What’s the Secret to Aging Gracefully? Ask the French.

The French have got it right - best evidenced by the numerous radiant and elegant aging French beauties such as Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve.

If there is a secret to aging well, French women must know it” – a bold statement declared by Ann Morrison in yesterday’s New York Times article Aging Gracefully, the French Way. I found the article particularly fascinating because it both reveals a window into French culture and points out a number of key differences in how American women and French women approach aging.

The main gist is this; French women have seemingly found the perfect balance between taking extreme, unnatural measures to reverse the aging process (i.e. surgery) and letting themselves go (i.e. frumpy mom syndrome). Instead, French women take great pride in their appearance and place a high priority on taking care of their skin.

“According to a 2008 Mintel report, Frenchwomen spend about $2.2 billion a year on facial skin care — as much as Spanish, German and British women put together. If you happen to use the bathroom in a French home … you might see a line of skin care products rivaling a shelf at Duane Reade. There will be day creams (with sunscreen), night creams (without it), re-pulping creams, serums, moisturizers, cleansers, toners and salves for anything from orange-peel skin to varicose veins.”

When it comes to makeup French women go by the “less is more” philosophy, preferring minimal and natural makeup (a little color on the eyelids, mascara, maybe a bit of eyeliner and lip gloss) over excessive makeup to mask flaws, as “heavy foundation has a tendency to emphasize wrinkles and pores” (A philosophy that I very much agree with, which is why I use Day Glow rather than foundation).

But most important of all is French women’s palpable confidence and self love as they age. French women look good as a reflection of how they feel inside.

“For Frenchwomen, aging seems to be a matter of mind over makeup. If women feel good about themselves…they look good, too. Françoise Sagan once wrote, “There is a certain age when a woman must be beautiful to be loved, and then there comes a time when she must be loved to be beautiful.” And many Frenchwomen seem to be well loved as they get older — by their tight-knit families, their friends and, perhaps most importantly, themselves.”

And so it is – the biggest secret to aging gracefully is one’s attitude towards aging. French women don’t try to change or hide who they are – they reflect their inner beauty on the outside. This is the attitude I personally embrace, though it was not always natural. There was a transition period in my late 30s and 40s where my looks started to change and all I could seem to do was compare myself to younger women. Now, that has passed and I have found that getting older is a truly remarkable and positive process. Not only do I actually look better – I like myself more. I know who I am, I am settled, my kids are grown so I have more time to myself; I am totally content. This is the philosophy that drives my anti-aging skin care line as well; it is a line designed for confident women who like who they are and want to enhance and maintain their looks, not be someone else.

I’m curious to hear from you – what are your reactions to French women’s philosophy on aging? How do you view getting older? What is your “approach to aging”?

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26 thoughts on “What’s the Secret to Aging Gracefully? Ask the French.”

  1. I find the article really interesting – I think American women are more prone to trying to cover up or change their flaws rather than just liking themselves. I see many older women caking on make up. The beauty industry doesn’t help either; aging is definitely portrayed in a negative light. The only company i’ve seen that does not do this is Dove with their real beauty campaign.

  2. Very true – and the funny thing is, if you take care of your skin then you don’t need to cake on make up!! Your glowing skin speaks for itself.

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