It’s no secret that many tourists come to Paris in search of discovering the best French makeup brands. If you’ve ever visited France, you’ve probably noticed that most French women have something in common: luminous skin, subtle and elegant eye make-up and a perfect red lip. Stepping outside with a lot of makeup on is not common. And, when you’re wearing makeup made in France, it doesn’t take much to look great. French makeup is highly-regulated, much more than U.S. companies, so French makeup brands tend to be cleaner and full of less-harmful ingredients. It is also characterized by a desire to not look too heavy. This is why French women have been getting away with looking effortless! So, what are the best French makeup brands and where can you discover them? Below you’ll find our complete guide to French makeup and beauty including what’s inside a French girl’s makeup kit, where you can find the perfect red lipstick, and more INSIDR tips you won’t find anywhere else! More INSIDR shopping tips are found in our Paris Shopping Guide which you can download for free!
Most Popular French Makeup Brands
Since its founding in 1994, NARS has been adored by French women and foreigners alike. What started as a brand with just a dozen lipsticks has grown into a full-fledged beauty brand complete with makeup, skincare products, and brushes and tools. What else would you expect from a company founded by the superstar makeup artist and photographer François Nars? His vision was to create high-fashion makeup that was all about bringing a radiant glow to its wearer. In his work as a makeup artist, François was loved for his minimal application of foundation and his focus on hydrating the skin to give it that coveted ‘lit-from-within’ glow. This is the philosophy behind NARS. Everything from their skincare products to their iconic lipsticks are all about elevating your natural beauty and enriching your skin in the process.
Chanel makeup holds the same iconic status as the brand’s clothes, and for good reason. The beauty branch was founded in 1924 with the launch of their still-popular perfume, Chanel N°5. A face powder and lipsticks followed soon after, establishing Chanel Makeup as a leader and innovator in the global makeup game. Some of their most popular products today are the Huile de Jasmine beauty oil and of course their red lipsticks. Try the Rouge Allure Intense Long-Wear Lip Colour for that perfect Parisian red lip.
Since its founding in 1969, Dior has long been considered as one of the best French makeup brands in the market. When they started, their mission was to create makeup in unique shades and colours for use in couture runway shows. Today, their best selling products are basics like mascara, eyeshadow, nail polish and lipstick. If you ask a make-up artist what is the best mascara out there, they’ll probably answer Diorshow. The mascara is a cult favorite and has been since the early 2000s.
Lancôme is one of oldest french makeup brands in operation. What started out as a perfume company has grown to become one of the top luxury beauty companies in the world after they were acquired by L’Oréal in 1964. In January of 2015, Lancôme appointed the highly-respected makeup artist and YouTuber Lisa Eldridge as its Global Creative Director. This a great French makeup brand to check out if you want high quality makeup basics without the luxury price tag of companies like Chanel and Dior.
What’s inside a French girl’s makeup kit
1 – concealer
The French girl’s makeup kit can be broken down into four must-haves. The first is concealer and the best one on the market is definitely the award-winning Radiant Creamy Concealer by NARS. It brightens and color-corrects and gives you a natural finish. For a French girl look, combine the concealer with the NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation for a light, dewy look. Another option is NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 30/PA+++. It doesn’t only correct but it also protects your skin from harmful UV rays.
2 – mascara
The second must-have is an awesome mascara. Luxury brands like Dior and Chanel both make great mascaras, but at a hefty price. For a more affordable option, try the Climax Mascara by NARS. It has a lightweight formula that is buildable and never clumps, flakes or smudges. A full size bottle is only €25. For a drugstore alternative, there’s L’Oréal’s Voluminous Mascara. It comes in a brown-black shade for a more natural lash and runs for about $12.
3 – pencil eyeliner for a smoky eye
A touch of eyeliner can go a long way. For French girls, a light smokey eye or a well-blended line on the upper lid is a staple look for a night out on the town. Lancôme Crayon Khol is great for a smokey, smudged effect while their Grandiôse Line is best for a razor-sharp application. Equally well-ranked is the Dior Artliner and their felt-tipped Art Pen. To complete the look, blend red and brown shades from the NARS Skin Deep Eye Palette into the crease line. It’s a smokey eye done the Parisian way.
4 – red lipstick
Last but certainly not least is an iconic red lipstick. Our favorite comes from NARS. For a touch of colour, pick up the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil available in 29 different shades. The shade Cruella is perfect for a night out on the town while the brighter shade Dragon Girl effortlessly goes from day to night. Another fantastic option is the Rouje Paris Lip Palette. It has four multipurpose shades that can be used as lipstick, blush and cream eyeshadow. Le Rouje de Paris was founded by French it-girl Jeanne Damas so you know you’ll walk away with that perfect Parisian ‘je ne sais quoi’.
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Don’t leave France without these French makeup brands!
