Friday, December 1

French Paradox...

Everything in France improves with age- the wine, the perfume, even the women. A quintessential Frenchwoman reveals the reasons.

Frenchwomen are maddening and captivating in equal measure. The drink wine, smoke Gauloise, wear the same clothes every other day, and still manage to be the most stylish of creatures. They even age well, looking poetic, not haggard. Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat (Knopft), explains the mysteries of that other annoying and enviable French paradox.

KEEP IT SIMPLE "It's not true that the French never get old- we just age differently than other women by following a few basic rules. My mother has great skin, but she never baked in the sun. And she told me that no matter how tired you are or when you go to bed, you must remove your makeup. It make a huge difference if you do this consistently.

The French are very, very, big on creams- we have ones for our face, hands, and feet. A lifetime of moisturizing gives you the skin of a baby. Anti-aging creams don't work miracles, but we wear them to soften our skin and to feel good- to treat our skin with a little TLC. In fact, the French government actually pays for older women to go to the spa once a year. We go for two or three weeks, drink the water, and relax; it's a detox and cleansing process called thalassotherapy. The French take more opportunity to unwind; we feel that leisure time is important.

As for products, I have friends in the States whom I adore, but I can't believe their bathrooms. They have 50 bottles of perfumes, 25 different soaps. The French select a few items and keep their beauty routine simple. In my cabinet, I have five products: makeup remover, toner, night cream, gel for my lips and eyes- I often dab on Vaseline- and a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen. What more do you need?"

CUT TO THE CHASE "Having nice hair is very important to Frenchwomen. A color that is slightly lighter than your natural shade softens your face. It's a little trick... But the color must work with your skin tone or you'll look washed out, like an aspirin pill.Frenchwomen tend to have long hair when they're young; then, as they grow older, shorter hair gives a better line to the face, a sharper profile."

DON"T CONFORM "After a certain point, plastic surgery turns your face into a mask. The French are very sarcastic about that- to us, that's very boring. Where's your personality? Beauty is about finding a balance, about being attractive and individualistic. Among my friends, no one uses Botox, and it's not something we discuss. Who likes to think about wrinkles and aging?"

JUST RELAX "Agonizing over your appearance is counterproductive- that's when you start to notice that you have wrinkles, or that your hair is changing color. I'd rather sleep an extra fifteen minutes. Skin ages; it's a fact of life. You can try not to abuse it, not to smoke, and not to drink too much. But don't obsess. As my grandmother used to say, it's your smile, your attitude, and your posture that make you beautiful. Be interesting, and if you are comfortable in your skin, you will reflect that."

- Kari Molvar Allure (April 2006)

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