Need It Now: French Haircare Advice


French Haircare Advice

A friend of mine, who I met on a Canadian train (of all places) and who we’ll call B for the purposes of this post, wrote to me recently.

B was keen to understand how it is that French women always look so stylish. And she was particularly interested in learning more about their hair. 

To emphasise her point, B enclosed a photo of a friend of hers who happens to be a very chic French woman of a certain age. And from what I could see, this lady certainly does have a very lovely hairstyle.

Great hair is something that’s regularly associated with French women of all ages. The good news is their hair care tips are both easy to find (the internet is full of them) and to follow. And what’s more, they work. As someone who has had a fraught relationship with her hair for the longest time, I’m happy to report that since I’ve been incorporating a healthy dose of French haircare advice into my life, my hair is no longer a source of frustration. 

B – here are the tips that have worked for me. I hope they help you too xx.

French Haircare Advice

Get An Excellent Hair Cut

You see this piece of advice all of the time when you read anything about the haircare secrets of French women. But how do you define what an ‘excellent cut’ actually is? I decided to ask my own hairdresser for his thoughts on the matter. He suggested that a fabulous cut is one that works with – rather than against – your natural hair, both in terms of the way it grows and its texture. In this way you are enhancing what you have rather than trying to change things.

He also advised that a really good cut will work with your lifestyle. Which makes sense. If you haven’t got the time or the skills for elaborate styling, there is no point going for a cut that requires it.

Avoid High Temperatures And Over Colouring

This French haircare advice also pops up universally. And with good reason. Damaged hair is anything but stylish. Both styling tools and chemicals can ‘cook’ your hair. Take a tip from the French and be kind your hair. Let it air dry, or lower the heat settings. At first this might leave you with hair that ‘misbehaves’ in the short term, but over longer periods of time you’ll find your hair health will improve dramatically.

Use The ‘Right’ Products

Don’t be afraid to seek professional support when it comes to product selection. For so long, I’d just use any old thing on my hair. And I’d get the results to match. These days, I use a combination of L’Oreal and Christophe Robin products and I can definitely see the difference to the health and manageability of my hair. Before I made the switch, I used to have to wash my hair every day. Now, I can get two or three days between washes, which is great for my hair, and also for my ability to get to work on time.

As an aside, if you are going to invest in one product, I’d suggest you consider a great deep conditioning treatment. This is an area where my hairdresser was very aligned to the French haircare advice. And my personal experience tells me that when I go to the trouble of deep conditioning my hair, the results are well worth the effort.

Consider A Supplement To Support Your Hair Health

Ok, so there are lots of differences between French and Australian pharmacies. But it took me a few visits to France before I noticed this specific one. In Australia, all the health supplements are kept in the ‘vitamins’ section of the store. However in France, many of the supplements specific to hair live with the haircare products. Sporting the same branding as the actual haircare products, it’s easy to add a nutritional support to your haircare regime. 

Now –  supplements aren’t useful for everyone, especially if you have a great diet. And do check with your doctor before you introduce a new supplement.

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of A Chignon

A chignon is a powerful tool in the French woman’s hairstyle arsenal. Great for travel and for warmer weather, a chignon suits women of all ages and stages. Remember, you are not looking for perfection – and you don’t need super long hair. Simply twist, secure and go.

Your turn now. Have you incorporated any French haircare advice into your life? Do you have any haircare tips of your own? If so, please get busy and share them in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.


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9 thoughts on “Need It Now: French Haircare Advice

