Reporting In – Parisian Make-Up


Parisian make-up

I don’t think I mentioned it anywhere, but while I was in Paris recently  I was ‘on assignment’.

You see, I’d been asked by one of my very favourite Distant Francophile readers to check out what was currently happening in the world of French women’s make-up.

As with most of the endeavours in my life, I took my ‘job’ very seriously. I basically turned into a bit of a stalker, examining the make-up of every French woman who crossed my path as closely as I could possibly manage. While trying really, really hard not to appear too odd.

I was careful with my research. I made sure that I was paying attention to French women, rather than fellow travellers. This saw me concentrating on women who served me in shops and restaurants or on female commuters on the Metro.

And I’ve go to tell you – I was surprised by what I discovered.

For a long time, I’d subscribed to the theory that French women wore very little make-up, concentrating instead on stellar skincare. While they may well place a lot of emphasis on skincare, I can report that they also enhance their appearance with make-up.

If I think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised by this fact. Wander the Parisian streets for anything more that a minute, and you are likely to pass at least one speciality make-up retailer. And that’s before you even set foot into any of the ‘grands magasins’ whose entire ground floors are packed with high end beauty brands. All of these stockists are not kept in business by the tourist trade alone. The locals must also be investing in a little product here and there.

What I will say though is that French women certainly apply their make-up with a deft hand. Perhaps the best word I can use to describe the application is subtle. I can’t go with ‘natural’ because there was actually a fair bit of colour on show but I definitely couldn’t describe it as heavy or even polished.  Which places it in contrast to make-up I noticed on English speakers from all over the globe.

So what did I see in terms of Parisian make-up?

Parisian Make-Up

  • Light bases, Tinted moisturisers and creams rather than full coverage foundations. Skin definitely shone through. If powder was used, I’d suggest it was only used sparingly and where needed. I certainly didn’t come across anything mask like.
  • Unsurprisingly, mascara was evident on women and girls of all ages.
  • Eyeliner too. And this is where the colour I mentioned came into play. I noticed blue liner way more times than I would have anticipated. I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say that this came as a bit of a shock. And it’s a trend .
  • However I can’t report that I noticed much by way of eyeshadow. Or blush either. But I did notice subtle touches of bronzer, which may have been a nod to the beautifully warm weather we experienced while we were there.
  • Lipsticks, of course. Red stain on the young – and it was red, not pink. And pink, coral and red on the more mature.

Have you travelled to Paris recently? Did you pay attention to Parisian make-up? I’d love for you to share what you saw and your thoughts about it in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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6 thoughts on “Reporting In – Parisian Make-Up

  • Taste of France

    A relative (French) spied an acne outbreak on my daughter and took her under her wing. They went to one of the makeup chains, bought a set of products, and the relative gave detailed instructions on what to do. My daughter has followed it to the letter and now has beautiful skin–which just reinforces the importance of skincare and keeps her doing it. The process is inculcated at a young age.
    My French friends wear makeup but they don’t look “made up.” Small enhancements–mascara, a little something on the lips–and that’s enough.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks Catherine. Yes, that French dedication to skincare does seem to pay off. And I just love the ‘that’s enough’ approach to make-up. I’ve been making a concerted effort to keep things light and subtle since I’ve returned home, and I don’t think my overall look is suffering at all.

  • Alisa

    I loved the image in my mind of you in a trench coat skulking about in Paris with your hat brim pulled down as you go about your ‘investigation’!
    Thank you for posting this – it reinforces what I dimly noticed when I was in Paris last year, but didn’t really think about until I was home and it was too late to confirm my brief notice-ings!
    I bought a product last summer that I mistakenly thought I would be able to buy more of in the States (it is a Garnier product, a brand widely available here) so I didn’t stock up. It is called BB+Blur, a combination BB (Beauty and Benefits) tinted moisturizer with a mattifier included in it (the ‘blur’) and it makes me the closest thing to beautiful I will ever be in my life, plus it feels light and wonderful. I contacted Garnier and was told that they did not intend to introduce it in the USA, it was designed for the European market. I will stock up on this summer’s trip!
    Hmmm…blue eyeliner. I have seen that here in magazines and it can be attractive on a younger woman with blue eyes but a little strange otherwise. I wonder if this is almost a replacement for the eyeshadow you said you did not see much of. Just a thin line of color.
    I have a question – re the lipstick – was it glossy or matte? Matte lipstick is having a moment here, and it can be a challenging look for a mature woman who might have drier lips.
    I am thinking about having a skin and makeup consultation when in Paris – do you (or other readers) have any recommendations?

    • Janelle Post author

      Hey Alisa. While I tried not to skulk, I have to admit that I felt like I was being a little sneaky. I’m sure Scotty thought I was crazy, especially when I would ‘shush’ him because I was ‘concentrating’….in every single store we entered! Hopefully anyone watching me thought I was just jotting down future purchases every time I pulled out my notepad (yep, I’m old school). Regardless though, I hope you found my observations helpful.
      Isn’t it interesting that the big companies have very different products for the different markets? To my mind, it confirms the fact that make-up, and bases particularly are treated differently in France than in other places. If that BB+Blur makes you feel happy, I’d recommend buying it by the bucket load! I also think your idea of having a consultation done is an excellent one. In terms of skincare, I found the consultants at Caudalie very helpful, but so are most of the pharmacy assistants if you ask for help. In terms of make-up I’ve had mine done by a Dior consultant – I’m always fascinated by Dior. I’ve also had a make-up consultation at Serge Lutens in the Palais Royal (pricey and not available in Australia so I wanted to check the product out) and I received great assistance from a MAC consultant in Lyon one time.
      Now, as for the lipstick, it’s tricky to say. I suspect the lipsticks themselves were probably matte because they seem to be having a moment just about everywhere at the moment, but I’m thinking they were topped with a slick of lip gloss because I noticed quite a few subtle gloss looks. I had a fun discussion with a Dior consultant (in Aus this time) a few months back after she demonstrated a matte lippy with a lip gloss topcoat. I loved the colour and the effect but baulked at the price of both items and asked her if she had a glossier style in a similar colour…She did, but it wasn’t quite the same…

      • Alisa

        Thank you for your report and the suggestions!
        Last year I bought a wonderful organic rosewater toner, no alcohol, just a cool and lovely spritz of rosewater with a delicate scent that dissipated almost immediately. I bought it at a pharmacie in Aix en Provence and have bought more online since, there are many brands. Applied after cleansing and just before a light makeup, it seems to minimize pores like a primer and brighten the complexion. During a recent serious illness, my skin never became dull, and i credit the rosewater.
        (I definitely plan to come back from France this time with buckets of that BB+Blur!)