Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Do French Women Know the Secret to Growing Old Gracefully? July 21, 2010

Have French women figured out how age gracefully (see Catherine Deneuve age 66 above)?  Do they know something that American women must immediately learn?

If one is to believe the article in The New York Times  Aging Gracefully, the French Way – then the answer is yes.  According to author, an American who lives in Paris:

…  even the average Frenchwoman — say, shopping along the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré or enjoying a leisurely lunch on the Left Bank, or strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens — seems to defy the notion that, as one grows older, you either have to disguise that process with Botox, eye-lifts, lip plumpers and all sorts of procedures that convey a desperate “youthful” look, or else just give up altogether and let the ravages of time take their toll.

But do these women really have the answers when it comes to the aging process?

Women on both sides of the Atlantic realize that the keys to aging well are obvious, but challenging if you have bad genes, spend too much time in the sun or smoke a lot. But while American women, like me at least, approach personal care with practical efficiency, the Frenchwomen I know regard the pampering of the skin, hair and body as an enjoyable, gratifying ritual.

Looking attractive, at any age, is just what Frenchwomen do, especially the urban ones. For Parisiennes, maintaining their image is as natural as tying a perfect scarf or wearing stilettos on cobblestone streets. Beauty is a tradition handed down from generation to generation.


Frankly, the article is a hodgepodge of the author’s informal observations of the chic Parisian women that she knows along with an interview here and there with a French celebrity or doctor.  This article is as a scientific analysis of attitudes and ideas about aging as the science projects you did in grade school, but certainly the article hit a nerve – it received 276 online responses.  Though I did not go through each and every response the ones I did read correctly pointed out that the author concentrated on observing a very small section of the French female population when making her statements about how French women age.  Frankly, I don’t think one nation holds the secrets to aging gracefully.  The idea of how one should look as they grow older is so individual and no one nation holds monopoly over the idea or the methods of achieving that goal.

Having said all that I did find what the author wrote about how French women, or her perception of how French women, care for their skin to be very interesting.  I find myself struggling as an esthetician to educate and convince women of all ages that they must invest in proper skincare products and take the time to care for their skin twice daily.  I cannot tell you how many people I know – friends and clients of all ages – that still resist the notion that they must use sunscreen.  So even though I wonder how much the following statements apply to all French women I was happy to read this:

Frenchwomen also recommend facials, massages and spa “cures” in their campaign against wrinkles, cellulite and saggy bottoms, bellies and breasts.  …  

Of course, it’s easy to look natural if your skin is great. And that may be where the French secrets really are. According to a 2008 Mintel report, Frenchwomen spend about $2.2 billion a year on facial skin care — as much as Spanish, German and British women put together. If you happen to use the bathroom in a French home — something that is not considered polite, by the way — you might see a line of skin care products rivaling a shelf at Duane Reade.

There will be day creams (with sunscreen), night creams (without it), re-pulping creams, serums, moisturizers, cleansers, toners and salves for anything from orange-peel skin to varicose veins. But you might not find much soap. Ms. Caron says she doesn’t use it on her face or her body (except for “certain places”). Madame Figaro magazine recently quoted the French actress and TV presenter Léa Drucker as saying, “The day I stopped using soap, my life changed.” Post-transformation, she uses a hydrating cream.


All of this got me wondering – how many estheticians are there in France and is it easy to build up ones esthetics business there?   As my fellow estheticians know estheticians in the US struggle at times to make a living.  Should we all move to France?  Just an idea.

For more of Ann M. Morrison’s tips on aging gracefully see:  10 Ways to Age Like a Frenchwoman.


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