Fashion, Lifestyle 20 comments

How To Do Your Makeup Like A French Girl


“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” – Coco Chanel

The French invented Sephora, but don’t be deceived – most of the product on a French girl is not really makeup at all. A French woman adores her skin care, uses makeup to smooth her coloring and give her a natural glow, but she wouldn’t be caught dead in wild eyeshadows or heavy bronzers.

Her beauty icons are fresh faces like Françoise Hardy or Jane Birkin. A cat eye or a red lip here and there. Nothing too flashy. She accepts her age and doesn’t cake it over in thick foundations.


Here’s a step by step makeup routine to get a French girl face:

1. Skin Care

Skin care is the most important beauty routine for a French girl. The skin care industry in France is very lucrative and full of exciting product.

Cleanse in the evening: Use a cleanser like Vichy Pureté Thermale 3-in-1 One Step Cleanser and follow it up with anti-oxidant protection, like this La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water.

Once a week, add an overnight mask: This Avene Soothing Moisture Mask is a favorite amongst French girls.

Combat eye-puff with cornflower water: If you’re the sort to have puffy eyes (or just want to disguise your “I’ve-been-dumped-and-spent-all-night-up-watching-chick-flicks-with-a-box-of-kleenex face) try some Sanoflore Eau de Bleuet (cornflower water). Store it in the fridge, soak 2 cotton pads in it, and place the pads over your eyes to de-puff and relax.

Moisturize dry skin: In dry climates like Colorado, a product like Eucerin Original Healing Body Cream can go a long way to making your skin feel fresh and alive.

2. Priming

When you’re ready to start “doing your face,” start with a primer. Sometimes, good skin care and a tinted primer can work so well, you won’t even want the foundation.

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance, gives your skin a pearl glow
Prime Time™ Brightening Foundation Primer by Bare Essentuals, brightens the skin without an oily residue
Embryolisse’s Lait-Crème Concentré, a velvety moisturizer that does double duty as a primer, meaning you can hydrate and prime in a single step

French Makeup Icons

3. Light concealing/ Foundation

For slightly more coverage than a tinted primer, you can add a layer of concealer or foundation on top. The trick here is to be sure the look is very natural. Burn your Kim Kardashian contouring handbook immediately! Do NOT cake your foundation on.

If you cannot see your real skin, you’ve gone too far. Breakout the makeup remover and start over.

For a really natural look, I recommend a powder foundation (like Bare Minerals), so that you can build your foundation in light layers and avoid over-coverage.

4. A touch of blush

A light dusting of blush can sometimes accent that glowing French face. Like with foundation and concealer, we don’t want to over-do it. Blend and tread lightly!

Blush image

I love Dior’s blush – it looks like a bright color but dusts on like a soft morning glow that adapts to your skin tone. More about that here.

5. Liner

Most people think of a winged Brigitte Bardot tip when trying to emulate the French look, but the truth is that many French beauty icons also go for a more natural pencil look or avoid eyeliner entirely.

The rule of thumb for any liner, though, is to keep your lines thin and close to the lash base. You want to make your lashes look fuller… not like you just got out of a bar fight.


Keep it clean by only lining your top lashes in black. Line your bottom lash line in brown or avoid that area entirely for a truly clean and retro touch.

6. Mascara

Mascara is essential to the flirt. In addition to the darker color, mascara helps shape the lashes and elongate them.

Even if you’re abstaining from liner, mascara is essential to creating that wide-eyed doe look that goes so well with a French pout.

7. The Red Lip

To be used with caution.

Those red lips pop best when paired with neutral clothing, toned down makeup, and tousled hair. Anything that distracts from the punch of the red will simply unravel its allure.

On the other hand, red lips can be a great go-to when you’re wearing an outfit that seems too casual, thrown together… lacking oomph! A red lip makes my thrift store tee and black skinnies look très chic when I’m running out the door with no time to accessorize. A swish, a pucker, and I’m ready for anything!

Happy primping, my chic Goutasters!



  1. Great post, Emily! Love and totally agree with your observations. I might have to try that Dior blush, too – what an elegant shade it is!

  2. Love this!
    I have been trying to simplify my routine and these product recommendations are great.
    Although I am still a bit fearful of trying the red lips – it just looks odd trying it out when I normally only wear a pale rose gloss.

  3. I loved this. Woman must not leave their house without fixing themselves. Even a simple make up will do just to make themselves look presentable. I agree to your observation. And Thank you for sharing.

  4. Emily Grossman

    Thanks, Shannan! I LOVE that Dior blush!

  5. Emily Grossman

    Thanks, Murissa – yes the red lips are a bit of a leap of faith, but there are some ways to make sure it’s all chic. Maybe red lips deserve their own post in the future!

  6. Emily Grossman

    Thanks for reading, Laura! And I totally agree with you and Chanel about the little bit of fixing up going a long way. It doesn’t have to huge – maybe just some tinted moisturizer or even just a quick flick of mascara – but it gives us that whole “put together” look.

  7. Emily Grossman

    Yay! So glad you love it! I should do another post soon about choosing the right red lipstick – let me know which one you fall in love with at Sephora!

  8. Love this post. I have yet to find the right shade of red, but maybe on my next trip to Sephora I can get some assistance.

  9. Complètement d’accord! Less is more. There’s nothing worse than a face caked over with frosting. :-) And just a little side comment about red lipstick (for Lori). This is just my humble opinion, but I don’t think it’s so much about color as it is about the way the lipstick is applied. The “perfect-lip” look is a no-no. Lip-liner is optional, and for a chic-lip dab it on lightly (right from the tube, no need for a brush and all that hassle – remember, you’re French and you’re effortlessly chic – you don’t have time for that! Haha!) and “work” the color in gradually…

  10. Katherine

    I want to do a French makeup and style project for my Exploratory French class. What is some drugstore makeup you suggest for a classic french look. For my visual I want to do a makeup tutorial.

  11. Hi ya lovely. Have you tried any Younique products? We have just launched in France today which is exciting! If your intersted have a look on my site for the amazing products :)


  12. I’m not a fan of the full on red lipstick a la Marilyn Monroe, but I have grown fond of the light red stain pout. It’s not as precise and thick as a red carpet look, but it does add a bit of mystery and oomph to a plain outfit. I want to try the oil stains like Yves St Laurent–his rouge volupte shine is my favourite lipstick. I wanted a “grown up” lipstick that is very hydrating and long lasting that doesn’t look caked on or keeps drying out. I found the perfect nude shade and love the beautiful packaging–I don’t mind reapplying this lipstick in public. The tubes last forever as well. My favourite red lipsticks are NARS lip crayons which give you a light coat which I can cover with my favourite clear gloss.

  13. So true! I love that the focus is more on skincare rather than hiding their skin under tons of makeup. Since living in France I’ve discovered some amazing products. Check out my blog post! :)

  14. Name (required)

    Great Info.I must try the Dior Blush.

  15. Shirley J. Baird

    Ugh, Looking so beautiful!! I love the makeup. :)

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  18. Linda James

    I like your post. It really useful with me. Thanks for sharing these useful information!

  19. Rebecca White

    Would one use any eye shadow at all?


    Thank you very useful article.

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