From Tina Kunakey to Éléonore Léo Jeanne to Jeanne Damas to Sabina Socol to the magical Sharon Alexie – E.—French women (and their seriously amazing strands) own our heart. And it’s not just us. When I reached out to some of the best hairstylists in the business recently for story research, countless references and trend forecasts were attributed to French women and their je ne sais quoi hair antics. But what exactly is said je ne sais quoi, and why are we perpetually in awe (and honestly, somewhat annoyed) that French women never seem to have a bad hair day? That’s what I intended to find out when I interviewed some of the best Paris-based hairstylists in all the land. For starters, French women aren’t preoccupied with the possibility of having a bad hair day to begin with. Does less pressure breed better hair? Maybe they’re on to something. Ahead, I’m sharing 10 of the most glaring reasons French women seem to have perpetually beautiful strands. Keep scrolling to steal some of their best-kept secrets.
“I think that the American girls are more picky about their hair than the Frenchies,” French hairstylist and colorist Laurie Zanoletti shares right off the bat. Their routines are more on-point and meticulous than ours—as French girls, we prefer a light, undone-done look, instead.” That said, as fellow French hairstylist Olivier de Vriendt points out, French women love “natural, free hair,” but that “undone” look still has to be cleverly styled. “It’s all about natural and glamorous elegance.”
“French women love treatments—masks, lightweight oils, and serums—to care for their hair as they do for their skin,” de Vriendt explains. “They want to be natural and beautiful.” Zanoletti agrees, saying that when it comes to the products and tools French women specifically prioritize, you’d find things like beach sprays, the aforementioned lightweight oils, and maybe a straightener or curling iron to just give the hair a touch of “perfect, natural, and chic texture.”
When I asked both de Vriendt and Zanoletti what types of hair products or tools French women never use, they both mentioned hairspray straight away. “French women rarely use strong hairsprays and fixing products that freeze the hairstyle,” de Vriendt confirms. Zanoletti continues that this kind of spray is also just pretty foreign to most French women who want a relaxed look. “Even more so, many French women don’t really know what type of spray to get, how much to put in, etc. We keep it simple!” she laughs.
Unlike the U.S. where clip-ins almost feel like a kind of hair currency (and no carpet would be complete without them!), Zanoletti says the hair trend is a lot less prolific in France and for the most part, French women don’t really go for them. Again, there’s the fact that they inherently go against the natural and low-maintenance vibe they strive for, and Zanoletti says there’s also less knowledge about how to apply them or use them.
For French women with thin hair, both Zanoletti and de Vriendt recommend opting for less product but prioritizing formulas that inherently encourage volume while still working with your naturally thin texture. Again, the goal isn’t to change the look of the hair; it’s to work with the magic you already have going on. “My hair routine for thin hair includes a volume shampoo to help ‘detach’ and lift the strands along the hairline,” explains Zanoletti. “Apply a thick amount to the base of the hair. Next, I dry the hair in the opposite direction to increase volume and body and then use a texture spray to get some volume at the ends and encourage some natural bend and wave to make it look natural and chic.” Not into texture sprays? De Vriendt says dry shampoo also works brilliantly. “The secret to fine hair is to enhance the natural texture—you can also use a tool like the Steampod 3.0 from L’Oreal Professional.” (Ed note: This amazing heat styling tool works brilliantly for all hair thicknesses and textures by the way.)
Though flat irons have started to make a resurgence stateside thanks to the sleek, pin-straight hair vibes the Kardashians and Hadids have made famous, there was a while there where curling irons and wands reigned supreme in terms of styling and what was “cool” in American hair . That said, flat irons are the ultimate styling sidekick for French women—regardless of texture or hair thickness. As noted above, both Zanoletti and de Vriendt love the tool for creating the illusion of more body and way for French women with fine hair, and it’s also a strategic PIC for women with thick hair as it can lend some control when you’re styling big, beautiful locks. “For thick hair, I always apply a cream or oil first to help give strands some discipline before styling,” explains Zanoletti. “Then, I go in with a little straightener to tame the volume.”
That said, French women with curly hair know the secret to making their waves and coils reach their full potential is to let the natural airdry process work its magic. Maybe use a diffuser, but according to Zanoletti, it’s best to let nature do it’s work with you curls and simply help the process along with a few key product formulas. “For curly hair, I recommend washing the curls and then add a cream or oil spray to help give as much definition as possible,” Zanoletti instructs. “Let your hair air dry without any heat tools to make it as natural as possible or, if absolutely necessary, use a diffuser. For Frenchies, I like to twist hair by hair and use wave spray to let the curls define naturally.”
“French women are very focused on the quality of the products they use,” explains French hairstylist Harold James. “The most important factor for them is that their hair is healthy. On the other hand, my American clients want their hair to look healthy. A great brush is one of their favorite hair products as it helps leave their hair shiny and bouncy, in addition to things like silicone-free shampoo, a conditioner, a dry shampoo, and a dry oil.”
Yes, really. Even though falling asleep with our hair wet is one of the biggest hair don’ts we’re taught, according to James, it’s actually the effort-free secret for that signature French bedhead look. Then, all you’ll need is some dry shampoo in the morning to finish. “French women with thin hair are addicted to their dry shampoo to create some volume and texture,” James shares. “To have this French-girl bedhead, simply wash your hair before bed and sleep on damp hair. You’ll get that naturally tousled texture and gorgeous body.”
“For thick hair, especially, I’ll make a crazy bun like Brigitte Bardot with some small hairs here and there,” Zanoletti shares.
Up next, The French Beauty Capsule: 15 Items Every Beauty Lover Has to Try In Their Life. This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated.