The gorgeous au naturel yet unapologetically bold aesthetic of French makeup has transcended the annals of time; borne of that, though, is a genuinely daunting number of phenomenal French makeup brands.
Makeup artists, beauty experts, and Parisiennes alike maintain a religious proclivity for these brands and devotedly use their products as the final step of their daily French skincare routine. One can hardly be blamed for wanting to join them, but deciding which brands and products to choose can prove tricky.
Thus, we present to you the ultimate guide to everything French makeup. Keep scrolling to find the best French makeup brands—from the most iconic to the more obscure—definitively categorized & ranked, with the absolute *must-have* products from each highlighted along the way.
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Best French Makeup Brands
With their sumptuously designed packaging and first-class ingredients, there's a je ne sais quoi about quality makeup that breeds confidence. A bejewelled tube of lipstick here and a glistening blusher palette there, and you're suddenly transformed into Kendall Jenner gallivanting around Hollywood's reddest red carpets. (By the way, her gorgeously full lash look is thanks to Dior's Diorshow Mascara, which we will be covering later in this post—so keep scrolling!)
#1 — Chanel
Famously championed by the ilk of Marilyn Monroe, Margot Robbie, Keira Knightley, Cara Delevingne, and Nicole Kidman, Chanel has been a celebrity-favourite brand since the very dawn of its inception. Launched in 1924 was Chanel's first makeup products consisting of their earliest collections of luxurious powders and lipsticks, the evolutions of which are among the most widely used by celebrities and have become cult-favourites and absolute *must-haves* for any makeup lover.
The prestige of wearing Coco Chanel lipstick is seriously like no other. A silicone wax delivers a sensory experience, softer and more melt-away than others, gliding on easily for an immediate sensation of fusion with the lips. There are many high-impact shades available, but our personal favourites are #466 Carmen and #452 Emilienne. If this takes your fancy, make sure to check out our best French lipstick post!
#2 — Givenchy
This luxury fashion brand made its debut in the cosmetics industry in 1988 when it joined the prestigious LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) group. It now boasts a runway-worthy makeup collection inspired by Hubert de Givenchy's original muse: Audrey Hepburn. We are *obsessed* with their best-selling Prisme Libre Loose Powder - you need this in your shopping cart ASAP.
Each shade of Prisme Libre combines four unique colours—two for colour correction and two for radiance. They synergize on use to address the needs of your skin tone, ranging from Fair Tones to Deep Tones. The outcome is a beautifully even complexion with a transparent, second-skin finish.
#3 — Dior
Dior, the French fashion brand which dates back to the 1940s, is now synonymous with feminine beauty and classic, timeless fashion. Much like Givenchy, the brand evolved into the realm of cosmetics, where it now claims quite the hegemony over the luxury makeup space. The brand also maintains a relationship with the prestigious luxury conglomerate LVMH, but a much more intriguing one than that of Givenchy. It technically only joined in 2017, but nominally it has been a part of LVMH ever since it was taken under the wing of Bernard Arnault - the founder of LVMH - in the 1970s.
Diorshow couples its legendary XXL brush with a buildable cream formula for adjustable professional volume that is nothing short of sensational. The result: custom volume that mirrors the effect of professional lash extensions used backstage. Pro tip: apply in a zigzag and add coats to build volume gradually.
#4 — Guerlain
Guerlain is among the oldest perfume, skincare, and cosmetics houses globally; it began life in 1828 in Paris under Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, followed by five more generations of Guerlains - a real family business! Are you tired of seeing the acronym LVMH yet? Well, as a major European luxury brand, its acquisition by LVMH in 1994 was inevitable - as that has seemingly become the hallmark of a luxury brand worth it's salt.
It is an embellishing make-up base & primer sprinkled with pure 24-carat gold flakes. Like the most luxurious jewellery pieces, the ultra-reflective gold flakes are dispersed in a hydrating smoothing gel. Your complexion becomes beautified; it glows with a divine and unfailing radiance. Skin becomes smooth, supple and satiny, ready for perfect, enhanced and long-lasting makeup.
Check out our best French perfumes post to see more Guerlain!
#5 — Yves Saint Laurent
YSL Beauty may have been an extension of its original couture saga started in 1964, but by no means has that made it any less of a makeup giant today. With that said, there's certainly an argument to be made that their cult-favourite radiance-enhancing pen is now more iconic than YSL itself - one gets sold every 10 seconds!
