French Makeup – Less is More

by | May 9, 2017

If you’re going to age, which we all do, it’s better to age as a French woman because the French do not find it so offensive.

French beauty comes from within and is the outward expression of the richness of life and the manifestation of savoring life moment to moment.

My pre-French life was much like the poem Pursuit by Stephen Dobyns, “Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else.”  I’ve learned, as a French woman, that you can actually enjoy the things you’re doing while you’re doing them and still get the same end result. But I digress …

While French women are known for taking the time to pamper their skin to keep it healthy and beautiful, they also are known for minimal makeup and un-fussy hair which adds to their natural confident beauty and appeal. The French woman never reaches an age where she is no longer vital and sensual and where her appearance doesn’t matter (just look at Isabelle Huppert, Ines de la Fressange, Catherine Deneuve).

Somewhere on a scale between Alicia Keys and Kim Kardashian is the natural-looking and discretely enhanced French face. Makeup is applied in a way that allows people to notice how attractive you are, not how beautiful your makeup is. With your soft, beautiful skin now emerged from proper skincare, the makeup routine I recommend for a natural, confident French look is very simple.

Start with a foundation, if you need one, that blends nicely and does not look obvious. You should not bury your uniqueness in a slather of spackle. I groped around for years looking for a foundation that looked natural without being so sheer that it did nothing, and after trying foundations and tinted moisturizers in every price range I’ve finally found one that I love, It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC cream. It’s actually a skin care product with moisturizers and an SPF 50 physical sunscreen, but gives fully ample coverage. It blends nicely with either fingers or a foundation brush.

Next for me is eyebrows.  This is something that tends to be very overlooked, especially for women “of a certain age” whose brows start to thin without notice, until suddenly the “windows to the soul” have no curtains.

I think if I were stranded on a desert island with only one makeup product, it might be my Anastasia DipBrow. Well, that and mascara. And my CC Cream. And a little lipstick. It takes only the tiniest bit of product on the tip of the brush and it’s easy to overdo so is worth a little practice to get a perfectly natural look. Here is a video to shorten the learning curve. And of course, start with brows that are well manicured – trimmed and waxed.

Follow this with a neutral pallet of eye shadow, if desired, to add a little subtle depth and shape – a subtle beige or light tan shade on lids and a slightly darker neutral on the crease and brow bone and very lightly rimming the lower lids. A bit of black gel liner on the upper lids help define and emphasize the eyes.

French women do not go in for severe eye makeup, other than occasionally a simple smoky eye which can be achieved with a single shade of darker neutral eye shadow and smudge of black eyeliner.  After applying a nice warm deep shadow to the lid and brow bone (I like MAC Espresso), line the upper lids with a soft black liner pencil (don’t worry if it’s not perfectly applied) and smudge-smudge-smudge up into the lid to fully blend. There should be no lines anywhere. Line the lower lids with the same eye shadow and very lightly apply liner pencil to the lower lids (from the outer corner to about half-way) and smudge with a short bristle brush to softly blend. And of course black mascara applied in a couple of thin coats.

French women do not use contour on their cheeks – all those brown lines just age you and change the shape of your face.  She may apply a little highlighter, which can be used at the tops of cheekbones and the bridge of the nose or wherever the sun would naturally highlight your face.  Add a bit of natural-toned blush just on the apples of your cheeks (it helps to smile.  It always helps to smile.) Don’t know what color blush to choose? Approximately matching the color of your bare lips is a good guideline.

Lips may be a neutral pink or bright red (a wardrobe staple).  As a French woman you would emphasize either the eyes or lips, never both at once. I do not believe that there is a certain age when a woman must not wear red lipstick (or any other such rules). If it looks good and makes you feel good, you should wear it. If not, don’t.

Hair can be short or long. The important thing is that it is healthy and cut very well but never over-coiffed and always just slightly messy, as if you’ve just had a bounce.

Just a bit on nails. The French manicure … is not (in France it’s called an American manicure). The French woman generally wears red, pink or just well manicured natural nails. If you want to be a little wild with color, do it on your toes.

Try it out and let me know what you think of your fresh French face!


  1. Ro

    Loved the video. Super guidelines. Thank you!

    • KelleyPom

      Glad you liked it! I thought she did a great job of teaching how to use the product to get a natural look … or any look you want … but of course for the French woman it would be a natural look.

  2. KelleyPom

    Thank you!

  3. Daphna

    I love your makeup advice, Kelly. So sensible and womanly empowering!

Get me on the list!

Sign me up so I never miss a trick—and send me my FREE download: Your ULTIMATE Guide to Closet Organization!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This