Partly due to my French heritage and my French husband’s stories about his mother being an esthetician, I’ve always had an interest in how French women care for their skin. On a recent visit to France, I visited with estheticians while getting facials and talked to many French women, and I have returned to the U.S. with some interesting observations in my quest to decide who has the better approach to skin care—Americans or the French.
Learn more about Renée Rouleau and how she got her start in the skin care industry.
French women rarely alter their natural appearance.
In France, both women and skin care professionals believe that when it comes to skin, you should accept what you’ve been given. Many French women rarely change or highlight their natural hair color except perhaps to cover their gray hair. They rarely opt for plastic surgery and they’ve yet to embrace injectables and fillers the way American women have. In short, French women prefer to celebrate their natural beauty and they prefer to age gracefully…
Unlike my French contemporaries, I’ve found that the American approach to beauty and appearance varies dramatically. While many American women will have a similar philosophy to that of the French, others, in an attempt to look younger, will be the complete opposite and alter their image in whatever way they can.
Beauty tip: When consulting with a cosmetic professional, always look at their skin. Do they look natural? Do you like the way they look? If you do, this might be someone to consider trusting your skin with. People will do on you what they think looks great on them. So if you go to someone to have Botox® and they don’t look natural, there’s a good chance you might not either.
French women get facials often.
The French have both invented and perfected the art of the facial and getting regular monthly facials is part of their culture. There are countless facial salons in France—and French women both believe in facials and love getting them to keep their skin healthy and looking its best. And it’s not uncommon for a French woman to even get facials every week!
In the U.S., while facials are very popular, a woman might only get a facial several times a year.
For many French estheticians, microdermabrasion is a no-no.
Many French estheticians never embraced microdermabrasion technology because it seemed too harsh on the skin and French estheticians are all about being gentle. Even AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) aren’t as popular in France as they are here in the U.S.
It’s true that American estheticians are more aggressive with the skin. We love to embrace the newest anti-aging technology, even if it’s not always tried and true–and this is not always a good thing.
French women seldom wear sunscreen—or stay out of the sun.
The concept of staying out of the sun and wearing sunscreen every day hasn’t really caught on with the French. Many French women still love to go to the beach and get a tan, and skiing in France certainly brings on damaging UV rays. Since UV exposure from the sun (even on a cloudy, winter day) is the #1 cause of aging, this isn’t working in their favor.
As a matter of fact, after every facial I’ve ever had in France, NOT ONE esthetician ever put sunscreen on my skin as the final step in the facial. I would never leave my clients fresh, new skin unprotected when they walk out of my door. That would be a complete skin sin. Wearing an SPF moisturizer on the face, neck and chest 365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out is something I preach to my clients, family, and friends pretty much daily. Check out our best-selling Daily Protection SPF 30 with 7% Zinc Oxide.
French skin is lacking a glow.
Many French women still smoke and of those who don’t, many are exposed second-hand hand smoke in cafés and bars, and by virtue of being around friends or family.
Many French restaurants and clubs have recently started no-smoking policies, so that’s helpful for non-smokers. It’s a fact that smoking starves skin cells of oxygen, which results in dull, sallow, tired-looking skin with an absence of a glow. Added to this is the genetic makeup of French skin. Like many European complexions (with the exception of the Irish and the Scottish), French skin is thicker so the blood circulates slower which results in tired-looking skin.
It’s my belief that glowing skin is beautiful skin. Something French estheticians don’t seem to focus on that at all. Since the micro-circulation of the skin is compromised due to smoking and genetics, I’d think they’d talk about this more and they don’t. Yes, facials definitely help to get your skin glowing because they increase blood flow and breathe new life into the skin, but French estheticians don’t enforce doing this at home.
By the way, three years ago when I walked into a facial salon in Paris, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The receptionist was smoking! Yes, actually smoking while she greeted me! Wow, you would never find this in the U.S.—thank goodness!
French estheticians believe Americans have the most beautiful skin.
I’ve asked many estheticians in France what they observe about American skin versus French skin and hands down, most will say that American skin is more beautiful. I heard French estheticians say again and again that “Americans have smaller pores, tighter skin with fewer lines and wrinkles, and they don’t go in the sun”.
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Going back to an earlier point, European skin has definite genetic traits; thick, oily, and flaccid (lacking tone), large pores, and under-circulated. Something that’s true of French, Italian, and Greek skin. Genetics do play a part in how your skin will age, but the biggest contributor to the look of your skin is how you take care of it. It’s estimated that 30 percent of how your skin will age is due to genetics, while 70 percent is up to you! So, if your skin is genetically prone to being thick, oily, flaccid, and under-circulated, with the right skin care program (both at home and in-spa) and good skin care habits, you can really make a difference.
Many French women aren’t disciplined when it comes to caring for their skin at home.
I’ve heard French estheticians say this again and again: that French women are extremely dedicated to their monthly facials, but they aren’t very diligent about wearing sunscreen every day, washing their skin before they go to bed, and exfoliating—all necessary steps for healthy, younger-looking skin.
Facials and skin procedures are all helpful in the quest for healthy, beautiful skin. But what you do to your skin every day at home plays an even bigger part. If you worked out with a personal trainer four times a week but then you ate junk food at home, would your body really be that healthy? No. Using good quality products at home—products that are exclusively formulated for your skin type, and practicing good skin care habits is essential.
And Americans do that so well.
So, “Who does skin care better?”— My answer is Americans.
Hands down, we take better care of our skin.
And I believe it shows.
Read: Six French Beauty Tips
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”