Expert's Opinion

French Skin Care vs. American Skin Care

By Renu00e9e Rouleau, Renu00e9e Rouleau Skin Care | February 9, 2010

Who does it better? Renée Rouleau has the answer.

Partly due to my French heritage and my French husband’s stories about his mother being an esthetician, I’ve always had an interest in how French women care for their skin. I’ve written about this subject before but on a recent visit to France, I explored it further by talking in more detail with estheticians while getting facials, and I have returned to the U.S. with some interesting observations in my quest to decide who has the better approach to skin care—Americans or the French.

French women rarely alter their natural appearance.
In France, both women and skin care professionals believe that when it comes to skin, that you should accept what you’ve been given. Many French women rarely change or highlight their natural hair color except perhaps to cover their gray hair. They rarely opt for plastic surgery and they’ve yet to embrace injectables and fillers the way American women have. In short, French women prefer to celebrate their natural beauty and they prefer to age gracefully.

Unlike my French contemporaries, I’ve found that the American approach to beauty and appearance varies dramatically. While many American women will have a similar philosophy to that of the French, others, in an attempt to look younger, will be the complete opposite and alter their image in whatever way they can.

I find the American approach is all about looking younger and often, the focus is more about looking younger than looking natural. It’s my personal belief that if you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see; you might want to take advantage of the new technologies available to make yourself look better.

Why? Because when you look better, you feel better.

French women get facials often.
The French have both invented and perfected the art of the facial and getting regular monthly facials is part of their culture. There are countless facial salons in France—and French women both believe in facials and love getting them to keep their skin healthy and looking its best. And it’s not uncommon for a French woman to even get facials every week!

One of my doctor colleagues and I were talking recently and she told me that at some point, facials would become obsolete. The reason? Because she feels that laser skin treatments, aggressive peels, Botox® and fillers are becoming all the more effective in getting the skin to look younger.

While many of these treatments will produce positive results (and possibly negative results, as well), what facials will do is maintain the results of aggressive treatments and keep your skin clear, clean, glowing, and healthy.

As with exercise, just because you have liposuction to remove fat, it doesn’t mean you never have to exercise again! Think of facials as the equivalent of going for a walk. You might not sweat, you probably won’t be sore afterwards, but it’s essential for your overall health and balances out your other aggressive workouts. At times, my clients do need something more aggressive than what I offer (and I will tell them so), but they still need to keep their skin in shape with regular results-oriented facials.

For many French estheticians, microdermabrasion is a no-no.
Many French estheticians never embraced microdermabrasion technology because it seemed too harsh on the skin and French estheticians are all about being gentle. Even AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) aren’t as popular in France as they are here in the U.S.

It’s true that American estheticians are more aggressive with the skin. We love to embrace the newest anti-aging technology, even if it’s not always tried and true. At Renée Rouleau Skin Care Spas, we’ve stopped offering microdermabrasion because we’ve found that the combination of ultrasonic exfoliation and chemical peels gives better results without the wear and tear on capillaries—something that applies for all skin types.

French women seldom wear sunscreen—or stay out of the sun.
The concept of staying out of the sun and wearing sunscreen every day hasn’t really caught on with the French. Many French women still love to go to the beach and get a tan, and skiing in France certainly brings on damaging UV rays. Since UV exposure from the sun (even on a cloudy, winter day) is the #1 cause of aging, this isn’t working in their favor.

As a matter of fact, after every facial I’ve ever had in France, not one esthetician ever put sunscreen on my skin as the final step in the facial. I would never leave my clients fresh, new skin unprotected when they walk out of my door. That would be a complete skin sin. Wearing an SPF moisturizer on the face, neck and chest 365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out is something I preach to my clients, family, and friends pretty much daily.

French skin is lacking a glow.
Many French women still smoke and of those who don’t, many are exposed second-hand hand smoke in cafés and bars, and by virtue of being around friends or family. Many French restaurants and clubs have recently started no-smoking policies, so that’s helpful for non-smokers. It’s a fact that smoking starves skin cells of oxygen, which results in dull, sallow, tired-looking skin with an absence of a glow.Added to this is the genetic makeup of French skin. Like many European complexions (with the exception of the Irish and the Scottish), French skin is thicker so the blood circulates slower which results in tired-looking skin.

It’s my belief that glowing skin is beautiful skin. Something French estheticians don’t seem to focus on that at all. Since the micro-circulation of the skin is compromised due to smoking and genetics, I’d think they’d talk about this more and they don’t. Yes, facials definitely help to get your skin glowing because they increase blood flow and breathe new life into the skin, but French estheticians don’t enforce doing this at home.

How can you get the glow? Use products containing vaso-dilators. These amazing ingredients dilate the capillaries allowing your skin can take in more blood, oxygen, and nutrients.

French estheticians believe Americans have the most beautiful skin.
I’ve asked many estheticians in France what they observe about American skin versus French skin and hands down, most will say that American skin is more beautiful.I heard French estheticians say again and again that “Americans have smaller pores, tighter skin with fewer lines and wrinkles, and they don’t go in the sun”.

Going back to an earlier point, European skin has definite genetic traits; thick, oily, and flaccid (lacking tone), large pores, and under-circulated. Something that’s true of French, Italian, and Greek skin. Genetics do play a part in how your skin will age, but the biggest contributor to the look of your skin is how you take care of it. It’s estimated that 30% of how your skin will age is due to genetics, while 70% is up to you! So, if your skin is genetically prone to being thick, oily, flaccid, and under-circulated, with the right skin care program (both at home and in-spa) and good skin care habits, you can really make a difference.

Many French women aren’t disciplined when it comes to caring for their skin at home.
I’ve heard French estheticians say this again and again: that French women are extremely dedicated to their monthly facials, but they aren’t very diligent about wearing sunscreen every day, washing their skin before they go to bed, and exfoliating—all necessary steps for healthy, younger-looking skin.

Facials and skin procedures are all helpful in the quest for healthy, beautiful skin. But what you do to your skin every day at home plays an even bigger part. If you worked out with a personal trainer four times a week but then you ate junk food at home, would your body really be that healthy? No. Using good quality products at home—products that are exclusively formulated for your skin type, and practicing good skin care habits is essential.

And Americans do that so well.

So, “Who does skin care better?”— My answer is Americans.

Hands down, we take better care of our skin.

And it shows.

Renée Rouleau is a trusted skin-care expert and licensed celebrity esthetician who has been helping women to attain healthy, glowing skin for more than 20 years. Since launching the Renée Rouleau Skin Care Spa in Dallas in 1996, she has created sought-after treatments, including her Cranberry Brasion Facial, Essential 5 Facial and Redness Relief Facial, to name a few. She also founded National Skin Care Awareness Month, which takes place every September, to promote the importance of caring for and protecting the skin.


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