Beauty à la Parisienne
How to achieve that je ne sais quoi of effortless allure? Skincare expert Xavier des Caulières divulges his secret sources in Paris.
There’s a distinctively French concept of beauty that’s unlike that of any other place: Think of the strength of Marianne, the sex appeal of Brigitte Bardot, the grace of Catherine Deneuve. French beauty feels effortless, timeless, subtle—and most of all, natural. It’s born from a belief that women should work with what they have, not what they want to have. “What we want is to be ourselves—not a better version of ourselves,” is how French makeup artist Violette recently put it to Vogue.
So how can those not fortunate enough to have been born French achieve the look? We asked Xavier des Caulières for a few tips. Born and raised in the Loire countryside, he founded all-natural skincare company Maison Caulières in 2011, using plants grown on his family’s estate since the 1700s. “We’ve been extracting oils for 250 years, using them for cooking,” des Caulières says. “My father was putting oil in bottles every day. One day he realized that his skin was improving—it was soft and smooth to the touch.”
Des Caulières initially intended to join the priesthood, but an epiphany in the seminary garden led him down a different path. Planting flowers one day brought back childhood memories of working at the family farm—“exactly like Proust’s madeleines,” he says—and des Caulières decided to bring his family’s essential oils to the wider world. He maintains a steadfast commitment to wholesome formulations. “Imagine the trust and confidence you can have in a product when you can eat all the ingredients,” says des Caulières. “I want to share what nature has to give us in its most powerful and beautiful expression.”
Maison Caulières products appear in some of Paris’s most esteemed addresses, including The Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, which supplies the company’s soaps and lotions in guest rooms. (Coincidentally, Des Caulières’s first visit to the hotel was at age five, helping his father deliver a truckload of heritage-breed chickens to the kitchen for a state dinner.) Now living in Paris, des Caulières shares his favorite spots where women—and men—can discover the secrets of French beauty, au naturel.
At this “amazing” store in the 2nd arrondissement, near the Rue Montorgueil, parfumiers craft a custom scent for each client, based on the results of a diagnostic exam that evaluates skin type and olfactory preferences. “The test reveals your secret formula,” says des Caulières. Nose: 20 rue Bachaumont; +33 40-26-46-03
Liquides, Bar à Parfum
Open since 2013, Liquides sells a curated selection of fragrances in a striking, gray-toned boutique in the Marais. From behind a brass counter, expert attendants advise customers on the ideal scent—much the same way that mixologists suggest the perfect drink. Liquides, Bar à Parfum: 9 rue de Normandie; +33 9-66-94-77-06
Le Labo Marais
Des Caulières makes regular stops at the Marais outpost of this cult purveyor of scents and bath products. “I use their perfumes daily,” he says, choosing between Santal 33, Thé Noir 29 or Vetiver 46 “according to my mood. I must admit that I sometimes use their body oils in the same scents. I love them!” Le Labo Marais: 7 rue Froissart; +33 44-61-55-32
Des Caulières recommends this “unavoidable and unmissable” concept store in the Marais for niche bodycare and bath products—like their ruby-hued poppy soap—along with home goods and clothing. “You can spend a few minutes or a whole afternoon there, enjoying the beauty of the place and reading books in the library with a coffee.” Merci: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais; +33 42-77-00-33
Le Printemps de la Beauté
The legendary department store Printemps, founded in the 1860s, remains “an institution,” says des Caulières, especially after its radical renovation last year. More recently, it introduced a temple to all things beauty, housed in a three-story building across from the main store. Separate floors are devoted to makeup, fragrance, and beauty services. “It became modern and trendy, and made me like department stores again,” says des Caulières of the space, designed by Milanese architect Antonio Citterio. Le Printemps de la Beauté: 61 rue de Caumartin; +33 42-82-50-00
In the heart of the Marais, newcomer Codage creates bespoke products for skin following a thorough exam, similar to how Nose approaches fragrance. Des Caulières loves the “efficient experience,” not only for the resulting formulations but for the store’s beautiful design. Codage: 8 rue du Trésor; +33 40-27-80-09
On the pedestrian-only Rue des Barres, tucked behind the 15th-century St. Gervais church in the Marais, Monastica sells a range of goods made at monasteries and convents all over France. Des Caulières loves the selection of bath products, including centuries-old recipes of essential oils, floral and herbal waters, and soaps. “They’re all pure, for your body and soul,” he says. Monastica Art et Artisanat: 10 rue des Barres; +33 48-04-39-05
Oh My Cream
This local chain has six peach-toned boutiques in Paris, each selling “a very precise selection of ultra-niche, targeted brands” of bath products, says des Caulières. He goes to its Montmartre location for Rahua Amazonian shampoo and the Lebon “White” toothpaste, made with ethically-sourced, all-natural ingredients. Oh My Cream: 4 rue des Abbesses; +33 9-86-24-36-51
An all-organic bakery that has long supplied hip restaurants throughout Paris, has more recently opened several cafés of its own. Des Caulières heads to the original, in the 9th arrondissement, for its seasonal menus of sandwiches, salads, soups and baked goods—all of them entirely organic. “You can bring back their recipes and try them for yourself at home, too,” he adds. Café Marlette: 51 rue des Martyrs; +33 48-74-89-73
Des Caulières sends fitness fanatics to this athletic club near the Opéra Garnier, which he describes as “stylish, glamorous and confidential.” The full-service gym offers dozens of classes and state-of-the-art equipment, plus spa services in partnership with Clarins. L’Usine Opéra: 8 rue de la Michodière; +33 42-66-30-30