Ageless Beauty the French Way: Secrets from Three Generations of French Beauty Editors

Ageless Beauty the French Way: Secrets from Three Generations of French Beauty Editors

by Clemence von Mueffling


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250151605
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/12/2018
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 135,822
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Clémence von Mueffling was born and raised in Paris. She studied economics and finance at the Université Dauphine in Paris and the prestigious ESCP-EAP program during which she studied for a year each in Oxford, Madrid, and Paris. After finishing her business degree in Paris, she worked in marketing at Clarins, Puig, and Dior. She moved to New York City in 2007 and launched Beauty and Well-Being, an online magazine, to instant acclaim in 2014. Ageless Beauty the French Way is her first book.

Read an Excerpt


The Art of French Beauty at Any Age

Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.


I grew up in Paris with my sister and brother in a very traditional way. Our parents worked, and we were very fortunate that both sets of grandparents had a lot of influence on how we were raised. My maternal grandmother, Régine, often picked us up from school, and I have so many wonderful memories of seeing her waiting for me. She would wear elegant cashmere turtlenecks, always with a lovely brooch pinned to the side, or a chic blouse in the summer months with matching-color clip earrings. She'd never dream of leaving the house without her red lipstick on, and I'd always end up with sweet lipstick marks on my cheeks. Her car was scented with a touch of her favorite fragrance that she spritzed on with abandon. After school, we'd drive to her house, often stopping by one of the sophisticated bakeries like the famous Carette for a brioche or — her favorite — a chocolate éclair. And on the happiest of happy days, I'd be invited to my mother's office at French Vogue, which, for a little girl enthralled by beauty products and perfumes, was like being taken on a magic carpet ride to a cave of wonders.

There were the days when my sister and I would sit and watch our mother get ready to go out for the night. We'd watch her apply her makeup with a sure hand, enormous rollers perched on her head so she could give herself an expert 'do, something I've never quite been able to do myself! Then, after she was dressed, she'd gaze at her collection of perfumes before deciding on the one that best suited her mood. What a great lesson that was — to trust your instincts about what felt good in the moment and to always be willing to experiment. She always smelled so delicious.

Once I hit those teenage years and my skin needed help, my mother would take me to our local pharmacie, where I would get the gentle lecture about acne and proper cleansing. I would also save all my pocket money to order the famous Embellisseur Abricot by Agnès b., a complexion enhancer that was sold back then via a catalog called Club des Créateurs de Beauté (the Beauty Creators' Club), which featured a line aimed at teenagers with blemish-prone skin among its large selection of makeup and skincare. My friends and I hoped it would make us look like Laetitia Casta, who was on the cusp of becoming a famous French model at the time. Then, when The Body Shop opened in Paris, we were thrilled, because the products were affordable, and everything smelled so good. The store was very different, and you felt cool just sitting in there. For us French girls, it was so English!

I also have fond memories of the magazine Jeune et Jolie, which translates to Young and Pretty. It was, for French teenagers, a combination of Seventeen and Cosmopolitan. I used money from my allowance to get a subscription when I was fifteen, and I was so proud of myself when I wrote out a check from my first bank account. As soon as the issue arrived every month, I'd practically devour it, especially the beauty section, until one day my dad got the mail before I did, and there was the newest issue, with a headline blaring on the cover about what to do when your boyfriend can't perform in bed. My sweet and overprotective father was so shocked that he banned the magazine, even though I begged and pleaded for him to change his mind. From that moment onward, I'd still read it every month at my friends' houses instead!

What beauty lessons did I learn growing up in France?


Parisian women ... want above all to become the best possible version of themselves, outside and in, at any age.


Beauty Is Not About "Perfection"

French women like to give the impression of a combination of dedication and laisser aller (which means letting themselves go) when it comes to beauty. Yes, we love our polished beauty that appears so effortless but that we know takes time and dedication. We can spend hours finding the ideal shade of lipstick, the color that will sublimely enhance our lips, while our hair might have only warranted a few cursory strokes of the brush as we dashed out the door. Definitely not perfect! As my sister once explained to me, she understands the things that men look at when they see a woman, and that what is not perfect can sometimes be charming, and what is already perfect does not need to be overdone.

French women like the idea of healthy skin, but it does not have to be flawless. What I have noticed with my friends in Paris and those in New York is that the Parisiennes have a healthy beauty routine but will not give up everything to obtain perfect results. In fact, for many of them, if perfect skin is at the cost of not eating any more cheese or a croissant for breakfast, or taking a nap on a sunny beach, they will settle for skin that is just good enough! Going to any extreme in a vain search for "perfection" will never leave anyone satisfied.

