• Annabel Jones

8 smart reasons why Parisians ace ageing gracefully

Updated: Jan 28, 2018

When it comes to style, Parisian women always get it right. Even if you don’t know it, you’re probably working some nuance of their classic-with-an-edge uniform. The stripy T, a quilted bag, or cropped cigarette pant showing just a flash of ankle in a low-heeled pointy pump; It’s sexy, but not overt, undone but never slovenly. For a woman of a certain age, the French way of dressing is as graceful as it gets.

In fact, many of the France’s most revered style icons are over 45, and nobody bats a smoky eyelid. Fashion darling, Carine Rotfield, French Vogue Editor, Emanuelle Alt, Designer Isabel Marrant, model Ines De La Fressange and actresses Juliette Binoche, and actresses Caroline Proust and Isabel Adjani are all annoyingly elegant examples.

Take a closer look and you’ll notice it’s not just what they’re wearing that’s giving them the edge, it’s the polished, outdoorsy skin, the blow-in-the-wind hair, the effortless makeup, permanently manicured nails and fresh-from-the-spa bodies. We don’t notice their age because they’re not pointing at it. They’re not covering it up with bigger hair and louder make-up; they’re embracing it, underplaying it, working with it.



‘In some cultures, the older you are the more frozen your face and hair looks. You won't find that in Paris - even women in their 50’s and 60’s are wearing their hair a bit longer and looser; age isn’t a factor,’ explains hair stylist, George Northwood. ‘They don’t go in for trendy hair cuts or big volume, the clothes always do the talking, so it’s sleek, simple hair styles all the way.' How do they pull if off? By investing in regular salon treatments explains George. The cut may be simple but it’s always polished - the French don’t do grunge - it’s all about micro maintenance, they have a blow dry once a week and regular trims to keep the ends neat. The secret is glossy yet relaxed with few invisible layers that fall around the face and soften her features - that's youthful.’


‘I don't care about wrinkles. I don’t have many,’ says former French Editor, Carine Rotfield, 58. True, behind the scenes, French women are disciplined about pampering, but it’s more in the vain of wellbeing rather than an attempt to obliterate all signs of ageing. In fact, far from ‘anti’ ageing, they’re all for it. ‘French women always want to look natural, even if that means retaining a few wrinkles. They look after their skin extremely well but it’s more about wanting to look the best they can at their age - not a bad copy of their younger self,’ explains cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Veronique Simon, who tweaks the faces of Catherine Deneuve, Isbaelle Adjani and honorary Parisienne, Charlotte Rampling. ‘When it comes to skin, there’s ‘a French touch’, a light touch,’ explains French cosmetic doctor, Daniel Sister, who is based between Paris and London. He says ‘French women are very discerning about anti-ageing. They know it’s not natural to be line-free at 60 – so they’ll always pull back a fraction and leave a few lines; they’re comfortable with that. Experience is respected in France, they’re not ashamed to look their age as long as they look their best.’ Here here.


‘Most French women have a dedicated beauty day. Every Sunday before work, they’ll apply a hair and face mask and do a top to toe body scrub followed by a rich body cream – they spend a lot of time and money on maintaining their hair and skin, using lots of natural oils with uplifting scents,’ explains Beatrice Drovandi, Co-founder, of www.frenchologie.com, a French lifestyle brand that imports exclusive fashion & beauty finds from go-to Parisian beauty salons like Carlota beauty salon and Opalis hair spa. ‘In Paris, women will go to the hair spa once a month to have a two-hour steam treatment with a scalp mask and head massage, then they’ll use the products at home in between visits,’ explains Beatrice. Opalis Hair Oil £42 and Carlota Salt Body Scrub £41, are two Parisian pleasers.


‘Every woman in France has a dermatologist. French women are very problem targeted – whether it’s a breakout or a bout of cellulite, they’ll see their skin doctor who’ll work in conjunction with their pharmacist to find a solution,’ explains, Mathilde Castang, from cult French pharmacy brand, Bioderma. Cosmetic doctor, Daniel Sister says, ‘It’s a much more inside-out approach – if a client is worried about cellulite, I will perform a course of cellulite treatments. But it won’t stop there – they will take advice from their pharmacist on diet, posture, digestion and see the appropriate experts for each – they attack the problem from all angles.’ As for anti-ageing, filling wrinkles and tightening foreheads is, well, just too obvious. As it’s c’est chic to wear little makeup, their skin needs to look pristine naked. So, what are they having done? ‘A combination of non invasive procedures in very low doses – French women aren’t keen on lasers, they lean towards non-invasive treatments like Dermaroller and Mesotherapy, an infusion of hyaluronic acid, vitamins and minerals, to improve texture and glow. Everything is finely tuned to their skin needs, so they always look natural, never over done,’ says Dr. Sister. For the French glow, Dr. Sister offers treatments from his London Clinic, www.beautyworkswest.co.uk. Or try Dr. Michael Prager’s Micro Mesotherapy treatments (www.drmichaelprager.com)