Summer and Fall exclusive products
INSIDR tip: When shopping for French makeup brands, don’t miss out on exclusive products and collections dropped twice a year in summer and fall. It’s a huge promotional program that almost all French makeup brands participate in. If you’re going to be in France during either of these drops, be sure to pick up some super unique products that no one else at home will have. In suit, NARS has just released Radiance Repowered, a limited collection of creamy concealers and long-wear foundations in 37 different shades that are already receiving rave reviews. NARS products are available at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann where there are brand specialists at every counter who can help you find the right shade and product for you.
Limited edition products only available in French makeup brands department store corners
If you’re looking for a one stop shopping experience for French makeup brands while in Paris, visiting one of the city’s large department stores is your best bet. Almost all of the best French makeup brands are represented and usually have a trained brand ambassador on hand to help. The main department store in Paris is Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement. Currently available exclusively at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is the NARS Aqua Glow Cushion Foundation. NARS has created the Aqua Glow Cushion Foundation in six shades specially developed for Asian skin tones. It’s a soothing, light-reflective foundation. It was formulated to hydrate the skin for an intense glow.
Where to find French makeup brands
For basic products and large brands, Sephora is the most convenient place to shop in France. You’ll find not only French makeup brands like NARS, Dior, and Chanel but also famous beauty brands from overseas like Fenty Beauty, Benefit, and Laneige. Sephora was first launched in Paris almost fifty years ago and has since become one of the largest makeup department stores in the world. All Sephora sales assistants undergo rigorous training on every brand carried by the store. You can count on them to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. In fact, you’re likely to walk out of Sephora with more treasures than you came looking for. Plus, at Sephora France, you’ll find exclusive deals that are not available in any of their other locations.
Major Department stores in Paris
Major department stores in Paris offer a huge selection of national and foreign beauty brands. They also enjoy exclusive partnerships with many beauty companies meaning they almost-always carry limited-edition products and deals that are not available anywhere else. Large department stores like Galeries Lafayette also offer complimentary makeup services for their customers. At the NARS booth in Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, you can get a flash makeover perfect for a photoshoot or a fancy night out. This is also where you’ll find exclusive seasonal makeup collections. Plus, if you’re visiting from outside of the EU, at Galeries Lafayette you can get an instant tax refund in Paris on any purchase you make in-store. Besides Galeries Lafayette, other French department stores accessible in Paris include Le BHV Marais and Le Bon Marché. Our Top Paris Shopping Guide shares all the important shopping details
Oh my cream!
Oh my cream! is a French beauty concept store with locations across the country. Their skilled team cherry picks amazing, clean beauty products and aims to educate and demystify the customer about the beauty industry. They carry a wide range of lesser-known beauty products including makeup and skin care lines. If you’re tired of the ordinary makeup shopping experience, Oh my Cream is for you. You can visit one of their Paris locations at 17 rue Debelleyme, 3 rue de Tournon, 104 rue du Bac, 2 rue Guichard, and 4 rue des Abbesses.
Top tips from French makeup experts
If there was just one rule to take from François Nars, the founder of NARS cosmetics, it would be that ‘less is more’. As a former makeup artist to supermodels like Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell, François was beloved for creating radiant-looking, picture-perfect skin. Thanks to his training as a photographer, François possesses a deep understanding of lighting, shading, and reflection. The makeup expert says you should apply foundation with a light hand and apply blush to the cheeks, temples and a little under the chin to create all over warmth. He is also a strong proponent of cream blushes rather than powdered ones which he feels are too heavy. Try the NARS Multiple Stick in their most popular tint ‘Orgasm‘ and gently apply it to your face using your finger tips for a melted-in finish.
Jeanne Damas is a makeup guru in her own right. She’s one of those responsible for putting ‘French girl chic‘ in the spotlight with her classic and effortless style that you can actually shop at her clothing label, Rouje. Even with much success in fashion, it’s no surprise she has branched out to beauty. Her recently released Rouje lip palette is just the tip of the iceberg. In a recent Vogue interview, Damas took fans through her entire makeup routine. Her signature look is as simple as natural skin, thick, gelled brows, and a dab of rouge on the lips and cheeks. While it doesn’t take much to look stunning when you’re Jeanne Damas, some of us might need a little extra help.
For the Parisian makeup artist and Estée Lauder’s new Global Beauty Director simply known as ‘Violette’, makeup is all about accentuating what’s already there. For her, as she says for many French women, every beauty routine starts with the ‘base’ by which she means, great hair and ever better skin. She uses a potent cocktail of French pharmacy staples on her skin to prep, then adds a few dramatizing touches like a bit of smudged eyeliner and a red lip. Another rule? Violette is absolutely against contour. She prefers adding a bit of highlighter to create dimension rather than weighing the skin down with bronzers and concealer. If you wanna know the basics about French skincare, we have a guide on the Top 20 Products!
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