Skin Deep Beauty
You will never see a French woman in one of those drastic “before makeup/after makeup” slideshows. She accepts and is comfortable with her own face. She does not try to make herself look like somebody else – she does put forth the best version of herself.
The French woman knows that a beautiful face starts with beautiful skin. She spends far more on skin care than on makeup. And when it comes to skin care, it’s no holds barred. That being said, good skin care does not have to be expensive.
If you have fantastic skin, il est bien fait! If you don’t yet, show it some love and enjoy knowing that every day you’re becoming a little more French.
I think the best way to start taking care of your skin is to learn to enjoy taking care of your skin. As a typical multi-tasking American, I spent years doing the barest minimum – washing my face with … something … before going to bed and slapping on a little moisturizer. Now that I’m becoming French, I’ve trained myself to slow down and enjoy the experience.
I don’t have an exact skincare routine per se. Rather, I rotate between an arsenal of products – exfoliating scrubs (gentle, please), masks, retinols, serums and moisturizers according to what I feel my skin needs. I count using these products as my goddess time and make a point to enjoy indulging in the experience.
My first cardinal rule – no matter how late it is or how tired I am, I clean my face before going to bed. I’ve used many facial cleansers including some very pricey ones, and honestly the biggest difference I’ve found is that when I buy the expensive ones I am poorer.
My favorite way to remove makeup is coconut oil. It’s cheap. It smells good. It breaks down mascara like nobody’s business. And it leaves your skin feeling soft and juicy. Just scoop out a little wasabi pea-sized amount and massage it over your skin (please don’t do this if you are allergic to tree nuts – I don’t know what will happen.) You’ll be amazed at how easily your eye makeup comes off without rubbing and pulling at your delicate skin.
Follow this with a gentle cleanser, and rinse with comfortably warm water.
I’m also a big proponent of giving myself a little facial massage, at least 2 or 3 times a week. It’s extremely simple – just apply a good bit of moisturizer or coconut oil so fingers glide and you’re not pulling on my skin in any way, and gently massage and tap in an upward direction and circle around the eye sockets, infusing your skin and promoting healthy circulation. I usually do this while watching TV for a few minutes at night, until the moisturizer or oil is absorbed and my skin feels moist and refreshed.
I apply some kind of mask about once a week, depending on how my skin feels. While I’ve tried many fine over-the-counter masks, my current favorite is a DIY mask made from about a tablespoon of honey, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of nutmeg. It helps reduce puffiness, swelling and redness and improve circulation. I leave it on for about 15 minutes, or until the dogs start to lick it off.
If your skin is feeling dry and impenetrable, you can do a total reboot. One of the best things I did was a CO2 laser treatment. It burns away the rhino-ass layer of skin and a few days later your new skin emerges baby-butt soft. It’s expensive and you do have to go into seclusion for a few days, but for me it was well worth it. There are many different such treatments available and a good aesthetician can recommend the one best suited for your particular dermis.
A Healthy Glow
There are those porcelain-skinned beauties of the world; the rest of us need a tan. A warm healthy tan can take a good 5 years off your face. But sun and skin are not friends.
I rebelled against sunscreen for years (hence the aforementioned rhino-ass skin). I wanted a nice bit of color and felt that soaking up vitamin D from the sun was healthy. And it is. To an extent. But you only need about 15 minutes of exposing your unprotected skin to the sun, and this doesn’t need to include your delicate puss.
I now use sunscreen on my face daily, and on the rest of my exposed skin if I’m going to be out for more than a short time. And I regularly achieve a healthy glow through the miracle of self-tanners.
I’ve tried a number of them and the one I most highly recommend is Kiehl’s Sun-Free Self-Tanning Formula. It is easy to apply and the resulting color is warm and natural. I apply it 2 or 3 times a week to my face, and as needed to the rest of me depending on what parts I’m showing and how much color I need. One coat applied results in “healthy”, a second coat applied about a half hour later results in “tan”.
The Rest of Your Skin
Watching your skin age is, well, unfair to say the least. We start out with beautiful juicy skin which we can sort of take for granted, until one day you look at the skin on your arm hooked on the back of a chair and – oh my God what the hell is that???
Every French woman knows, and teaches her daughter at an early age, that taking the time to take care of yourself is a necessity. And since skin doesn’t stop at the neck, there are 2 things you need to keep the rest of your corpus delicious – exfoliating and moisturizing.
Without regularly exfoliating, dry skin cells cause the skin to look dull and crepe-y, and blocks the absorption of moisturizers and other products (such as self-tanners). And while I’m all about the crepes, I don’t want to look like I’m wearing one.
A great way to exfoliate the skin and energize your circulation is by dry brushing. There are whole dry brushing rituals you can follow which frankly, I don’t have time for. I just keep my brush next to the shower and spend a few minutes brushing my skin while waiting for the shower to warm up. Brush in an upward direction, toward the heart.
Gentle exfoliating body scrubs can also be a nice treat for the skin and senses. I stick to the ones that are sugar based, mainly because the plumbing in my 100-year-old house is delicate and sugar dissolves. And bathing with sugar is better than eating it.
Once you’ve exfoliated, the skin is primed for a good moisturizer. Exfoliating without following with moisturizer can give you the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve, since you’ve effectively stripped the skin of natural oils. The product I’m loving right now is Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter. It smells and feels absolutely scrumptious, making your skin moisurized without feeling “greased”. If you’re applying tanner after exfoliating (an ideal time for this), moisturize a few hours later, after it’s had time to do its thing.
You’re never too young or too old to care for your skin in the French way, knowing you deserve it and taking time to savor it.
Do something nice for yourself today. Jouir!
Bonjour! Je suis Kelley
Hi, I’m Kelley – thrower of parties, drinker of wine, and lover of all things French. I hope you enjoy my Lessons in Becoming French!