Bleach blonde wouldn’t fly in Paris. The French spend hours on making their hair look like it’s never been coloured. ‘Lighter isn’t necessarily more youthful. The darker your colour, the less focus there is on dark circles and wrinkles. Even blondes will leave their roots a little darker- it’s about creating a sense of ease, especially as you get older,’ explains Parisian colourist, Christophe Robin, who tints the French elite like Catherine Deneuve. ‘If I’m applying highlights, I use gentle peroxides that won’t cause the hair to look brassy after a few weeks – French women won’t sacrifice the condition of their hair for a certain look.’ Robin is famous for his Balayage technique, where the colour is painted on freehand rather than applied in foils. ‘You’ll rarely see anyone with a full head of foils at a Paris salon, it’s too much. Women prefer gentle tints and vegetable colours to cover greys, then maybe a few painted highlights on the ends or around the hair line, nothing more.’


No Parisienne worth their salt would fake a tan. In fact anything fake including false eyelashes is considered déclassé. ‘French women would prefer to be pale than to use a self-tanning product. That orange glow – it's not he done thing,’ explains Beatrice Drovandi from Frenchologie. Yet, despite the laissez faire attitude about sun bathing, they are serious about preventing UV damage. ‘French sun creams are the best in the world - not only do they shield any skin type, including redheads, from burning, they have smart technology that boosts the skin’s own protection mechanisms,’ explains makeup artist Wendy Rowe who will only use French pharmacy sun care brands like Institut Esthederm (www.feelunique.com) and Uriage (www.leguidesante.co.uk) on models skin when shooting on location. ‘The formulas have high level UV filters in sophisticated textures, so you never look like a white sticky mess,’ she explains. They even protect their skin internally. ‘We start taking sun supplements a month before going on holiday which builds up the skin’s UV defences and helps to give an even colour that lasts longer,’ adds Berenice Drovandi. Try Thalgo Ocea Sun Capsules £26.25 for 30 capsules (www.thalgo.com).


Nail art …not on your life. When it comes to manicures it’s classic all the way. ‘French women wear nude or red. They are very locked into their beauty habits, which have been passed down from generation to generation,’ explains French hair colourist, Christophe Robin. Chipped nails won’t do, so hour-long manicures once a week is the price they pay. As for makeup, it’s low-key all the way. ‘We don’t wear a lot of makeup - if you look in our makeup bags, you’ll find a tinted moisturiser, lip balm, a little mascara, that’s about it – very natural and ageless,’ But, she says, ‘Every French woman has a good red lipstick.’ Chanel Rouge Allure in Passion £25, or YSL Rouge Pur Couture The Mats Lipstick in 201 £25 are two top Parisian reds. Christophe Robin has a theory: It’s all about sex. ‘In France, we’re very open about sex, it’s no big deal, so women don’t feel the need to express their sensuality through their clothes or makeup, it comes more from their attitude - the way they sit, move, act.’


If we’re run down, we go to the GP. When the French are feeling the stress, they head to the spa – at least once a month. ‘Wellbeing is extremely important to French women. They have very organised beauty regimes that includes going to a Thalassotherapy spa once a month to reboot,’ explains Judith Emslie, from Villa Thalgo Spa in Paris. Thalassotherapy uses salt water and algae in all of their treatments, which is healing and anti-ageing for the body. But, French spas will also help with health issues too like arthritis, rheumatism and circulation disorders. A monthly facial or ‘nettoyage de peau’ (skin cleansing) is also in their beauty diaries. With Paris home to the world’s best facialists, like Joelle Ciocco and Gisele Delorme, it's a no brainer. Specialising in deep-cleansing, anti-ageing facials that lift and sculpt drooping features, it’s no wonder French women don’t look haggered. ‘There are so many highly skilled estheticians that specialise in facial massage and exfoliation,’ explains Christine D’Ornano, International Vice President of Sisley. So sought after are these French facial masters, that many British supermodels and actresses hop on the Eurostar for their monthly facial fix. Something that prompted UK beauty therapist, Teresa Tarmey (www.teresatarmey.com), to get trained the Paris way. ‘French facials are so thorough, it’s two hours of deep cleansing and massaging the tissues deep under the skin with essential oils; it’s like a workout for your face.'

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