According to Isabelle Bellis, a French-born, New York–based holistic facialist, "The basics are an essential starting point. My French clients believe in a simple skincare regimen, are very disciplined, and love manual face massage. In general, they are less aggressive with their skin. Regardless of age, they are always coquettish, and not as concerned with aging as much as aging gracefully. The reality and existence of wrinkles are not as important as the quality and health of their skin, which needs to be perfectly plump and soft. Well-hydrated skin that is dewy and glowing optimally reflects light in a flattering way that makes it look almost like silk. So skin quality is paramount, as we prefer bare skin and minimal makeup — think classic red lipstick and mascara."

Add a smile, et voilà!

We Love Our Beauty Brands and Our Local Shops Where We Can Buy Them

One of the reasons French women seem knowledgeable about skin is that we get such good advice from our neighborhood pharmacies. These are like our cafés, restaurants, and corner bakeries — they're fixtures found in every quartier in every small town and every big city. For many years, French women did not go to the spa for beauty products, and French doctors did not have their own skincare lines, so the pharmacists were highly trained to recommend specific products from a wide range of different brands and for different budgets.

We also are addicted to our neighborhood institut de beauté. No matter how small the town, there is a salon for our beauty treatments (waxing, manicures, facials, massage, eyelash tints, etc.). They are usually small and rather simple salons, but we start going to them as teenagers, so we grow up with the aestheticians and they become like family. Or, if we have time for a treat, we'll go to one of the larger salons or spas. For my mother and grandmother, there were the fabled Payot, Ingrid Millet, Orlane, Françoise Morice, or the American salons Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein (who were always in competition with each other!).

And of course we love our local cafés where the waiters call us mademoiselle with a big smile — instead of madame, which makes you feel so old!

Beauty Products and Treatments Aren't Just About Making Us Look Better but About Feeling Better, Too — They're Always Going to Be a Regular Part of Our Lives

One gloomy day in Paris, I woke up and looked out the window and realized that fall was truly gone, and it was one of those gray winter-is-coming days with low-hanging clouds turning everything all monochrome and dreary, with a chilly drizzle to compound the misery. There was only one thing to do: go to my neighborhood parfumerie and buy Clarins Masvelt (body shaping cream). It had a unique buttery texture and divine scent, and I remember how it made me feel so much better just by applying some to my hands and taking these few minutes of pampering.

To this day I still have my selection of "feel-good products" that I will use to give me that extra boost on days when I need it the most. I think this is one of the reasons why the French are so dedicated to their beauty regimens, and we make sure to have a budget for them just as we have a budget for taking care of our teeth or for going to a gym or pool.

It's a part of our lives — one that we know will make us feel better.

Making beauty a part of your life doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming. For example, when I talk about double cleansing in the next chapter, while you might have to buy two different cleansers at first, in the long run you'll be using less of each. Ditto with my moisturizers; I have several with SPF for the daytime and richer ones for use when my skin needs extra hydration or in the wintertime. They last for a long time because I rotate them depending on the weather and how my skin feels. And when you use good products with a high concentration of top-quality and effective ingredients, you use less of them.

For me, it's the little je ne sais quoi that makes beauty self-care so rewarding: The trace of perfume in the wake of someone else walking by, or discovering the perfect shade of red or pink lipstick that makes your whole face come alive. A particular pleasure is having a local salon that makes you feel welcome the instant you walk in the door, where you're a regular and have a warm and engaging personal relationship with the aestheticians who will always do their utmost to make you look and feel your best, even if you only made an appointment to get your eyebrows waxed.

Little things add up to a much fuller beauty experience!

Subtle Is the Secret Ingredient of French Beauty

My mother and grandmother often told me something that Yves Saint Laurent was known to say: "We must never confuse elegance with snobbery." They meant that we have to find what suits us. For example, my grandmother never uses eyeliner, as she knows it makes her eyes look too droopy. A famous photographer once told my mother to enhance either her eyes or her lips but never both, and she has followed this advice ever since. Yes, sometimes you need less than you think et tant mieux!

I saw proof of their advice when I was growing up. A woman d'un certainâge from a South American country was the most elegant woman in our neighborhood. Even though she was in her seventies, I never saw her without an impeccable chignon (a sophisticated version of a bun), a light dusting of powder, a hint of mascara, and a cool red lipstick on her lips. She had an impossibly long neck and loved to wear a brocade coat that swirled slightly as she walked gracefully, with precise posture. I thought she was as regal as the queens we learned about in history class. Her simple elegance gave a great message to younger generations.

Another equally elegant woman I met several times when I was working for the Spanish family-owned business Puig in Barcelona was the designer Carolina Herrera. I was in my very early twenties at the time, and she left an indelible impression. She basically was in uniform: a crisp white tailored shirt with the collar turned up just a little bit to frame and enhance her face, and slim black trousers. Her jewelry was simple yet very chic, perhaps a few gold bangle bracelets. She knew what suited her, and she wore it, rather that it wearing her — which is what many of my friends and I had not yet learned at the time. (Well, we were young, after all!)

My sister is another wonderful example of knowing what suits her. She has beautiful long hair that falls around her shoulders like a necklace, and her gorgeous eyebrows perfectly frame her face. For her it is all about never going overboard with makeup, colors, or accessories. It is a look that she has made her own.

