How to Adopt a French Skincare Routine

by Maddy Piggott
French skincare routine French Beauty Secrets
Photo by @caudalieus

In stark contrast to global beauty trends, French women often opt for a minimalist approach to makeup, instead focusing their energy on achieving a naturally radiant complexion. Their skincare routines, therefore, are of the utmost importance.


Typically revolving around hydration, protection, and prevention, French women invest in high-quality moisturizers, diligent suncare, and ingredients which shield their skin from environmental stressors. 

In this guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the French skincare routine and uncover the secrets to capturing the essence of French beauty.

Gentle Cleanse

French women start their morning skincare routines with a gentle cleanse. Avoid overly stripping cleansers, which can damage the skin’s protective barrier, and opt instead for a mild cleanser such as a low-foaming or cream cleanser.

As cleansers have brief contact with the skin, products with a low-mid price range can be just as (if not more) effective as their pricier counterparts. For example, French pharmacy brands like La Roche-Posay are particularly beloved for their simplicity and efficacy, and they offer a wide range of formulas to suit different skin types and concerns.

Ice Therapy

One piece of advice handed down from mother to daughter is to ice your face first thing in the morning. The cold helps invigorate and tighten the skin, reducing puffiness and leaving your complexion looking awake and glowing.

If you already own a specialized de-puffing tool, like a gua sha or jade-roller, simply put it in the fridge/freezer – depending on the material – to elevate your morning routine. Alternatively, adopt a minimalist French approach and recharge your complexion with an invigorating ice bath or by delicately gliding an ice cube across the contours of your face.

Face Mists

A crucial step for optimal hydration adored by the French is a refreshing face mist. This step not only adds an extra layer of moisture but also primes the skin, ensuring optimal absorption of subsequent products. 

French women are known to carry their face mists in their handbags for an added spritz of hydration anytime, anywhere! Caudalie’s Eau de Beauté stands out as a cult favorite, renowned for its herbal properties that work to smooth fine lines, tighten pores, and enhance skin radiance. Additionally, thermal water sprays like those from Avène are loved for their ability to soothe and calm sensitive skin.


While your choice of serum will depend on your specific skin care goal, French serums tend to tackle the skin’s moisture levels and ability to fight stressors. Antioxidant ingredients like Vitamin C, ferulic acid and resveratrol play a crucial role in French products, helping to protect your skin from damage caused by environmental factors like UV radiation, pollution, and smoking. 

Many serums also use humectants, like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and glycerin, which give a plump and dewy appearance to the skin while being sensitive-skin safe.


Next, it’s time to seal in all that hydration with a nourishing moisturizer. French skincare enthusiasts favor creams, balms and oils enriched with natural ingredients to promote supple and smooth skin, so look out for products including shea butter or honey for drier skin types, and calendula or rose flower for sensitive skin types.


Although the French are not sun-bathing averse, they still understand the importance of daily sun protection. This is especially true for your face, where sun damage is quickly visible. Opt for a broad-spectrum SPF to shield your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent premature aging.

Make up Removal

While the mantra is to keep the skin hydrated and safeguarded during the day, the evening routine is all about purification and repair. To maintain a clear complexion, French women favor either oil-based cleansers or micellar water to remove makeup, followed up by a gentle cleanser to wash away any residue.


When it comes to evening serums, the French typically avoid strong topical treatments, such as exfoliating acids, since they can aggravate the skin barrier. Retinol is the exception to the rule. 

Recognized for its anti-aging benefits, retinol — and its derivatives, like retinal — stimulate collagen production, reduce fine lines, and promote cell turnover, leaving you with a smoother and brighter complexion. However, make sure to incorporate retinol into your nightly routine slowly, starting with a pea-sized amount of a low percentage formula, to allow your skin to build tolerance. Apply a hydrating serum, moisturiser and SPF the next morning for maximum benefits.

Written by Madeleine Piggott

Read next: 7 Favorite French Moisturizers

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