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September 9, 2009

Foreign Beauty Report: Paris

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The real reason French women don't get fat: They're masters of detox—tinctures, teas, weekly spa treatments. Plus, in hiking the subways, walking (briskly, even in heels), and cycling the streets, they amass heaps of incidental exercise.

So in addition to cruising to my appointments on two wheels, I check into the Orlane, Darphin, and Payot spas for a variety of slimming treatments. In each 90-minute session, I'm kneaded, buffed, and steamed into submission and, hence, purged of "toxins" (and, I hope, all the butter I've ingested this week). When in doubt, ask for Thalassotherapy (a detoxifying seawater soak—covered by French health insurance!) and hoard the wellness blends from Kusmi Tea.

All the spa- and shop-hopping eats away at my time for lunch—a meal, I've noticed, French women often skip (another secret to staying slim).

The purpose for all the detoxing, of course, is to temper the culture's affinity for indulging. (Cheese! Wine! Baguettes! It's no surprise that Marie Antoinette was the one to popularize chocolate in its solid form—she wanted to eat it on the go, naturally.) However, the best way to satiate a sweet tooth comes from the storied Parisian bakery Ladurée, famous for its colorful macaroons in flavors like jasmine-mango and salted butter caramel. (Unlike sugar-addicted Americans, French women enjoy desserts in moderation—i.e., one macaroon at a time.) Thankfully, when I stop by the shop at the end of the week, I come across a guilt-free way to enjoy them: Ladurée's six sweet new skin treatments—infused with almond oil, a patisserie staple, and topped with a macaroon-shaped lid.

After five days in Paris, I make like a local and catch the TGV to Provence for the weekend—eye cream and detox tea in hand. After all, the key to living the French paradox is balance—and there's a lot of rosé and chèvre where I'm headed.

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