Perfume Is a French Woman's Signature

We French women love our parfumeries, the small shops dedicated to a large assortment of perfumes. These stores have a marvelous selection of well-chosen products along with knowledgeable vendeuses, the saleswomen who help you decide what to buy. They'll always fill your bag at the end with samples and offer to spray you with perfume before you leave.

I'll discuss this in much more detail in Chapter 10, but know for now that a French woman doesn't consider herself dressed unless she's wearing perfume, even if it can put her in a delicate situation. My sister recently reminded me that when she was a teenager, in the process of sneaking out from the house at night to meet some friends, I once caught her because I could smell the delicious waft of her perfume even though I was in my bedroom and she was tiptoeing down the hallway. I got out of bed, realized she had just left, and wrote, "I know you went out. Your perfume gave you away!" on a Post-it and stuck it on her door. She loved it so much that she kept the note!

My mother adored her perfume collection, as you know. And my father was a scent devotee as well. One of my earliest memories of him is how clean and well-groomed his hands were and how wonderfully they smelled from the Roger&Gallet soaps he used. To me, he was and still is the epitome of subtle, masculine Parisian chic.

As for me, I still think back fondly to the few months I spent working at the Clarins UK offices when I was finishing my studies. I had of course already tried and liked some of their products thanks to my mother, but while on the job I was introduced to so many new products that I fell in love with that brand, with their message, and the wonderful scents of their creams. The founder, Jacques Courtin-Clarins, launched his now-famous Eau Dynamisante with the line "the feel-good fragrance." And that is how I feel every time I spray some on.

Most of All, Stick to a Routine

One of the most important components of any French woman's beauty routine is just that — it's a routine. We know how important it is to have a schedule and to stick to it. To persevere even when you don't feel like it. Really, who wants to spend any time taking off mascara and giving her face a thorough cleaning after a long day at work? Not moi! But I have a cleansing routine, and I will never go to sleep without following it. It's so deeply ingrained now that I don't even think about it. I just do it, no matter what.

In other words, we love our polished appearance that might look so effortless, but it does take time and dedication.

My grandmother also tells me, quite often, that the older you get, the more disciplined you have to be. In fact, it was her own mother who taught her that — as she puts it, the bed is your worst enemy as you grow older because you get tired more easily and want to stay in your nice, warm, and comfy sheets. Grandmother Régine is eighty-seven and in that phase of her life. She's fighting it, but it's an everyday fight. She gets up and goes out, and she loves the step-counting app on her phone because she can get immediate, satisfying feedback on how far she walks.

And on those days when my grandmother would rather stay in bed, she thinks of her brother Guy d'Estribaud, and then she gets motivated! At ninety-six years old, Uncle Guy is still so good-looking. He's tall and fit, with a naughty twinkle in his eye. He has the face, neck, and hands of a much, much younger man, to the envy of his friends who are decades younger. When we travel together, in fact, and he hands his passport over to the authorities at the airport, they look at him in sheer astonishment — because he was born in 1922! He's still full of energy and is so witty that he always makes me laugh. I just adore him!

Uncle Guy lives in Biarritz and still does everything by himself. He gets up at 7:00 a.m. on the dot, makes himself a large, healthy breakfast, and then he goes to the market — without a shopping list, mind you, as he wants to make sure he keeps his brain sharp — to get fresh food for the rest of the day or two. He doesn't have a car, so he walks everywhere. His posture is always perfect, and I never dare slouch around him, as it's such an inspiration to see how beautifully straight he sits. He goes back home, cooks his lunch, takes a big nap, and cleans up around the house or maybe sees a friend. At 6:00 p.m. he watches the news, then he has what we'd consider a snack for dinner — perhaps a piece of cheese with some little whole-grain crackers, or a yogurt.

When my uncle is tired, he puts his head on the pillow and sleeps soundly through the night until seven in the morning. He never, ever wakes up in the middle of the night, and he never needs an alarm clock. I asked him what his trick was, and he said simply, "It's not complicated. I just get away from myself." He has no electronics. No cell phone. And boom, down he goes.


Excerpted from "Ageless Beauty the French Way"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Clémence von Mueffling.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Part I: French Beauty Rituals from Three Generations

1. The Art of French Beauty at Any Age

Part II: Le Visage

2. Beautiful Skin at Any Age

3. Hydration: Improving Your Daily Beauty Routine

4. Sun Protection and Travels

5. Maintaining Your Youthful Skin—Without the Doctor (and Sometimes With!)

6. Beautiful Makeup at Any Age

Part III: Le Corps

7. Three Generations of Expert Advice on Body Care

Part IV: Les Cheveux

8. Beautiful Hair at Any Age

Part V: Life et les Bonnes Habitudes

9. The Four Pillars of French Wellness

10. Our World of Perfume


Appendix (Resources/Afterword/Acknowledgements/Bibliography)

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