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September 9, 2009

Foreign Beauty Report: Paris

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Photo Credit: Allied Artists/Fotos International/Getty Images

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While biweekly blowouts are as foreign to French women as monthlong holidays are to Americans, hair and scalp treatments—at hair clinics like Institut Leonor Greyl—count as regular monthly maintenance. I check into colorist Christophe Robin's suite in the luxe Hôtel Le Meurice, the new salon destination for the likes of Lou Doillon and Audrey Tautou. Here, an incredible conditioning scalp massage is coupled with the most pristine buffed-nail manicure I've ever had (no cheesy French manicures!). I leave with a refreshed bounce to my previously limp hair.

Afterward, I stop by the eclectic studio of Odile Gilbert, the country's most celebrated female hairstylist. Gilbert—a longtime collaborator with designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld, and creator of the outsize wigs in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette—has recently opened her private atelier to public clients. The outspoken artiste shares this advice: "French women love to be natural. That means not washing your hair every day—even if you exercise. A little sweat is OK." Translation: Klorane Dry Shampoo (her staple, in addition to Aveda Pure Abundance powder and Camellia wood combs).

The French are currently obsessed with organic everything.

Stockpiled with everything from hair tools to wrinkle creams and vitamins, pharmacies here are a beauty junkie's nirvana—and a convenient one-stop shop for locals. I enter the revered Pharmacie Swann across from the Tuileries Garden and hand over a laundry list of European must-haves. As I pore over the wall of copious Parisian toothpastes, a friendly woman in a white lab coat gathers my wares, including Citrate de Bétaïne (the ultimate hangover cure), Biafine ointment (a skin-soothing panacea), and Créaline H2O makeup remover (a backstage fave). I'm in and out in 10 minutes flat.

My favorite way to shop is at the city's intimate boutiques, many of which carry well-edited fashion and lifestyle goods alongside beauty finds. My credit card gets a workout at Merci (run by the couple who founded posh baby brand Bonpoint), where there's an Annick Goutal custom-blend perfume bar, and at Mon Soin du Visage, a chic boutique that sells organic soaps and serums, run by a Japanese expat.

>> NEXT PAGE: THE REAL REASON FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT.


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