I feel that the North American dream we are all chasing is the myth of eternal youth. The amount of money we have spent in the USA alone on the beauty industry is in the billions, and the fever over what is next feels almost like a scramble. The desire to never show a wrinkle, to always be perfectly coifed, to have your makeup always look airbrushed to perfection. I'll admit I have fallen prey myself, to this unrealistic set of expectations, from time to time.

And on the flip side of this conversation is our endless fixation on the effortlessly cool of the Parisian woman. So where is the disconnect for us?  I have boiled it down to two simple things: societal pressure and personal attitude. The movies that are filmed here, the magazines, the advertisements, the social media that makes it appear that life is perfect, everything is perfect, everyone looks perfect - its all fake. But it has been forced on us, and we believe if we buy the product, if we wear the makeup, if we erase our wrinkles, that we can be perfect, too.

And then again, we gaze jealously over how incredible french women are, how chic and perfectly undone Parisian women are, how their style and attitudes only get better as they age. The lessons learned: each wrinkle has been earned by joyful smiles, by the stains of grief, by days in the sun. The need to erase the life you have lived off of your face is a foolish errand. The narrative I always hear from my French friends is to celebrate who you are, enjoy being unique, and if it makes you happy, it can't be bad. A bare face, wrinkles and all, always looks good with a classic red lip. Good skincare is key. And, societies beauty standards are a trap.

Generally speaking, French women do take very good care of their skin, which is often why they are more than willing to let their bare face be the star of the show. Careful attention appears to be taken in using moisturizing cream on their faces and necks. And every Parisian seems to have a least one hydrating mist in their arsenal at all times.

A good look through any pharmacy in France is an indication of the differences. The pharmacies themselves are intimate and beautifully appointed. The staff already know what you want or need just from a quick chat and a look at your skin. To contrast, our drug stores are fluorescently lit and lined with a million products that all claim to do the same thing - but each one promises to be better than the last.

As I enter the often fragile state of middle age, and my face is starting to show my life's journey, I am hoping I can take these lessons with me. It is all in our attitude, after all. 

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Sarah Guenter
Tagged: beauty