goes on around me. And other times I look for something specific.
Recently my eye was drawn to the specifics. I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend hours of quality time with a number of French women, as well as women who have moved their entire lives to France. I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited into their homes and to wander the streets of French villages and towns with them.
And I was struck by one singular thing.
They all have amazing skin.
Like really, really sensational youthful French skin, that was both clear and glowing. And so smooth.
Yes, yes. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. There are approximately a gazillion articles on the internet about the importance French women place on skincare, and the youthful outcomes they receive as a result. I’ve even mentioned it once or twice myself here on Distant Francophile. But despite my love of people-watching I’ve never been as ‘close to the action’ as I have recently.
I honestly couldn’t tell you if any of these women – all of whom are around my age or a bit older – were wearing any sort of foundation or powder at all. I came to the conclusion that if they were, they certainly weren’t using a lot of it.
In the end though, my natural curiosity got the better of me. I had to learn more.
I floated a few ideas. At lunch one day I suggested that perhaps there was something in the water that had a spectacular effect on skin. The answer I received – from the husband of the woman I was aiming my vague request at – was ‘Of course’.
Which is probably true. But not an easy fix for me to take home and apply to everyday life. (That said, I did drink more than my fair share of water that particular day.)
The Secrets To Youthful French Skin
Finally, I decided that subtle tactics weren’t working for me. I needed a more direct approach. While I was worried I might seem rude, I knew I couldn’t return to Australia without the answer to the following question:
What, exactly, are the secrets to youthful French skin?
So I summoned up my courage. And I directed my question to one of my French acquaintances who I knew wouldn’t be offended by my enquiring mind. Of course, when you actually ask questions, you get answers. Here’s what she so generously shared on the topic of youthful French skin.
Secret One. Wear Sunscreen. And A Hat
Ok. So here’s a piece of advice I can completely understand. I, like many Australian women, do not set foot outside without applying an SPF 50 sunscreen. So it makes perfect sense to me that the foundation of youthful French skin has its basis in sun protection.
The damage the sun can do to your skin is very well documented these days. And advances in sunscreen mean that there is something out there to suit all skin types. (I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the sunscreens in make-up don’t quite cut it. You need a specific sun protection product.) For the record, my favourite is La Roche-Posay’s tinted SPF 50 moisturiser.
Secret Two. Don’t Do Too Much To Your Skin
Go easy on it in terms of make-up. Don’t overdo the products you use. Try not to play with your skin. Basically, don’t stress it out.
While this absolutely makes sense on the surface, I have to admit that this advice confused me for just a moment. After all, French women have a reputation for seeing aestheticians more often than not. But a little digging exposed the fact that this reputation doesn’t apply to women everywhere, and French women don’t head to their skincare professionals for really abrasive treatments. The treatments they undertake are gentle and effective and only used when needed.
Secret Three. Choose Your Products Wisely
Make sure any products you do use help your skin rather than harm it. And here’s the reason the skincare products sold in French pharmacies have such a cult following. My source specifically mentioned Avène but my additional research has also suggested that many French brands do a gentle job of cleansing and nourishing skin. Many of these products have been around for a long time and have been used with great success for generations.
One Final Thought On Youthful French Skin
Like so many things in life, I was struck by the simplicity of the advice I received. And the fact that it made sense. It feels right that simple and gentle routines would lead to the outcome of youthful skin.
Although one store I entered was advertising the benefits of vitamin C for skin, there seems to be less of an expectation in France that you need a separate or specialist product for every skin concern. This is very different to the approach we see at home. Which got me wondering about the potential damage we do to our skin and our bank balances when we buy into the idea that we need a multitude of products.
And as someone who is looking for more ways to simplify everyday life, this advice has certainly had me rethinking my own skincare routines.
Your turn now. Have you got any insights into the phenomenon of youthful French skin? Or perhaps there has been something you’ve noticed lately that captured your interest. I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
Please note: This is an unsolicited post. No compensation of any kind has been received from the brands named above.