There is chic and then there is French makeup artist Violette. She of the rumpled curtain bangs and scarlet lips has a thing for daily face massages and Sézane knits. Even her baby shower was chic—a pretty pink fête thrown by none other than Emily Weiss.
On the phone, she is as bouncy and delightful as crème chantilly. I imagine her lounging barefoot in her dreamy Brooklyn brownstoneas we chat about all things beauty. She goes on to spill the secrets to her Rive Gauche tousles and assures me we can all channel our inner Godard muse.
What do you think the main differences are between the French and North American beauty aesthetics?
“One thing that’s really great about the North American aesthetic is that there’s so much more diversity. I feel like in France, we all look the same: red lipstick, messy hair, white shirt, blue jeans. It’s kind of our uniform. On the good side, I’d say we’re very lucky because in my country, we’re raised as little girls to think that we’re perfect the way we are. If somebody thinks we’re not beautiful, then we should be happy to know that because we can simply cut this person from our life. We don’t have to change for this person, we just don’t live around them. So we use beauty as a way to celebrate who we are. If we’re missing a little bit of definition in the face or we don’t have tons of lashes, that’s just the way it is. We’re going to use makeup to style ourselves, not pretend we’re plastic surgeons.”
What’s the French approach to skincare?
“It goes back to how we’re brought up. Mother nature made you perfect, so you need to take care of this, because you’re not going to use makeup to hide. So, what do you do? You take care of what you have, which is why skincare is super important to French girls.”
What’s your skincare routine like?
“It’s everything but effortless! As women, we have very busy lives, so we don’t have time to meditate, read a book, be the perfect human we want to be, so I like to at least try to put this intention in routine moments like getting dressed, taking a shower, brushing my hair and doing my makeup. You can have this one moment twice a day in your life where it’s about cherishing yourself. That’s why I really take my time and take pleasure in caring for my skin. I massage a makeup remover on my skin for a few minutes and then rinse it off with lots of water. I also can’t live without my Biologique Recherche P50 lotion. Then, I use Advanced Night Repair (Violette is Estée Lauder’s global beauty director), which is my must-have. I use it as a serum but also as a topcoat on my makeup because it brings back some dewiness. And then in the morning, I do the same routine, but I cleanse a bit less because during the night your skin produces oil that is actually good for you. So I just splash water on my face when I’m in the shower.”
Moving on to makeup, how do you perfect your complexion while maintaining a natural look?
“French women use concealer or foundation only in small touches instead of all over. I really like Double Wear because it’s buildable and stays put all day. It doesn’t migrate, so you don’t have to think about it, which French women love because we’re very lazy [laughs]. It’s quick and we can use it as a concealer or as a skin perfector with our fingers to brighten the face. And then, if we have dark circles around our eyes, we might want to keep them because it kind of looks like eyeshadow and we like that.”
What about things like highlight and contour?
“We don’t use contouring at all. We like to add light instead of shadows, using highlighter, again in light touches, on the cheekbones and high planes of the face. I’m not a huge fan of super heavy metallic highlighter. They look cool on Instagram, but not so much in real life. I prefer something dewy, so it still looks like skin. You don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, your highlighter is great.’ You want them to say, ‘Oh, your skin texture is amazing.’”
Red lipstick is synonymous with French beauty, of course. What’s your trick to make it look cool rather than too “done?”
“The focus is to look effortless, so we’re always looking for balance. If we’re wearing a red lip, then we’re not going to have a lot of foundation on our skin. If we’re doing smoky eyes, maybe the hair is going to be messy, so that it looks un-perfect. We don’t like to look like we’re put together. I think that’s our rebellious side!”
What’s your go-to red?
“I’m a huge fan of liquid lipstick because I’m lazy and I love to put it on and forget about it. The other good thing is that the applicator is usually perfectly designed to fit the lips, so you don’t need a lip pencil or brush, which makes life so much easier. I’ve tried all the formulas on the planet, and the Estée Lauder one is the best, no question. They have a colour called Quiet Riot, which is my go-to.”
Let’s talk about eyes. You do these bold shadows and metallic liners on Instagram and they somehow always look effortless. What’s your secret?
“Thank you! I think that if the technique is effortless, then you will look effortless. Use your fingers when you’re applying, for example, a crazy blue eyeshadow. As soon as we use brushes or clean the eyeshadow with a Q-tip, or highlight the brow bone, it looks really sharp and too done. I like doing my makeup like a child, just putting my finger in the colour and rubbing it on my eyelid. I think that’s key. The other thing, again, is balance. If your makeup is strong, your hair should be easy. If you’re wearing a lot of eyeshadow, keep your base really light and don’t wear anything on your lips. Focus on one thing and forget about the rest.”
On the topic of easy hair, how do you go about scoring that great messy texture?
“I like to loosely braid my hair at night just so it doesn’t get too crazy and keeps a nice shape. I put a bit of oil in it so that the next morning when I remove the braid, I have waves that feel natural. I use Briogeo, which is totally clean. My hair absorbs all the oil, so it looks more healthy. I avoid using a lot of product because I have very thin hair, and if I put too much in, it looks heavy and kills the curls.”
I once read that you apply perfume before bed. Tell me about that!
“I do! I just think that it’s a moment where you’re with your partner in bed, and I don’t want to smell like toothpaste and makeup remover [laughs]. I want to smell a little sexier, you know? I’m very loyal to perfume, and that’s why I created one with the brand In Fiore in December. I did a solid perfume, which is completely organic. It’s called Baisers de Jasmin and it has a little mirror, so you can use it to do your makeup on the go as well.”
What are some other products you swear by?
“The Aveda lip balm. It’s called the Lip Saver and it’s the best thing on Earth. And the Bariéderm Cica Cream from Uriage. In my first trimester of pregnancy, I got a rash on my skin, so I started using this rescue cream. When your skin is irritated or sensitive and you can’t tolerate anything, this is what you use.”
Aveda Lip Saver, $14, aveda.ca
You get to design seasonal collections for Estée Lauder as the brand’s global beauty director. What’s your creative process like?
“I start by trying to project myself into the season I’m working on. How do I feel? How do women feel? What do we want to do? What do we want to wear? For the last collection, I did all these glitters and eye glosses and colours, because I feel like fall and winter is a time where you crave that. But in the springtime, I feel like we just want to take our clothes off and take our makeup off and run naked in a field! We’re so sick of winter. So that was the mood for this collection. My goal was to make sure that every woman had the perfect highlighter. I made a copper highlighter that’s beautiful on darker skin tones and looks much more natural than yellowy gold ones.”