9 French Skincare Secrets and Why They Work, According to Dermatologists

If you care about your skin, you’re likely no stranger to the constant flow of skincare trends that phase in and out. You may try a new technique or product for a bit since it’s the “latest thing” and then move onto the next technique or product. It’s something that we as Americans tend to do a lot, but meanwhile, the French are doing things a bit differently. 

French dermatologists often take a different approach when it comes to skincare. Emphasizing things like fewer products, natural ingredients and opting for a more minimal routine, French women prefer tried and true over the latest and greatest skincare trends.

In fact, we think that they just might be onto something, so we asked two American dermatologists to share their thoughts on these French skincare secrets. If you’re a woman over 50 (who might have menopausal or aging skin on the mind) or simply want to streamline your regimen, read on.

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How Does French Skincare Differ from American Skincare?

Dermatologist Jody A. Levine, MD says that in general, French skincare focuses on minimalism, natural ingredients and gentle formulation, while also emphasizing prevention and maintenance of skin.

“While there are many trends geared toward a natural and simplified skincare routine in American skincare, corrective and quick fixes are popular, as well as different products that address specific concerns,” she observes. 

Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, board certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon, agrees, saying that French skincare is known for its holistic and understated approach, centering on gentle, long-term care and maintaining the skin’s natural balance.

“French women often prefer minimalist pharmacy brands like La Roche-Posay and Caudalíe that feature soothing and simple ingredients,” she says. “In contrast, American skincare tends to be more experimental, with more focus on rapid results and sometimes harsher, more niche, treatments.”

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9 French Skincare Tips, According to Dermatologists

1. Keep Makeup Minimal

French women in their daily lives aren’t known for piling on the makeup, and it’s a popular skincare standard there. And, as it turns out, it is effective, according to Dr. Levine. She says that wearing minimal makeup allows the skin to breathe, reducing the risk of clogged pores and irritation and promoting a more natural look.

“This differs from American skincare, where contouring and full coverage is popular, even though the final result is to appear natural,” she notes.

2. Reduce Steps in Your Skincare Routine

French dermatologists prefer streamlined skincare routines over complicated ones, which Dr. Engelman says can minimize irritation and support the skin’s natural barrier. “Fewer steps reduce exposure to harsh ingredients,” she further clarifies. This differs from American skincare routines that are often complex with several products focusing on different needs.

“Consulting with a board-certified dermatologist can help you streamline your skincare routine while addressing all skin concerns and maintaining overall skin health,” Dr. Levine recommends.

3. Get Regular Facials

Oftentimes, here in the United States, getting a facial is simply viewed as a self-care luxury rather than a regular maintenance treatment. But in France, they believe in their skincare-improving properties, and, as Dr. Engelman points out, French facials tend to be more natural and minimal compared to the often more clinical approach of American facials.

“Facials can be effective for deep cleansing, exfoliation and hydration, addressing specific skin concerns and improving overall skin health,” Dr. Levine says.

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4. Get Regular Facial Massages

Facial massages are just starting to become a thing here in the United States, but many French women swear by them.

“Facial massages are effective for boosting circulation and lymphatic drainage, leading to a more radiant and defined complexion,” Dr. Engelman says. “While its popularity continues to grow in the U.S., it is more of an ingrained self-care ritual in French skincare.”

5. Use a Gommage Exfoliator

Stemming from the French word for “erase” or “rub out,” gommage exfoliators haven’t taken off here in the States.

It’s applied as a thin layer, sits for a few minutes and then is gently rubbed off of the skin. Dr. Engelman says they are ideal for sensitive skin, since the exfoliation, which uses enzymes to help roll off dead skin cells, is gentle.

On the flip side, Dr. Levine says that American exfoliants tend to be physical or chemical exfoliants that are much more abrasive.

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6. Skip Washing Your Face in the Morning

Since “the idea is to not strip the face of its natural oils,” as Dr. Levine says, French women are known to skip washing their faces first thing in the morning.

Dr. Engelman says, “Depending on skin type, skipping the morning face wash can help to preserve the skin’s natural oils and barrier function, preventing dryness. This French practice contrasts with the American emphasis on twice-daily cleansing.”

7. Embrace Natural Ingredients

French women prefer natural ingredients over chemical-laden, manufactured ones. And while holistic approaches to beauty are becoming more and more popular in American skincare, the French approach relies more consistently on clean and natural formulations, according to Dr. Engelman.

She goes on to say that natural ingredients reduce exposure to synthetic chemicals and potential irritants, offering clean and vital antioxidants and vitamins that can improve skin health. But, just keep in mind that, as Dr. Levine says, many natural ingredients can be allergens as well. 

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8. Hydrate Skin With Thermal Spring Water

Thermal spring water, produced through geothermal heating, comes out of the ground at a higher temperature than the air temperature, and it’s believed to contain a higher concentration of beneficial minerals. It’s also something that the French like to integrate into their skincare. 

Hydration is essential for skin health and that's something that we see emphasized in most skincare routines,” Dr. Levine says. “Thermal water has anti-inflammatory properties and minerals, which is why it's a staple in many French skincare routines.”

Dr. Engelman shares that in France, thermal spring water is often used as a mist, “differing from the more cream and serum-based hydration methods in American skincare,” she says.

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9. Prioritize Prevention Over Treatment

Although we, as Americans, tend to focus on corrective treatments for already existing issues, Dr. Engelman says that the French focus on maintaining skin health from the very start. For example, this can include daily sunscreen use.

In conclusion, many of these French skincare secrets do indeed work, and are effective for a variety of skin types. But as Dr. Engelman notes, while different cultures have their unique skincare regimens and traditions, it's important to focus on your individual skin type. 

“Each person's skin has specific needs based on factors like genetics, environment and lifestyle,” she says. “By understanding these factors, you are able to create a skincare routine that addresses your unique concerns and goals.”

Next up, discover the one thing a skincare expert is begging women over 50 to start doing.

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