A French Esthetician Wishes American Girls Would Stop Doing This to Their Skin

Amanda Montell
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beautyaesthetic

Skincare rituals are vastly different from culture to culture, but the women in France seem to be doing something particularly right. Of course, Americans have always had an infatuation with the French, but their objectively more effortless, less neurotic approach to beauty makes us wonder: What can we Americans do to make our skincare products and habits a little more… Français?

According to Sophie Strobel, a French skincare guru from Talika's research and development department, "The main difference between the French and American beauty routines is cultural. … In the USA, they have a very Protestant, Puritan approach to life and thought in general, and in France, we're very 'Latin.' We're hedonistic, and we don't like obligations."

These cultural values translate to skincare in that they motivate Americans' obsession with hygiene (how many times have you heard the words "squeaky-clean skin?"). "[Americans'] skin has to be over-clean, cleansed like you clean your sins," Strobel says. "They take a long, long time in the bathroom, and they have a precise routine. … What always surprises us in American movies is when a girl goes to refresh herself in the bathroom before making love. That doesn't exist here in France!"

Meanwhile, the French skincare regimen is "less controlled, more natural, and instinctive." As Strobel says, "We like to take pleasure in every task we do (like eating!), we don't like pressure, and we tend to criticize the rules." The French embrace imperfection and consider spending more than a few minutes on their daily routine a waste. French women also tend to perceive American girls as overly made-up and fixated on looking flawless. "But secretly, we envy their wonderful hair, their unmatched complexion, and their perfect wardrobe—but this is only between you and me," Strobel confesses. (So the infatuation does go both ways.)

American women tend to be more attracted to products that provide instant gratification and would do anything to conceal imperfections.

Regine Berthelot

Here's the other fascinating thing about French skincare: You'll rarely catch a French girl at the dermatologist's office unless she has some sort of medical issue, like psoriasis or allergies. Generally, the French like to avoid prescription products whenever possible in favor of natural, plant-based formulas. That's not to say they don't seek professional skincare advice. "As a preventative measure, French women begin getting facials at a younger age than Americans," says Regine Berthelot, a French esthetician and Caudalie's director of spa education. In between facials, they keep their routines down to a few core products: cleanser or micellar water, moisturizer, perhaps a gentle exfoliator, and a weekly mask. All others are considered extraneous.

"American women tend to be more attracted to products that provide instant gratification and would do anything to conceal imperfections," Berthelot explains. But the French way is "less is more."

[In France], we like to take pleasure in every task we do … we don't like pressure, and we tend to criticize the rules.

Sophie Strobel

To learn how to make our skincare routines a little chicer, we asked three French skincare gurus to give it to us straight: Keep scrolling to discover the six American products a French skincare expert would never recommend (plus, what to use instead)!

A French Skincare Expert Would Never Recommend…

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