Unpacking the Effortless Cool of “French Girl Beauty”

“Pretty minimal. Although I have to admit that lockdown has made me more interested in using beauty products as a pick-me-up. I was always very proud to shy away from the English approach to makeup, which is more-is-more, instead going for the French approach, which is the natural look.

“Perhaps it’s because I’m older, I’ve become more confident and comfortable with my own femininity, or perhaps it’s because I’ve been living in England for 10 years, but I’m being more experimental with makeup now. I’m open to the idea that makeup can be used to transform yourself just for a night—I used to be obsessed with always looking the same, looking like myself, and now I’m having more fun with it, so I guess I’m becoming less French.”

Why are we so enamored with the French-girl look?

“People love the nonchalance of the French-girl aesthetic. It’s the girl who looks like she’s just rolled out of bed and doesn’t care what people say about her. That is something that I really identify with, looking like I’m the one who has spent the least time in front of the mirror when I show up somewhere.”

How has the French-girl aesthetic informed your idea of beauty?

“In France, you’re made to feel guilty if you care too much about your appearance, so there’s a lot of shame attached to doing things differently. On the flip side, it’s so timeless—there’s something freeing about the aesthetic which is basically just ‘come as you are’. That’s a really positive message. I’m not the kind of girl who needs to put her makeup on to leave the house, even if I’m going to an important social gathering, and that’s something I’m quite happy about. Although I appreciate the power of makeup, I’m glad I’m not a slave to it.

“That said, I’m happy that I’m breaking free from those beauty standards that were imposed upon me growing up in France. I guess it’s about finding the balance and what works for you.”

Omaima Salem, stylist and Marfa style director

What does French-girl beauty mean to you?

“French-girl beauty means trying to look natural and effortless, which doesn’t necessarily mean being effortless. There is a lot of effort behind this natural look and all French women know that, but don’t want it to show.”

Why are we so obsessed with the French-girl look?

“I really don’t know why people are obsessed with it. It might have something to do with the desire to be more natural, more confident, freer.”

What does beauty mean to you?

“Beauty is something that feels good to my eyes. Just like good music feels good to my ears. To me lately, beauty in people has been about attitudes, movements and little insignificant details I notice; the way people frown, raise their eyes, smile, laugh.”

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