It's sheerer than an actual concealer (but with brightening perks you have to see to believe), and we can genuinely say we've never seen a makeup artist without one in their back pocket. It instantly helps to brighten your best facial features without shimmer or glitter, giving a natural, luminous finish – consider it your secret weapon to conquer the art of complexion.
Check out our best French concealer post for more info!
#6 — Lancome
Continuing the trend of large-scale acquisitions, L'Oréal acquired Lancôme in 1964, and it is now recognised as one of the largest luxury skincare companies in the world. We noted their particular penchant for luxurious design in our Best French Skincare Brands article, which has clearly transferred to their sumptuous makeup collections as it has consequently earned them this spot amongst the best French beauty brands, too.
This is a portable compact with professional makeup results. It is long-lasting and can be used wet or dry. In wet makeup application, Dual Finish's unique cosmetic emulsifiers function just like a liquid foundation. In dry makeup application, as a pressed powder, its specialized emollients set onto skin seamlessly and condition the skin's surface. This versatile face powder is one of Lancôme's best beauty products and of the most popular French girl makeup products around.
#7 — Clarins
As our 'Best Luxury French Skincare Brand', it would be a surprise if they did not make an appearance on this list. Alas, here they are. After developing a plethora of luxury skincare products with immense success for decades, they had a relatively trivial time when it came to venturing into the world of luxury makeup. Their first collection was made with the express purpose of revealing the natural beauty of every woman; every evolution since has followed suit perfectly.
The mascara that does it all: incredible volume, extreme length, perfect curl and high definition. You won't believe your eyes, both literally and figuratively. If you have been struggling to find the mascara for you, this could very well be it (check out our best French mascara post for more inspiration!). Pro tip: we recommend waiting for a little while in-between coats to achieve a much more natural-looking, fuller look.
#8 — Sisley Paris
Sisley is world-renowned for its high-quality, sensorial, luxurious products that are regularly awarded prestigious international prizes. Although they are one of the more contemporary French make up brands (founded in 1976), their story is formed on the success of a prior family venture spanning an entire generation before. Consequently, they have over eighty years of experience and research that goes into every botanical-infused beauty product of theirs.
This glorious skincare-infused foundation combines a smoothing, unifying and incredibly enduring effect with a gorgeously natural finish. Instantly, the result is a perfectly even, smooth and natural complexion, and with consistent use, your skin becomes moisturized, softened and looks glowy & radiant. If you have been on the hunt for the best luxury foundation, look no further, this is it.
Budget French Makeup Brands
Affordable makeup brands tend to be associated with low-quality ingredients and poor skin reactions, but you can rest assured that with French beauty brands, this is absolutely not the case. With these astonishingly inexpensive brands, the surprise is not: "wow - this product is surprisingly good for its price"; it's: "wow - how is such a high-quality product so cheap?".
Of course, not every budget brand can claim this, but keep scrolling to discover four of our favourite budget French makeup brands that are genuine hidden gems!
#1 — Yves Rocher
Launched by a countryman from the north of France, Yves Rocher has gained millions of loyal fans globally for its natural approach to affordable French beauty. Yves Rocher himself was a trailblazer for botanical beauty products, and this is reflected heavily in his brand's makeup line today. Alongside our title of 'Best Affordable French Skincare Brand' (from our Best French Skincare Brands article), Yves Rocher has well-earned the equivalent title in the realm of makeup - the 'Affordable Best French Makeup Brand'.
Every good makeup routine needs a great French makeup remover to pair with it. The Pur Bleuet makeup remover quickly removes makeup, even waterproof, thanks to its non-greasy dual-phase texture. It is formulated with soothing, organic cornflower harvested in their fields in La Gacilly - the brand's hometown.
#2 — L'Oreal
I refuse to believe that there is anybody that hasn't at least heard of this mega-brand; I would, however, be more willing to accept that you didn't know it originally began as a hair-dye company in 1919! As the success of the brand attests, you really can't go wrong with L'Oréal. Millions of people entrust them with their beauty and self-care routines daily, and with such affordable prices, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least trying some of their best French makeup products.
This superb foundation enhances your natural glow whilst allowing your skin to breathe with a non-comedogenic formula. Enriched with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and aloe vera, it helps maintain your skin's hydration levels throughout the day and reveals more radiant and healthier-looking skin with consistent use.
#3 — Bourjois
Although since acquired by an American firm, this is among the oldest French beauty brands still in existence. Since 1863, Bourjois has innovated clever, creative makeup and beauty products that simplify beauty at a very affordable price. I believe I speak for all Parisiennes in saying that it is a solid brand that can be relied upon for all of your essential makeup needs.
