Finding the perfect skincare routine in 2021 is a daunting task, especially with an evergrowing abundance of products and brands from which to choose. Not to mention how difficult it can be to figure out whether a particular skincare product will work with your skin type; or whether those two products you love will even layer together correctly. There's no worse feeling than when you discover that your favourite moisturizer and that shiny new serum you found end up pilling* on your skin - nightmare fuel!
*Pill /pɪl/ (verb) - When skincare or makeup pills, it looks like flakes of product on your skin, and this happens when the product hasn't soaked into the skin as it should - usually due to an incompatible combination of ingredients.
The ultimate solution to all of these woes is a simple French skincare routine, one that unites us all under one common objective: healthy, radiant and glowing skin. The reason for this is simple; no, really, we mean 'simple'. At the heart of every flawless-skinned Parisienne's routine lies a French skincare secret passed down for generations: KISS - Keep It Simple, Sucre d'orge (Sweetie).
Without further ado, allow us to present the ultimate French pharmacy skincare routine of 2021, perfectly optimized for all skin types thanks to the high tolerability of French skincare products (because their formulas adhere to that beautiful French skincare secret about simplicity, too!).
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Step 1: Gently cleanse
No French girl skincare routine begins without a soft cleanser. It should exude tranquillity, morning and evening, and it should gently remove impurities and dirt without stripping or harming the skin's moisture barrier. We haven't covered it yet (though we intend to in-depth soon), but long story short, your moisture barrier is what protects your skin from bad stuff getting in and prevents essential water and electrolytes from getting out. For healthy, radiant, glowing skin, you want to protect your moisture barrier at ALL costs.
The best way to protect your moisture barrier from harm is to opt for a French non-foaming cleanser. Non-foaming cleansers don't contain harsh sulfates like most foaming cleansers do, meaning that your moisture barrier stays strong and healthy while still thoroughly cleansing your face and pores.
Usually, this is the point at which people with oily and problematic skin get told to stick with foaming cleansers. Instead, our advice is that these skin problems might be *BECAUSE* of a damaged moisture barrier; nurturing it back to health with a French non-foaming cleanser - like the Gentle Milk Cleanser by Avene - would be the best way to see improvement.
If you really can't bring yourself to lose the foamy texture of your cleanser, there does exist a few gentle sulfate-free (although not necessarily surfectant-free) French foaming cleanser options. The Precious Cleansing Foam by L'Occitane being our personal favourite, followed closely by the Instant Foaming Cleanser by Caudalie.
Step 2: Hydrate (throughout the day)
Being the essence of life, it should come as no surprise that treating your body's largest organ (the skin!) with plenty of water comes with heaps of benefits. Hydrated skin is plump, supple, somewhat bouncy to the touch and most importantly: healthy. Unsurprisingly, however, your body prioritizes supplying the more critical organs of your body water, meaning that sometimes your skin requires external assistance. This fact leads us to the next step of our routine.
Applying a French skincare product that contains hyaluronic acid before moisturizing is the supreme method of keeping your skin hydrated. Hyaluronic acid holds 1,000 times its weight in water, meaning that when absorbed into the skin, your epidermal layers become comfortably saturated with water, thus hydrating your skin. Biotherm's Life Plankton Essence is the premier hydrating essence containing hyaluronic acid. We could talk all day about this stuff, but for the sake of brevity, I will only mention that it takes just eight days of consistent use to see and feel a newborn skin.
Akin to how we should be drinking water consistently throughout the day to maintain internal hydration levels, it is equally necessary and beneficial to top-up our skin's hydration levels from time to time. Skin hydration levels drop because water passively evaporates through the skin to the external environment during the day due to a process called transepidermal water loss, or TEWL for short. To combat TEWL, a couple of spritzes of a gentle spray such as Vichy's Mineralizing Thermal Water every few hours massively helps; it also has the added benefit of being incredibly refreshing and soothing.
Step 3: Moisturize attentively
Another imperative, combative method to mitigate TEWL is to moisturize. Whether your sebum production is normal, underactive or overactive, a moisturizer is always the answer. The act of moisturizing doesn't necessarily hydrate by itself, so it's of utmost importance not to skip step 2; however, moisturizing is the key to keeping your skin hydrated and your sebum levels balanced. Remember, hydrated skin is plump, supple and ultimately the reason for healthy, glowing skin.
The best skincare routine wouldn't be complete without the cult-favourite French skincare product and absolute holy-grail of a moisturizer from Avene: Tolerance Extreme Emulsion. It is a light, soothing and hydrating daily moisturizer formulated to mimic and support how the skin naturally keeps itself hydrated, soft and supple.
One pertinent tip for moisturizing, though, is to take your time with it. Your skincare routine should feel like a relaxing process that you enjoy and look forward to each morning and evening. Be conscious to massage your moisturizer gently into the skin in pressing/patting motions with your fingertips, and just enjoy the calming and soothing sensations for a couple of minutes.
Step 4: Liberally apply sunscreen
Sunscreen has finally received the recognition it deserves this year, and not without good reason. Even on an overcast or rainy day, your exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun will still range from moderate to very high levels, so it is crucial to stay protected. Furthermore, did you know that UV exposure is the cause of 90% of the visible signs of ageing? That is why every French beauty routine includes preventative measures to protect your complexion and ensure that your skin stays looking youthful.
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, the higher the SPF, the better. We recommend an SPF of at least 30, if not 50, and it should protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. If you would like to learn more about choosing the best French sunscreen, click here.
To complete the routine, we have chosen La Roche-Posay's Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF50+. Sticking to the French beauty secret regarding simplicity right to the end, this cult-favourite French sunscreen ticks all of our boxes for the perfect, simple and tolerable sunscreen.
Remember to reapply your sunscreen regularly throughout the day and ensure maximum coverage!
Step 5: Apply your makeup
One exceedingly common question that we see is: "Should you apply makeup under or over sunscreen?"
The answer: It is critical to apply cosmetics over the top of sunscreen to ensure you receive the full SPF protection benefits.
Of course, this step is entirely optional and preferential, but we thoroughly recommend checking out our Best French Makeup Brands guide for inspiration. You will discover the absolute best French brands and *must-have* products available in 2021. One such *must-have* product is the Diorshow mascara by Dior (our #3 'Best Luxury French Makeup Brand') - Kendall Jenner swears by this mascara for her enviable full lash look.
The final step of your routine is to relax and stay consistent. It's all too easy to commit to a regimen for a mere few days and then subsequently abandon it when you haven't seen instant results - I'll hold my hand up; I've definitely been there!
The truth is, skincare is a gradual process, and you *will* see results over time - the crucial thing is to stay consistent; patience is rewarded. In the meantime, why not read some more FEMMENORDIC articles!
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