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If we could summarize the French approach toward beauty, the word that would ring truest would be specific. Yes, the French value minimalism and effortlessness among many other things when it comes to their beauty routines, but ask a French girl about beauty, and she will undoubtedly have much to tell you about why less is more, highlighting not contouring, and the power of the red lip. In other words, we can’t talk about French cosmetics without getting very, very specific.

In the US, we’ve adopted the idea that makeup is meant to transform. It’s meant to diminish, lengthen, and modify, until you’ve reached an entirely “upgraded” version of yourself. It’s about looking like, well… everyone else. Contouring for razor sharp cheekbones, pumping up lips to Jolie size, or penciling in a precise brow. In France, it’s quite the opposite. Shockingly enough, it’s about wanting to be yourself.

The trick to mastering the French look is taking care of yourself enough on a day to day, to avoid doing too much in the morning before you head out for the day. That means eating right, adopting a rigorous skin care routine, and staying true to yourself — not the “better version of yourself.”

And French cosmetic houses perfected that idea a very long time ago. It isn’t surprising that France has produced the world’s longest lasting, most luxurious, and most popular cosmetic brands. Names like, Guerlain, Vichy, La Roche Posay, Caudalie, La Mer, Nars, or Laura Mercier come to mind. Even in a difficult economic environment, the beauty and fragrance market in France has hardly ever faltered. In fact, the cosmetics sector is France’s second biggest net exporter, behind aeronautics. Meaning, the only thing more important than cosmetics in France is air travel. And worldwide, no one exports more cosmetics than France. They control 15.9% of the market, way ahead of the US which took second place at 10.8% in a 2013 FEBEA report. Maybe it’s their joie de vivre lifestyle, or their proactive approach to skin care. Whatever it is, we want to be more French.

– Kalina Krabel