If you’ve been on the internet lately you will have seen two trends majorly taking over #BeautyTok: firstly the de-influencing trend, where ‘influencers’ instead tell you what not to buy.
Together, the trends offer alluring image, not of excess, but of the ‘simple life’. A beautiful life. It’s an ethos that is all wrapped up into new beauty launch, Violette_FR, a brand that is the brainchild of French-native but New York-dwelling makeup artist Violette Serrat.
The collection heroes her love of pigments, her rejection of traditional makeup techniques and her innate je ne sais quoi.
So, I sat down to talk to her, as an Australian so heavily influenced by American beauty trends over the years, on how we can harness the French beauty aesthetic (and what products we should, in fact, be leaving out of our beauty routines to master it).
As Coco Chanel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”
De-influencing For The French Beauty Aesthetic
For Serrat, the heart of the French beauty routine is not perfection, but rather the evasion of it. It’s the staunch dedication to looking put together and simultaneously undone.
“If you use makeup, have fun and stylize yourself more. You don’t need the whole deal,” she counsels. “In France, we always pick one thing, so choose your battle. Today I’m wearing red lipstick, so my hair is super natural. It’s a balance of sophistication and chic, and super easy going.”
So, what products should you be officially de-influenced against?
While a 2010 Kim Kardashian would have you think that chiseled is the best way to look, for Serrat it is a method that takes away from the natural beauty and is too much ‘trying to change the face’ as opposed to ‘enhancing it’.
“If you do [contour], I would say that unless you have fun with it, you don’t need it. I want makeup to be here in a way that highlights you, instead of like, really changing you.”
While many French girls on the internet go minimal on mascara, it’s not something Violette chooses to subscribe to all the time.
“I don’t mind a bit [of mascara]. Sometimes I wear it, like last night, like clumsy and thick,” she says, referencing to her glam party look at the launch evening in Sydney. “Sometimes it’s a mood, a little bit ‘Twiggy style’, so this, I don’t mind.”
However, fake lashes fall too far out of this category out of the ‘enhance and play’ and into the ‘change and morph’.
Every girlie who grew up following 10-step base tutorials on YouTube will surely gasp at this one, but Serrat is not in favour of foundation. At all.
“Foundation, I don’t use,” she says honestly. “Even the other day, I did a masterclass and I didn’t use foundation. The girl was not a model…but to me it was great. So, I’m a fan of not putting foundation.”
What We Should Be Using To Get The French Beauty Aesthetic?
Without heavy lashes, contouring and foundation, it leaves us to ponder what we actually should be putting on our faces? Don’t worry – you don’t have to go bare!
In lieu of a foundation routine, Serrat suggests being diligent with your god-given beauty i.e. protecting your skin.
“For us, it’s skincare,” she says. “Our number one priority is to take care of what mother nature gave us. So, I would say that’s first, and then the red lipstick.”
She laughs about the lipstick, but there’s no denying that the shade is a mainstay in the French beauty look. Of course, it comes in multiple forms, a strong, outlined lip that is glamorous (often combined with a very paired back makeup looks: freckles showing through and brows simply brushed).
However, Serrat is also a fan of the undone red, the light stain-like aesthetic that could simply be the natural blush of your lips. It’s something she’s emulated in her iconic ‘Bisou Balm’.
“The unique formula mimics the true texture of your lips for the ultimate “bouche mordue” (just bitten lips) look that’s quintessentially French,” the product is described. We couldn’t agree more.
Effortless, But Put Together
Just because a beauty look is understated, doesn’t mean it’s lazy or that no care went into it. For Serrat, the key to any look is to make sure that you present in a way that shows off the self-care you offer yourself.
“I think the first step is to look taken care of. So, your hair is clean, there’s not too much product in it, it looks shiny and healthy…but it doesn’t have to be done,” she explains. “Then we do the skincare routine. The skin is very clean, it’s glowing, it feels moisturised, your lips feel moisturised. Then, the eyebrows don’t need to be done, but at least like, brushed.”
“I would say like this is the base and then from there, pick one thing. Like is it blue eyeshadow, is it red lipstick? And then sometimes you just want something fresh, so you can do a bit of neutral on your eyes and a bit of Bisou Blush to highlight the flush of your skin and that’s it.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Play With Colour
While the essence of the French beauty look is relaxed, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experiment with colour.
“There’s not a good time or a bad time to wear colour,” Serrat explains. “Like, you do you. I often wear very strong colours, just on a Sunday when I’m at home with my kids. It’s about how you feel. So that, for me, will be my biggest tip, is to connect beauty to your emotions and forget about the aesthetic aspect of it.”
Serrat, who has become known in the world of makeup for her expert approach using pigment, admits that her collection’s core is colour.
“It’s been my whole inspiration,” she says. “I think there is a vibrancy in pigments because it’s not mixed with any base and it’s not mixed with any other pigments but it’s very pure and we respect colours this way, like we’re not diluting them.”
“I’m trying to replicate this power that each colour holds. That’s really where I’m focused on like, how can I celebrate colours but make it wearable? And wearable doesn’t mean diluted, faded, more natural. It’s a secret recipe I have for colours, the right pigments together so it’s strong and wearable.”
And Finally We Talk About The Lure Of The French Pharmacy
There’s countless TikToks of beauty enthusiasts flocking to well-stocked French pharmacies to load up on Caudalie and Avène like it’s going out of style.
For Serrat, who based her brand’s two skincare products on the ethos of the pharmacy – The Boum-Boum Milk and The Cream – the fascination with the French pharmacy is well deserved.
“I mean, we obsess, us French included, on French pharmacy because it’s the best,” she says. “They were far ahead of the clean beauty trend, since forever. They are focusing on performance, they don’t give a s**t about marketing, and if you’re famous or not, if you’re going to bring business to them or not and I love this,” she says with passion.
“The products that are there are all clinically tested, approved by the pharmacists that did medical school, they could be doctors. It’s such an access to experts that guarantee the best products on the market, and the safest.”
At the heart of the pharmacy is a sense of minimalism, with Serrat acknowledging that they’re not trying to ‘wow’ you. The pricepoint also remains interestingly accessible.
For her collection, she wanted to embody this (but with a touch more ‘wow’).
“So that’s why Boum-Boum Milk is sitting, almost like a medical device – we’re testing it now because it healed people with eczema and psoriasis incredibly,” she says. “It’s natural, efficient and focusing on your skin health and you buy two products, and your routine is done basically. That’s kind of what we wanted and that’s very in line with the French pharmacy.”
It’s interesting to pick the brains of someone so self-assured, someone for whom makeup is not a mask nor a crutch, but a medium to create. From the way Violette Serrat talks, you can almost envisage the way she sees makeup and skincare: palettes of colours, a healing milk, and a way to celebrate the self.
It’s a great reminder that while it’s great to study makeup techniques and the nitty gritty specifics, in the process sometimes we miss out on the play, on the fun, in favour of the coverage, or the chisel.
While we’re all about de-influencing these days, it’s safe to say that essence, of celebrating the self through our beauty routine, is something we should very much try to be influenced by.