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The Difference Between French and American Women’s Approach to Hair

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10 . 16 . 17

No matter how many times it’s been discussed, the conversation about French girl hair and the method to achieving the Parisienne way is never-ending. After getting Christophe Robin and David Mallett’s take on French women’s approach to hair, we decided to tap freelance hairstylist and Amika Pro educator Ciara Costenoble. Ciara went to Paris seven years ago, fell in love with her now-husband, and had another reason to stay: manes. Keep reading for our interview with the stylist on the foundation of French girl hair, how it differs from American women’s beauty philosophy, and what Paris’ beauty world is missing.

What would you say is the French girl approach to styling? 
Styling hair is still a question of, “what kind of style can I achieve in five minutes that makes me look like I spent an hour in front of the mirror”. If I have learned anything these past six years in Paris it is how to simplify my life. The French have the art of giving minimal energy to their appearance yet still having a tailored, chic look. That simplicity leads to the art of having a perfect cut. I am talking about a cut that will get you through the next four to six months. A cut that grows out beautifully and transitions seasons like a carefree bird.

Visiting the hair salon on a weekly or even monthly basis does not fit into the minimalistic attitude of French women. You visit the salon only when you need to have a cut or color. Hence the word that has flooded the ears of color specialists: balayage. the art of subtle, well-blended color—built by and for the French woman.

How do French women differ from American women in their approach to using a blow dryer and air drying?
The American in me feels that all Paris needs right now is a blow out bar. Do French women book appointments just for a blowout; non, however I have this deep feeling that the new age French woman is now open to this option of a little pampering. I mean who doesn’t love a good blowout! Letting your hair go as the expression goes is taken quite literally here in France. Air-dry verses blow drying your own hair is an automatic air-dry for the win.

Do you believe French women have a signature hairstyle? 
Most French women do not have straight hair. It often has some bend or light texture to it and they very much embrace those qualities of their hair. French girl hair is undone, tousled and transitional. She runs her hands through her hair changing her morning middle part to a now afternoon side hair toss which may eventually become an evening top knot.

What do you think is the key difference between French women’s approach to hair vs. American women’s approach? 
I remember chatting with my French girlfriends one night about all things beauty as us girls like to do. My friend Rachel made this comment, “French women embrace flaws while Americans value a modern sense of perfection.” The truth in that statement summed up our beauty rant so well. Yes, French women want a hairstyle that is attainable on an everyday basis without necessarily the help of a professional. The undone look is not a “look” yet a culture, a way of life, a French way of life. Unless we are talking about food, there is nothing undone about that!

What kind of haircuts do French women usually wear? What about hair colors?
Long hair with soft layers is so in right now. It is either that or short hair that embraces natural texture (Think Audrey Tautou). I am loving the style right now. As the cuts are quite simple it is all about changing up the hair with different styles and use of products, which is so new. With the world being well connected internationally through social media it has given the French girl a little more confidence to test out something unfamiliar.

Are there things French women with fabulous hair usually do?
Sleeping with their hair in one or two large braids or one or two twisted top knots has been a repeated trick to get that sensual hair look. Sleeping with wet hair also adds that interesting take on texture. Think hair that gives flat iron waves without an iron in sight.

Are there things French women with fabulous hair never do?
Hop on any metro during work rush hour and you will not see a perfect freshly coiled curl from a curling iron. You will not see glam waves or a perfectly knotted topknot. You will not see sleek Cher hair and you will not see an array of unnatural colorful tresses. What you will see are sleek chignons, wavy hair, damp hair, ponytails and a balayage that was done last season. Yet she has a way of putting it all together that it comes out so…. French.

Is French women having gorgeous hair the result of spending more time in the salon? In your opinion, what is the reason French girls have effortlessly chic hair all the time?
I truly believe that gorgeous hair glow comes from the inside. French woman take good care of their bodies. Self care is very present here. They are aware of what they eat and pay attention to making sure the inner glow is well fed. I noticed a such a positive change in my hair when I moved here. Those good fats have my hair glowing and even more manageable.

French women would rather spend time and energy finding the right vitamin or basket of seasonal veggies than styling their hair so that effortless look is simply just that, less effort. Less effort fighting what the hair wants to do and embracing your given hair texture.

California girls love beachy, wavy hair. What kind of hairstyles do French girls like to wear on a daily basis?
Visualize flat iron waves verses beachy waves created with a curling iron. Flat iron waves is your French girl all the way.
Another classic hairstyle is pulling the hair off the face and attaching the hair in a low bun or ponytail.

What would you say are French girls’ favorite types of hair products to use?
Hair oils have become very popular and a key product in French hair care. La femme Francaise has adopted sans conditioner for leave in conditioner and is all about testing out the latest carefree hair products. You will likely see in any French woman’s home key products such as dry conditioner, beach hair spray and light hair oils and you might even find a hair mask or two.

Can’t get enough French girl hair? Read Christophe Robin’s take on Parisienne tresses.

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