I have spent what seems like a lifetime studying French women. Specifically, their style quotient. Glowing skin, perfectly undone hair, a certain nonchalance… and that particular shade of red lipstick that I just can’t seem to get right.
The closest I have come to the perfect Parisian red is Giorgio Armani’s Lip Maestro Liquid Lipstick #400. But that’s a liquid lipstick and hence needs a perfection of application that’s so not Parisian. There’s, of course, MAC’s Ruby Woo – but its deeper, more jewel-toned than the French daytime go-to. Ditto for Chanel Rouge Allure in Pirate, and Charlotte Tilbury’s Matte Revolution in Red Carpet Red.
So, thank God for Jeanne Damas, style influencer and walking embodiment of that je ne sais quai that sets Parisian women apart from us mere mortals.
Damas has launched a fashion and beauty line called Rouje, which means red in French, and it comes with THE perfect red lipstick. #Jeanne is a perfect classic red with a touch of pink (maybe that’s the secret?). And it’s a creamy, super-pigmented matte. Because the classic Parisian doesn’t do shimmer or metallics.
Jeanne is part of the Les 4 Rouje Palette, which has become the love of my life. Gold-etched and luxuriously weighty, besides Jeanne, it also holds a deeper red, a universal nude, and an intense brownish-plum. You can also use it on cheeks and eyelids.
And there’s no lip brush, by design. Because one of the first thing you will learn about Parisian women is that they are never about constructing the glamour. Whether you are wearing this French-girl staple on a baguette run, or dressing up for cocktails, perfectly imperfect is the secret. It’s all undone and effortless.
So, no liner, no brush
If it’s a lipstick tube, simply swipe from one side to the other, then smile with your lips closed and define the cupid’s bow. And after that, tap over your lips with a finger to diffuse the color. Still too stark? Blur the edges with a cotton bud. With a palette like Les 4 Rouje, go on straight with the fingers, using a tapping motion. Remember that smudged is sexy.
Balance the matte with glowing skin
As I said earlier, Frenchwomen prefer matte lipsticks. And that requires healthy, glowing skin if you don’t want to end up looking chalky. The key lies in hydration. They are obsessed with moisturiser. And I mean OBSESSED. They focus much more on skincare than makeup, preferring to have a super-healthy, luminous and clear complexion. And they know the route to great skin is through intensive day creams or potent facial oils – as is evident with any trip to a French pharmacy.
Red is not just for the night
In Paris, red lipstick is very much a daytime look. It’s not to be reserved for the night. At night, you may want to go for the deeper red (Lamia) or the nudes (Emilie and Camille).
Keep the rest of your makeup minimal
A Parisian uses red lipstick like the ultimate accessory – like a fabulous pair of red shoes. You don’t want to clutter the look.
Frenchwomen don’t like the heavy, caked-on look in any case. Skin is mostly bare except for an occasional touch of concealer, minimal blush, subtle eyeliner worn close to the upper lashes and lashes brushed before and after mascara application to avoid clumps. In the night, eyes go just the right amount of smoky and the mascara goes up a notch – that’s about it.