Peek inside a French woman’s bathroom cabinet, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find the sort of complicated, 12-step skin-care regimens that have become popular elsewhere in the world. You see, the je ne sais quoi so commonly associated with French beauty stems from a “less is more” approach, which keeps things simple and gives the skin a break—something we could all learn from, particularly when summer’s full swing has us out of our usual routines.
To help teach us a lesson about maintaining our skin-care practices when rosé, beach days, and long weekends are higher priorities than washing our faces, we tapped French sisters and estheticians Alexandra and Olivia Chantecaille, who have translated some of the most important French beauty practices into their eponymous brand.
“The women in France always look like they are oozing health and have gorgeous, radiant skin while eating the best food their entire lives,” says Olivia. To find out how to live this type of “best life” for yourself without expensive products and procedures, keep reading for the Chantecaille sisters’ tips for scoring radiant, French-inspired summer skin. And, as always, don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
1. Commit to twice-a-day cleansing
Because summer weather and increased sweat go hand-in-hand, Alexandra points to the importance of finding a gentle cleanser that can effectively wash away the bacteria it brings about to help you avoid breakouts. Olivia adds that because you’re (hopefully) wearing extra SPF this time of year, it can cause a thick layer of product to build up on your skin that may ultimately clog your pores.
With all of that dirt and debris on your skin, you may be cleansing more than usual, and Olivia notes that it’s extra important to ensure all of the day’s products are fully removed each night so your skin can properly absorb the products in your p.m. routine. To get the job done without stripping your skin of the natural oils it needs to stay healthy, Alexandra recommends using a cleansing balm. These formulas have a thick, waxy consistency and remove dirt and grime while also conditioning, hydrating, and soothing the skin—making them great for super-sweaty days when you may need to wash your face more than once.
2. Press pause on harsh actives
Speaking of gentle products, both Alexandra and Olivia stress the importance of rethinking your skin-care priorities in the summertime. While retinol and exfoliating acids are great for fall and winter, Alexandra advises taking a break from more intense ingredients around April or May as you start to spend more time outdoors and reintroducing them in the fall. In their stead, you can swap in some less aggressive (but equally effective) alternatives.
“Bakuchiol is a super-cool potential retinol equivalent that triggers collagen change-over and the brightening of skin without the harshness and sensitivity that retinol brings,” says Alexandra. “A lot of times our skin can revert back in the summer after all the work we’ve done in the fall, spring, or winter if we’re doing too much, and keeping harsh ingredients like retinol as part of your summer skin care will only make more damage happen.”
Olivia says her skin is really sensitive, so during the summer months, she opts for lighter serums during the day and uses her more intense actives at night when she knows she’ll be out of the sun for an extended period of time. She suggests using serums with hyaluronic acid in them during the day to help keep your skin moisturized, no matter the weather. She also notes that it’s especially important to avoid products with fragrances and synthetic chemicals, as they can be extra-irritating if you’re out in the sun more often than usual.
3. Double down on antioxidants
Summer is one of the most important seasons for staving off inflammation and fighting off free radicals, and the sisters recommend maximizing your defenses by adding both internal and external antioxidants into your routine. Consider a topical serum a non-negotiable, and make it a point to double your defenses with either an oral supplement (we love a liposomal vitamin C) or a plate filled with antioxidant-rich foods (like berries and brussel sprouts).
4. Don’t forget to exfoliate
“Exfoliating is a really important step for summer skin care,” says Olivia. “We’ve gotten very good at applying sunscreen, but it builds up quickly on your skin, which can lead to dull skin when we’re especially looking to glow this time of year.”
She suggests exfoliating two or three times per week to let your skin breathe before applying your favorite antioxidant serums and eye creams (extra-important for all the squinting we do in the summer). Both sisters recommend choosing a chemical exfoliant over a physical one to reduce the risk of irritation. Plus, chemical exfoliants can help combat the overproduction of oil in your T-zone, reduce pore size, and even out skin tone.
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