Back and forth, hither and yon – whether on my habitual trajectory between Touraine and Paris or further afield… destinations, encounters, events and observations I can’t resist sharing.

Beauty Secrets of a Parisian Makeup Artist

November 2, 2010

As with her diet, a French woman’s beauty and grooming regimen tends to be well balanced.  She won’t deny herself much, yet consumes in moderation. A realist who plays up her best features rather than obsess over flaws; she accepts that beauty, like an impeccable jardin à la Française, demands consistent maintenance.

Keeping up appearances is a vital tenet of French culture, particularly out in public, which is why my daughters give me the once over before I leave the house, lest I regress to American standards and slip out to the bakery in running sweats.  On average, French women over thirty don’t favor conspicuous makeup.  Color statements are acceptable for hair dye and pedicures. Glowing skin and alluring eyes are the priority (over 60% of French cosmetic purchases are for foundation and mascara).  It’s rare to see women put lipstick on in public, in part because they don’t wear it consistently.

However, teens and young women in their twenties are breaking out of the natural look, experimenting and having fun with bronzing powder, false eyelashes, heavy eyeliner and coats of mascara, plus playful hues of nail enamel.   A Re-boot of Bardot in the 6os.

The adage that beauty is recession proof holds up in our Touraine canton, where butchers, florists and cafés are bleeding clientele, while pharmacies and coiffeurs are doing fine.   Many highly respected skincare brands like Avène, La Roche Posay, Cadaulie and Roc, are distributed in Pharmacies, which makes them available in the remotest rural village.

While brands owned by multinationals L’Oreal and LMVH are sold around the globe, smaller domestic resources revered by beauty editors and makeup artists are not always exported to the UK and US.  Friends and family in the States place running orders for certain items they can’t replicate.  Hint: skincare products make great house gifts – neither bulky nor fragile and unlike wine or chocolate, something your hostess isn’t obliged to share.

For this Parisian treasure hunt, I invited along a seasoned expert – makeup artist Tracey Gray Mann – who is intimately familiar with the faces of top models and celebrities we ogle virtually.  Tracey is best known for her flawless natural look, which as we as know requires considerable effort to achieve.  British by birth, she’s lived and worked in Paris for over two decades and knows the French fashion and beauty scene back to front.

Tracey’s skincare and cosmetic selections scan the price point gamut from luxe to mass.  Performance wins out over packaging and prestige.  She’s a stickler for texture, finish, wear and nuanced shades. Happily, some of her fetish staples are available at a well-stocked Parapharmacie for fewer than 20 euros.

SKINCARE Starting at the top, we visited ‘Beauty Box’ at Colette – 213 Faubourg St Honoré.  They showcase an edited selection of exclusive and cutting edge brands, including Tracey’s favorite skincare line created by French ‘epidemiologist’ Joelle Ciocco.  You can schedule a massage-facial with skin analysis at Joelle’s cabinet – 8, Place de la Madeleine, 75008.  Tracey recommends the Buccal Technique.  She promises the experience will be transformative and you just might spy a personality familiar to Paris Match.

Another in-the-know dermatologist-caliber skincare cream carried by Colette is Baume 27 from M.E.SkinLab, Paris.

Skeen, available at Sephora, was created for men but quickly became a hit with women who appreciate the potency and purity of their active ingredients.  (Skeen is the phonetic spelling of skin, pronounced with a French accent.)  For the full monty, visit their boutique in the Marais – 21, rue des Archives, 75004.   The top seller is Serum Revitalisant.  Tracey likes the innovative formula of Perfect Eyes Powder, a treatment for eye contour area that melts into light cream at the touch of a fingertip, conserving the freshness of active ingredients until put to work.

For organic purists, Tracey recommends Sentara, an EcoCert seal of approval, plant based treatment range created by French make up artist Maya Alleaume, available at Galleries Lafayette.

To track down Tracey’s indispensable pharmacy picks, we braved a crush of locals and tourists clogging the aisles of CityPharma on the northeast corner of rue Bonaparte and rue du Four in the 6th.  They claim to be the cheapest pharmacy in the country.  Sales staff sport nametags with flags denoting which languages they speak, so with a bit of patience you should find everything you want.  Don’t forget to stock up on Embryolisee Lait-Crème Concentré (moisturizer for all skin types which doubles as makeup remover, after-shave balm, baby cream and soothing face masque!), Dermophil lip balm stick and Effoadiane, a fragrance free body lotion for infants, children and adults.

MAKEUP Being a less-is-more advocate, Tracey cringes over makeup counter makeovers geared to sell merch.  “For a start, don’t even think of putting on mascara before curling your lashes, preferably with a Shu Uemura eyelash curler.”  It’s an investment, as are the incomparable brushes, but one she assures will amortize nicely over decades of use.  Owner L’Oreal, recently pulled the luxury brand out of the US market.  The Paris boutique is at 176 Bd St. Germain, 75006.  Tracey is intrigued enough with the new Instant-Glow Immediate Radiance Skin Perfecting Cream and Cream Eye Shadow that she makes a purchase.  A Bliss beauty executive over from the US had also stopped by for a beauty fix, so it must be a serious addiction.

You’re unlikely to do as much damage at the Fred Farugia display in Sephora.  The neo-pop collection reminds me of kits that were big in the eighties, but Tracey assures his textures and shades are ultra sophisticated.  Farugia is a Lancôme veteran.  The ‘nomad’ collection of stackable color duets assemble with magnetic hinges.  Everything except the cake eyeliner, which requires a brush, is easily applied with fingers.  Concealer is the best seller.  Tracey is focused on innovative (for the consumer market) lip duets of color with coordinated powder for a dramatic matte effect and longer wear.

Exhausted from dabbing fingers in so many testers, we headed for an outdoor table at a café on boulevard St Germain.  Over a glass of Chablis, Tracey consented to share the 5 Skincare and 5 Makeup essentials she can’t do without.


Mask SK-II  (Exception that makes the rule – neither French made nor owned.)

Joelle Ciocco abriciol moisturizer

Eyelash curler (shu uemura)

Dermophyl lip balm

Bioderma Crealine H2O (cleanser/remover)


Fred Farugia cream concealer (shade 04)

Dior bronzing powder (003 amber tan)

Chanel lip gloss (no. 717)

Guerlain kohl eyeliner (black)

Lancôme hypnose mascara (black)

(If foundation is required, Giorgio Armani Lasting Silk UV Foundation spf 20 or Chanel Crème compact foundation.)

Tracey is represented by the Callisté agency. For private consultations she may be contacted at  To learn more about her:

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