Why do Americans covet French women’s style so much? I suspect my style envy really started with watching Amélie in French class. With her doe eyes, ivory skin, and messy black hair, she was an ideal of beauty that I identified with much more than bubbly straight-haired American beauty–which was personified by Jennifer Aniston at that point in the aughts. “Introspective” is something I associate with a French look, whether edgy like Charlotte Gainsbourg or gamine like Audrey Tatou. American women get stressed–French women brood. I’m going to try to remember that next time I feel like my nerves are being stretched like vegan cheese. Brood, darn it!
But lo, in my research into the beauty habits of French women, I came across something truly bizarre. Most French style icons that we know abroad are porcelain-skinned like they’ve never gone a day without SPF 50 in their lives. (Think: Audrey, Charlotte, Léa Seydoux, Eva Green.) But the truth is that the French are genetically a lot more olive-skinned than say, the Brits. And French women love a tanned look, according to Mathilde Thomas, the co-founder of organic skincare line Caudalie and author of The French Beauty Solution. “Bronzer is big in France—that’s part of the no-makeup makeup look. Always bronzer. You have to look California at all times, even in France!” she says. Wow. It’s like we each want what we are not.
Brigitte Bardot showed us what tan skin can do. Set a small French village on fire!!
Now, sit down for the craziest part of this piece. There is a French beauty secret to getting a natural tan without sun, self-tanner, or bronzer, and it comes courtesy of cult-favorite fashion designer and iconic Parisienne Isabel Marant. She says, “You don’t need to spend so much on skin care. Put your money toward eating the right food. I also love drinking carrot juice. The vitamins are excellent for your tan—you don’t even need to spend time in the sun.“
Isabel Marant *does* have a beautiful bronze glow. And that undyed silver hair! Damn.
Is this true? Can drinking carrot juice really give you a bronzed glow? It turns out that high consumption of beta-carotene will indeed change your skin tone. An Australian study even compared subjects who were on a “5-a-day” diet of beta-carotene rich foods, and those who spent a few hours out in the sun, and found that people prefer the warm glow from the diet over the dark tan that comes from the sun.
Plus, beta-carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A, which means you’ll reap the repairing and resurfacing benefits that you can expect from topical As like retinol. Anti-aging *and* bronzing–and it’s one of the most accessible and affordable foods you can buy. Woohoo!
Complement your French natural “tanning” regimen with avid SPF application. My all-time favorite is Earthwise Beauty Farizad’s Veil, which I mix with their Ruby Oil. I credit this combo with saving my skin, no lie. If you’re feeling especially français, try Chantecaille Ultra Sun Protection Sunscreen SPF 45. Note: Many if not most French beauty brands are *not* cruelty-free, let alone vegan! I like Chantecaille because it’s just as luxurious but environmentally conscious, animal-friendly and non-toxic.
Chantecaille Ultra Sun Protection Sunscreen, $92
If you still want a bit more oomph on top of your carrot-induced glow, try adding a coral blush:
Philanthropy Cheek Color, $40. 5% of the proceeds support the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in protecting elephants
Chantecaille Sirene Bronzer, $78
Are you as astonished as I am by this French beauty secret? And who’s all ready to start drinking carrot juice?
Related: Effortlessly Chic French Hair, Decoded
Does Retinol Really Thin The Skin? An Important Investigation For All Womenkind
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Photo: Public domain; Isabel Marant via Instagram; Mary Hood Luttrell; Chantecaille