The secret to getting the look right though is actually more to do with unpacking the “effortless” myth than it is trying any particular French beauty product. That said, a Parisian pharmacy trawl for brands like Bioderma and Avene, a visit to beautiful boutiques such as Buly 1803 and splashing out for a treatment with lush Sisley products at the Sisley Maison (it’s in a gorgeous art deco building near the Arc de Triomphe, which is reason enough to visit) will always be worth it when visiting the City of Lights/City of Finding Your Light.
Colour director Monique McMahon from Que Colour in Sydney is the local queen of cool French girl hair. She takes one look at my painstaking highlights and says I need something less “done.” Which is of course the essence of looking effortless. She suggests I switch to a balayage technique on my hair, so free painting of the colour with a few highlights to keep the creamy blonde colour I like, but with something a little softer and less high maintenance. Also, and crucially, she says French women take good care of their hair and skin, “they’re really into self-care,” she says.
In practice this means go easy on the bleaching and the tonging and instead go hard on the treatment masks (try the Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating Mask). The stylish French woman looks like she’s just mussed her hair and ran out the door because she’s put the effort into it beforehand. The same goes with using the kinds of skincare products that hydrate and add glow so that you can pair glowing bare skin with a red lip and look juste tellement.
On that, Christophe Robin has just added styling products to his beautiful range of natural ingredient range (think chamomile and sea salt). The French guru’s new Anti-Frizz Rescue Milk is the first product that I’ve been able to scrunch through my hair and then air-dry it successfully. Which makes me feel very insouciant.
Mostly though, wash and go hair requires a really good hair cut. As Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag says in the cult show, “hair is really important.” The impact of a good hair cut can’t be understated.
The best I’ve had was at the David Mallet salon in Paris (of course, but he has a salon in New York too and failing that, you can buy his hair products here). The chic salon is frequented by the likes of Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard and more and the giant Emu in the centre of the space nods to Mallet’s Australian roots (forgive the hair pun! Or don’t).
Yuta, who moved from Japan to work with David Mallett and who also works as an artist, cuts my hair with such care and then spends ages tousling it so that it falls just so that for a brief moment I look in the mirror and I feel just about, almost, French.
What to buy this Thursday
Your weekly recommendation for a late-night shopping trip …
Hourglass Arch Brow Volumising Fiber Gel
If you’re trying to do the ‘no makeup makeup’ look, and well, who isn’t, the thing you can’t forget is your eyebrows. They really do frame your face and putting even the tiniest amount of effort into doing them will create the effect of having put in effort. My new favourite is the Arch Brow Volumising Fibre Gel. I swipe it on in about three seconds and then use the clear version over the top. It makes my skinny brows look fuller without the alarming “caterpillar effect” of a brow tint or heavy brow products. $43, mecca.com.au
Annie Brown is a lifestyle writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
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