I find French women so chic and so compelling. One of my dearest friends is a French woman — born and raised in France and later moved to the US — so I’m fortunate to have the “inside scoop.” Despite this, I still find myself drawn to books and articles that attempt to explain the allure and mystique of the French woman: how she eats, what she wears, how she shops and decorates. Basically, how she thinks, lives and loves.
Books like French Women Don’t Get Fat, Ooh La La, and How to be Parisian Wherever You Are — I’ve read them all. The sheer number of books in this category goes to show just how intrigued we American women are with French women. Their style seems effortless, their beauty is natural, and their sense of joie de vivre.
And as I’ve entered midlife, I’ve become even more admiring of French women because their mindset around aging is very different than ours here in the United States. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that this is true of Europe in general. European standards of beauty don’t focus nearly as much on anti-aging. Instead of fighting against time, they seem to believe in aging gracefully and, more importantly, living gracefully at all ages and stages of life.
French women don’t try to look like they’re 25 forever. The goal is to be their best at any age. French women know how to age gracefully and confidently because they embrace their wrinkles, gray hair, and other signs of aging as a natural part of life. In other words, they don’t allow those things to detract from their self-confidence or their self-respect. And they certainly don’t allow it to diminish their enjoyment of life. They don’t see anything wrong with aging; in fact, they revere age because they know that women get smarter and wiser and better with time. French women don’t want to look, dress and act like young girls.
Moreover, they know that true beauty has nothing to do with youth or with looking a certain way — it’s a feeling. I love that way of thinking so much, and I love that the French paradigm of beauty revolves around both the external AND the internal, specifically a woman’s attitude and mindset.
So… what are their secrets to looking and feeling beautiful at any age? How do they maintain their beauty and vitality in midlife and beyond?
- Consistency/daily practices and rituals of self care. Rather than a once-in-a-while visit to a spa, commit to doing little things each day to take care of yourself. French women prioritize self-care and take time for themselves each day. Whether it’s a long bath, a yoga class, or reading a book, they make self-care a priority and recognize that taking care of themselves is essential for their well-being. Evaluate your beauty regimen and make sure that you strike a balance between things that make you look good and things that make you feel good. French women prioritize sensory pleasures like massage, saunas, steam rooms, energy treatments, etc. These treatments allow them to remain very connected to their bodies and this contributes to feeling and looking beautiful.
- French women believe in the power of skincare. More skincare and less foundation. In other words, take great care of your skin and allow your healthy skin to shine through. They don’t believe in covering their skin with a heavy layer of foundation (which is, in fact, very aging!). They take care of their skin from a young age and invest in quality products that nourish and protect it. And with respect to cosmetics, they also know that less is more and they strive for a natural, understated look. Think of that quintessential French look of the neutral eye with a pop of color on the lips (I absolutely love that classic red lip, but the eye makeup has to be soft and neutral, otherwise it can easily be too much and can actually make you look older).
- Hydrate — this one is closely related to skin care because nothing affects the health of your skin like hydration.
- French women pay attention to their diet and lifestyle. They enjoy good food and wine, but they also practice moderation and balance. They prioritize fresh, whole foods, and incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins into their diet. They stay active and prioritize movement and exercise. There is an extremely close connection between what is going on inside the body and how it looks on the outside. No question. And French women know this.
- French women embrace their individual style and express themselves through their fashion choices. You will not find them in tattered sweatpants or big, fuzzy UGG boots or old, stretched out t-shirts. They generally don’t have a ton of clothes (especially in Paris, where apartments are very small and they simply don’t have closet space to keep a lot of clothes), but they invest in quality pieces that reflect their personal taste and their style. And they don’t feel compelled to jump on every trend and fad, which also helps them avoid the accumulation of a lot of clothes. Have several classic articles of clothing that work well with everything. And then they use accessories like scarves, handbags, and jewelry to vary and enhance their outfits. But style is definitely part of the reason that they continue to look very modern, even as they age.
Tip: Pay attention to what you admire and find attractive in other women. When we see things that we like, it clues us in to our own style and preferences. And once we have clarity around this, it helps us to make better fashion choices.
- Find what colors suit you best. Some French women actually hire consultants to help with this but, most often, this is accomplished by simply experimenting with various colors and finding which ones are most flattering. Those colors can then guide clothing and makeup choices. Gone are the days of a lot of black and brown and gray. Talk about aging…color is an amazing tool that we’d all be wise to work with bc it can really lighten and brighten up the whole face — it’s just a matter of knowing which color palette is best suited to your skin tone, hair and eye color.
- French women prioritize sleep and rest. They recognize that getting enough rest is essential for not only health, but beauty too, and they prioritize sleep hygiene and relaxation practices to ensure they get the rest they need. If sleep is something that you struggle with (as many women in midlife do) check out The Wellegant Woman Podcast Episode 7: Tips for Better Sleep
- Have a “signature scent.” Find one perfume that captures who you are and wear it every day. French women know the power of a good fragrance. They choose perfumes that reflect their personality and style and wear them as a signature scent. Not saved for special occasions but worn every day. They know that scent can be attractive to others and can make a woman feel beautiful and sexy. And we all know that when you feel beautiful and sexy, it shows!
- Invest in good lingerie and wear matching bras and panties. French women do this, not for others, but for themselves. It goes back to the fact that when you make yourself FEEL beautiful and sexy, that’s how you appear to others. It shines through.
- Finally – and this is perhaps the biggest ‘beauty secret’ of all…French women prioritize joy and pleasure in their lives. They indulge in simple pleasures like a really good cup of coffee or a bouquet of fresh flowers in their home or good linens on the bed. They prioritize experiences that bring them joy, comfort and fulfillment. Not waiting for a special occasion to indulge in these things because they know that LIFE is a special occasion.
Conclusion: If I had to sum all of this up into one lesson that we can learn from the French woman and take into our own experience of midlife, here it is: consider yourself an artist when it comes to your life. Your life is yours to create.
The thing that makes a woman beautiful is not a wrinkle free face or the body of a 25 year old — the thing that makes a woman beautiful is her confidence and a deep understanding of who she is and what she loves and how to best care for herself. That kind of self-knowledge and self-respect is what makes French women so attractive and alluring. They know that when a woman’s inner self is tended to, her outer self is infinitely more beautiful.
I truly hope that it inspires you to delve into self care in the same way that French women do.
Before you go, don’t forget to grab your copy of the FREE Midlife Glow Up Guide: 7 Days to Your Healthiest and Most Radiant Self HERE !
Have a wonderful and very wellegant week!