  • Taste of France

    When I moved to Europe, I was struck by the number of hair salons. And they are always full. A friend who came to visit from NY immediately remarked that everybody (well, the women) seemed to have great haircuts. Yes, they do go to the salon often.
    That said, natural hair is favored–as your stylist says, a style that works with, not against, your hair. The messy look is limited to those under age 25. However, even older women have hair that moves. Too-perfect hair is a giveaway that one is a tourist. French women employ on their hairstyles the same standards of being well-thought-out, well-maintained, simultaneously formal and informal, never sloppy that they give to their sartorial style. Except for blondes. There’s a set of women of a certain age who diligently maintain bottle-blonde hair à la Catherine Deneuve, along with the same shoulder length.
    I used to hit a hair salon on my weekends in Paris. Especially when it’s raining, it’s a delicious pleasure to get a shampoo, trim and blow-dry–a nice respite from walking, walking, walking with the added payoff of good hair. There are plenty of walk-in salon chains. I always went to different ones, depending on where I happened to be, and I never got a bad haircut.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights Catherine. Regular maintenance and care seems to be the cornerstone of French grooming, and you can see the results of a French woman’s consistency when it comes to their hair. And you are so right about having French women having hair that moves – that has been one of my own hair goals, which I adopted after spending time in France.
      Oh, and I’m so tempted by the idea of spending a rainy day in Paris getting my hair done. Definitely one for the ‘to-do’ list.

  • Joanne Long

    For the last five years, I have stopped colouring and straightening my hair. I grew the colour out while living in France in 2014. There are such skilful hairstylists who can create a completely natural but well-kept look. I’ve visited exclusive salons in the 6th and the Marais and neighbourhood salons in residential areas. A good cut and a few quality products ensure the look. At home, I spend very little time or money on hair but I have become one of “those silver-haired ladies” who receive compliments on my natural colour and wave. After years of fighting my hair, I’m loving it.

    • Alisa

      Loved your comment! I am so delighted that it is no longer de rigueur to color for as long as we breathe! But it is a very scary step to stop coloring. I lost my hair due to chemo and when it grew back I was able to see my silver hair all brand new and was astonished by how flattering it was, but I am not sure I would have been brave enough to stop coloring otherwise. Now I look at older women with colored hair and picture how much younger they would look with natural hair. (It has also helped the ‘image’ that many young women are seen with bleached/dyed silver and white hair. I am especially grateful to Katy Perry!)

    • Janelle Post author

      Hello Joanne. Thanks so much for sharing your ‘hair journey’. Right now, I’m not sure whether I should thank you for the tips or congratulate you on your hair success. So I’m doing both. I’m also very inspired by the fact that you’ve found a way to love your hair, without spending a ton of time or money.

  • Alisa

    This is one of my favorite Distant Francophile posts!
    Re working with rather than against your hair: so true! My stylist in Paris (at a small and unprepossessing shop on my street when’re I get cuts that grow out beautifully between appointments) just smiled when I bemoaned a particularly troublesome cowlick. His response: a cowlick is an advantage, it is an opportunity to create more volume! And in his hands, that is exactly what it became.
    French women wash their hair much less frequently than Americans, another important point. We tend to think we need to shampoo daily, and then we pile on products to replace the natural oils we have washed out, but the products weigh our hair down and can look greasy quickly, so we wash even more often and…!
    Finally, yes to the chignon! It serves a double purpose, too: when undone, you have lovely waves and fullness.
    And I think that is the real key to French hair (and French makeup and French fashion): it should look effortless and natural, no matter how hard you worked to look that way!

    • Janelle Post author

      I’m so glad you like the post Alisa. And I love the fact that you have a Parisian stylist – it seems like a dream.
      Thank you for describing the wash/product/wash cycle so well – it really does become a problem. And it was a problem that I lived for SO many years. It took patience to break the cycle, but it was worth it.

  • Denise Linkson

    Hi Janelle, I so agree with all your hair tips! I now have my hair cut in a style that works with my natural hair & I feel like i’ve been liberated!! my hair not only sits & falls better but looks good all the time with minimal fuss. Good products are also key to great looking hair. I just wanted to pass on a dry shampoo for travel as well. Black Chicken, strange name but a great product. It is in a powder form so great in hand luggage. As I hate the feeling of yukky hair after a looooong flight I feel I have finally found the perfect solution!
    Denise
    oh & it doesn’t make your hair look dull & powdery

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for the dry shampoo tip Denise. I’ve seen improving results with dry shampoo over the years, but I don’t think I’ve quite nailed it yet. It is so lovely to have a recommendation. It’s also great to hear that you’ve found the path to loving to your hair. There is a lot to be said for this ‘excellent cut’ idea.