When you want your arches to look well-groomed and well-defined, the brow pomade's fade-proof and buildable formula more than does the trick. Its quick-to-apply texture and easy-to-use pencil format make it the perfect ally for on-the-go applications. It is available in 3 natural shades from light to dark to match all hair colours.
#4 — La Roche Posay
Innocently masquerading as a French pharmacy skincare brand, La Roche Posay secretly boasts a killer makeup collection! Much like their skincare products, all of their makeup is allergy-tested and designed with sensitive & problem skin in mind. That's not their only edge, though, as these are some seriously premium products at some seriously budget prices.
This mascara's revitalizing serum formula and high-tolerance brush assure comfortability for up to 16 hours, even for those with sensitive eyes and skin. Complete coverage is guaranteed every time, and lashes instantly look amplified and feel protected. After just two weeks of consistent use, your lashes feel fortified.
Lesser Known French Makeup Brands
For one reason or another, whether it be company age, overwhelming competition, or extenuating circumstances, some brands never get quite the same level of word-of-mouth exposure as others. Unfortunately, this has the consequence of some particularly spectacular brands with stunning products going unheard of, which just doesn't seem fair to us.
Thus, we present to you our favourite lesser known makeup brands of French origin. Keep scrolling to discover these hidden gems that you may have been missing out on!
#1 — By Terry
Dedication to cutting-edge skincare-infused makeup has thrust By Terry into cult status amongst Parisiennes over the course of the past decade. The rest of the world is also slowly catching on, but it deserves far more global recognition than it currently has. Also, for the record, Yves Saint Laurent's spot amongst the luxury best French makeup brands is practically entirely owed to By Terry's trailblazing founder, Terry de Gunzburg. This is because the iconic YSL Touche Eclat Highlighter we mentioned earlier was, in-fact, her creation.
Imbued with the hydrating skincare benefits of hyaluronic acid, this weightless, silky veil of powder instantly blurs minor imperfections, minimizes pores, evens out your complexion, fills in fine lines, and controls shine. The result is flawless, perfectly smooth skin, and application is effortless - what an absolute hidden gem!
#2 — T. LeClerc
Despite being one of the oldest French pharmacy brands, T. LeClerc remains surprisingly obscure compared to its similarly-aged counterparts, especially considering their impressive range of products and history. Born into a family of artists, Théophile LeClerc was an admirer of art and all things beauty, which inspired him to open his pharmacy in 1881, in the prestigious heart of Paris. Today more than ever, T. LeClerc remains true to these pharmaceutical roots.
Designed with a wet & dry formula, this remarkable micronized powder facilitates entirely customizing the intensity of your looks. It transforms on contact with water to turn into a creamy solution that yields intense, iridescent shadows; it can also be used dry for a lighter, subtler look. Regardless of your desired intensity, your eyes become beautifully illuminated, and your eyelids feel soft and smooth.
#3 — Laura Mercier
Founded in 1996 by the world-renowned make-up artist and pioneer of the 'flawless face,' Laura Mercier's time in the limelight is well overdue. Her mantra of "what makes you unique makes you beautiful" absolutely rings true, and the brand's vast collection of products serve this exact purpose - to accentuate what makes you beautiful.
Laura Mercier's tinted moisturizers deliver the ultimate flawless, demi-matte, no-makeup-makeup look. Each tinted moisturizer and their best French BB cream comes with a lightweight formula, is non-comedogenic, and a multitasking blend of skincare and makeup that helps control shine and provides a sheer hint of coverage. You can use it to prep the skin for makeup, in place of foundation, as an SPF sunscreen or moisturizer, and to even your complexion!
#4 — Talika
Danielle Roches - a nurse in a Paris hospital during WW2 - was helping to heal burn victims when she had a revelation. During the creation of a substitute plaster (due to lack of supplies), she discovered the balm she made had a surprising auxiliary effect: it stimulated the growth of patients' eyelashes and eyebrows. In 1948 she started to market the "eyelash conditioning cream"; henceforth 'Talika' was born.
Born of Danielle Roches' "eyelash conditioning cream" is the legendary serum 'Lipocils Expert'. It not only helps lashes grow longer but also brings out natural pigmentation and curl, as well as boasting a slew of anti-ageing benefits. There isn't much more of a hidden gem than this - definitely one for the shopping cart!
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