It's undeniable that French women (like Clémence Poésy, above) generally have wonderfully, effortlessly chic hair: low-maintenance colour, easy texture and haircuts that just look incredibly cool. But what's their secret? We called on Christophe Robin, one of France's top hair colourists, to unearth the secrets of what makes French women's hair so darn covetable. (With a salon in Paris and a celebrity clientele including Catherine Deneuve, Tilda Swinton, Kylie Minogue and Kristin Scott Thomas, he's perfectly placed to let us in on their secrets.) He talks us through the French-girl hair tips we can all adopt in our daily and weekly routines because how often you wash your hair, the way you take care of it, and the cut and colour you choose can all help to make your hair as gorgeous as a French girl's. Luckily for us, the key to French-girl hair is that less really is more.
Why do you think women from across the globe are so obsessed with French women's hair?
French women are so popular around the world because they always look sophisticated and effortless, wearing timeless, natural hairstyles on very healthy hair.
We love the undone, cool texture French women do so well. What's the secret?
French women know how important it is to take care of their hair. To achieve true brightness of colour and gorgeous texture, they can dedicate several hours per week applying masks, such as my Moisturising Hair Oil With Lavender (£37), which is rich in natural oils, and my famous Cleansing Mask With Lemon (£55), which has been a French staple for over 20 years. This product really is the Rolls-Royce of shampoos, extending the longevity of colour treatments, nourishing the scalp and helping hair to style better. Having healthy hair is the French secret to spending less time styling.
What should someone ask their hairdresser for if they want their hair cut and colored like a French woman's?
I'm not a good cutter but [am] supposedly a good colourist! But even from my perspective, I feel a haircut should never be flat or without movement. Cut your hair in such a way that you can just run your fingers through it. When your hair has movement in this way, such as in your fringe, it tends to look much sexier. Colour-wise, there don't have to be strict rules, except that women will always get along with colour that doesn't require too much maintenance. For this reason, ombrés, tie-dyes and "bronde" effects with subtle highlights and ashy tones always work well.
A lot of French women seem to have these easy fringes that look so effortless. What should we ask for in the salon?
I see a lot of blunt fringes that almost hide the eyes. This is a very French look, but the cut should always flatter your hair type. If you have curly hair, an uneven hairline or your hair grows haphazardly out of the follicle, skip the fringe.
What's the secret to getting that sultry bedhead volume?
Volumising products generally contain alcohol that dries your hair. It brings you volume for a few hours but intoxicates your scalp in the long term and weighs down your hair. For natural, long-lasting volume, you can use my range of products with natural rose extracts. First, apply the delicate Delicate Volumizing Shampoo (£28) that will clean your hair and help to preserve your colour. Then use the Volumizing Conditioner (£35) on your hair tips, ensuring you rinse out thoroughly.
Finally, use the Instant Volumizing Mist With Rose Water (£32) to style your hair. It contains 96% rose water and smells divine. Wrap your strands around curlers for extra oomph. You can heat these up with your hair dryer; then let them cool down as you do your makeup for added lift at the roots.
What's the key to achieving that texture without looking scruffy?
Healthy hair will always look good. Try to find a way to take care of it daily, whether this be brushing through with a natural-bristle brush or using mild products to protect strands from external aggression. French women are not heavily into styling products, choosing only to use a little bit of Elnett Hair Spray (£7).
To nourish and tame frizzy flyaways, hydrate them by smoothing through a drop of Moisturizing Hair Cream (£33). Finally, give texture by lightly smudging my Intense Regenerating Balm with Rare Prickly Pear Seed Oil (£49) through your lengths. It's a must have during colder months!
Rumour has it women in France with great hair don't wash it that frequently. Is this true?
French women try to wash their hair only once a week because excessive washing thins the hair and irritates the scalp. The less washing the better, but the frequency also depends on the climate. Detoxing your scalp once a week with my Purifying Cleansing Scrub with Sea Salt (£43) is a good habit to prevent your hair from getting too oily.
When they do wash their hair, are there any tricks or secrets they employ?
Always use shampoos, conditioners and masks dedicated to your hair type. Silicone-based styling products weigh down the hair fibre and leave residues; they are not so popular here. I advise my clients to apply a nourishing product on a Friday evening, such as my Moisturizing Hair Oil With Lavender (£37), enriched with avocado, wheat germ and olive oil, for suppler hair throughout the week.
Brushing the product through the hair with a natural bristle brush will also help. Leave on overnight; then come morning, flip your head upside down in the shower as you wash your hair. This will activate blood circulation, and it's the perfect time for a head massage! Make sure to rinse the oil out thoroughly, especially if you must use products containing silicones.
As hair colours tend to wash out of hair more quickly, I developed my range to specially care for the colour-treated hair of the actresses whose hair I colour. The formulas have a slightly acidic pH and contain lots of nourishing ingredients—no harsh sulphates and no silicones, which I found to be the best way to preserve my clients' colour and simulate salon-treatment results for them at home and on location.
What products do women need to use between hair washing days to keep it looking great and smelling fresh?
I recommend my Instant Volumizing Mist With Rose Water (£32), which contains 96% rose water, divinely scenting the hair between washes and providing the perfect morning pick-me-up. It styles hair quickly and creates natural, long-lasting volume without drying. For best results, flip your head upside down and spritz through lengths before blow-drying.