Beauty secrets of French women
My sister has been living in Paris for the last five years. During this time I've seen a slow, steady change in her appearance.
Not just her wardrobe (how many striped tops can one woman own?) or beauty routine (she'd never had a facial, let alone regular ones before she moved) but mostly in her attitude.
She's a beautiful woman with healthy self-esteem but seems far more secure since moving to France.
Her confidence is wonderfully robust. She cites two major influences. A) the lack of social and media pressure placed on women in Paris and B) learning the art of maintenance and moderation. "French women apply it to everything," she says.
"Do a little and do it always. It's the total reverse of how I used to live my life."
This is the reason there are so many books written about French women and their diets, style secrets and skin-care routines. It's not because they get it absolutely right but because they absolutely do it differently.
When it comes to ageing gracefully France has got the matrix figured out better than most.
Think Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Catherine Deneuve and Ines De La Fresange.
You don't see French actresses on the cover of magazines posing in a bikini. You see French actresses in interesting films playing interesting roles written for women their own age.
There just isn't the same emphasis on 40 being the new 30 or 50 being the new fabulous. In fact there's no emphasis on age at all.
French women are encouraged to walk toward their birthdays while the rest of the world try to out-run the candles on the cake.
Unlike other countries (I'm looking at you Australia, America and Britain) France is not obsessed with the young and the new. They prefer old and interesting.
French women don't look back; don't hold onto what's been and learn from an early age to not want what they can't have.
While we're running another ten kilometres or examining the size of our pores in the bathroom mirror, French women are sitting at an outdoor café with a glass of vin rouge.
This doesn't mean they're without ritual or artifice.
On the contrary, for the typical French woman maintaining their image is as normal as drinking coffee.
The difference is that they're raised to be masters of consistency. It's not a binge and purge, all or nothing nation.
They eat everything but not too much of it. No need for the gym because one must walk everywhere. Moisturise, have facials, take supplements and start early. Show some skin but don't over do it. Wear some make-up. Drink coffee, drink wine, eat cheese but never eat between meals.
If you took away cigarettes French women are possibly the best examples of balance on the planet.
Much of it stems from a generations-old structure which helps put the word 'secret' in Women's Business.
Look around the streets of Paris and you'll see mothers with their daughters. Everywhere. From a young age beauty, style and love advice are handed down from mother to child. There's a code of preparedness that they all adhere to. French girls are encouraged to be different by their mothers.
The French have little patience for sameness.
The notion of everyone wearing the same thing or liking the same song is ridiculous. Uniqueness is encouraged.
They believe that in order for a woman to be truly attractive she needs life experience. Runs on the board. In France ageing is mysterious – polo-neck sweaters, smudged eyeliner and bed head. In France ageing is cool.
My sister who has a young daughter of her own sees true wisdom in the system.
"The French get lots of things wrong but the value they place on growing old is brilliant. The transition from Mademoiselle to a Madame is no big deal - it's just another day - and really, that's how it should be."
Sydney Morning Herald