The list of coveted French exports seems never-ending, which we suppose is what happens when your country is home to the only region in the world that can make Champagne. However, beyond the sparkling wine business, France is known the world over for their exceptional skin care, makeup, and perfume. French perfume, maquillage, and skin care are really the trinity of achieving the French-girl-chic look. A good French perfume should be equal parts alluring and subtle, the skin care regimen ideally paves the way for lighter makeup, and the cosmetics are designed for optimal no-make-up makeup and Léa Seydoux-levels of gravitas.
These are the most luxurious French perfume and cosmetics brands—which you can find all over France, or online from your couch at home.
La Mer, of course, tops our list of luxe French cosmetic brands. La Mer takes its patented skin care approach and puts its superpowers to work in its high-end makeup line. The brand may have initially taken the world by storm with their signature Crème de la Mer, but their Skincolor de la Mer “beauty beyond skin care” collection is a crucial follow up. La Mer’s long-wear foundation and skin tint focuses on hydration and light coverage with SPF. Beyond the Soft Fluid Longwear Foundation and Reparative SkinTint, La Mer makes a gorgeous, Sheer Pressed Powder for the perfect, glowy finish.
While some know diptyque only as the ultra-luxe candle brand, it’s respected around the world as an haute Paris fragrance house. Their legacy started in 1961 at 34 Boulevard St-Germain in Paris, hence their 34 Boulevard Saint German Eau de Toilette and fragrances. Working with leaders in the fragrance space like Parisian perfumer Olivier Pescheux, they put out scents that embody the city of light’s essence. Their latest French perfume, Eau de Parfum Eau Capitale, just launched in January 2020. It’s an innovative, mod take on the citrus and floral-forward chypre scent, meant to inspire the effortless Parisian-chic level we all aspire to.
Guerlain House dates back to Paris in 1828, and nearly 200 years later, Guerlain’s production operation is still based entirely in France. Today, they’re known as a magnetic French cosmetics, skin care, and fragrance brand focusing on bold Parisian products. One of their most sought-after exports is Guerlain l'Or, a makeup base used to create radiance with flecks of 24k gold in the hydrating gel. Top the gold-infused base with Guerlain’s water-infused Lingerie de Peau Aqua Nude foundation and their fan-favorite Terracotta Bronzing Powder.
What can’t Chanel do? While, of course, naming Chanel as one of the chicest French perfume and cosmetics brands isn’t revolutionary, it’s as merited today as it was when Chanel launched its original fragrance, CHANEL No. 5, in 1921. Chanel herself, who is on record saying that “a woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” makes some of the best French perfume in the game—more recently, CHANCE has really taken off. Beyond fragrances, Chanel makes rich lip color, high-end nail polish, and an entire range of cosmetics. For the minimal-makeup, French-girl glow, the Chanel Base Lumière Illuminating Makeup Base followed by their Les Beiges Sheer Healthy Glow Moisturizing Tint is parfait.
Robert Piguet’s namesake brand used to be touted as one of Paris’ best fashion houses. Piguet is still revered as a mentor to the likes of Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy. However, since the 1950s, Robert Piguet has been exclusively a fragrance brand. Piguet’s signature perfume, Fracas, has loyalists like Madonna, Frank Sinatra (Barbara wore it), and Brigette Bardot. Fracas’ dominant scent is tuberose and white flowers, with some gardenia, jasmine, and bergamot for balance.
Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent is a one-stop-shop for French fragrances, skin care, and maquillage. The true cult-following YSL product is their Touche Éclat lightweight concealer line, which launched in 1992. The product to start with is the Touche Éclat All-Over Brightening Pen, though you can also branch into their Touche Éclat Le Teint Foundation. In terms of fragrances, Yves Saint Laurent has long-since been known for its sensual Black Opium scent. Producing luxury fragrances for both men and women, La Nuit de L’Homme is one of their classic scents for men.
Since 1931, Vichy products have been among the gold-standard skin care for hydration and anti-aging. The original Vichy line was created by Dr. Haller in Vichy, France, and Vichy Mineralizing Thermal Water has an enormous following akin to the enthusiasm around the Japanese pitera elixir SK-II Essence. While Vichy started as a skin care company, they branched into cosmetics with a deliberately small line, featuring essentials like their Dermafinish Setting Powder and Dermafinish Corrective Fluid Foundation.