Anti-aging & beauty secrets from French fashion icon Julie de Libran

Beautiful skin, expressive clothes, chic and fit … how do French women do it? Paris-native Julie de Libran spills her best advice. (Sadly, though, it’s not: ‘eat more croissants.’)

Julie de Libran, artistic director of  Sonia Rykiel. Lea Crespi | LUZ | Redux Pictures

With yet another Fashion Week in full swing, all eyes are on Paris right now. And, while we’re loving the parade of Parisian fashion—with all those stunning models and chic front-rowers—we’re also a tad, well … jealous. How is it that French women seem to be so effortless, slim and chic, no matter their age? And how do they all look so naturally young?

These are questions non-French women have been asking for years. But, today, one such flawless French lady, fashion designer and artistic director of Sonia Rykiel, Julie de Libran, is giving us answers. In a recent New York Times article, de Libran, who is 44 (but looks closer to 35), spilled her beauty secrets for aging gracefully and always looking her best. Naturally, we took notes:

1. Treat you skin with kindness, and tonic

First and foremost, de Libran swears against using soap on her face. “I’ve been told you shouldn’t use soap in the morning. It’s too aggressive. Obviously, when I take my shower, I put my head in the water, but I don’t use soap.” Instead, she recommends using a tonic from Paris-based skincare line Joelle-Ciocco, whose products range from about $35 and up.

She also believes in vitamins. “One thing I’ve learned recently is that taking different vitamins helps nourish the skin. You can go to the French pharmacies here and find a beauty supplement. I find that if I take it regularly, my skin is moisturized from the inside, and it looks as if I’ve gone on holiday.” Year-round vacation skin? That’s incentive to stock up at the local vitamin shop. (Look for those with Vitamin C, D and E for healthy skin.)

2. Don’t wear a lot of makeup

As we age, we’re often tempted to put on more and more makeup to “cover up” our flaws or hide our wrinkles, but de Libran’s regime suggests that just makes us look older. “I don’t wear a lot [of makeup],” she says, “but what I do is put on a BB cream as a base.” She recommends Ren Satin Perfection BB Cream ($38, Ren Clean Skincare). She’ll also put on luminizer for a natural extra glow: “For everyday, I’ve been using the RMS Luminizer for years with nothing on my cheeks.” The secret to applying it, she says, is to only use it under and on the sides of her eyes.

3. It’s all in the eyes

Though her general rule is to keep makeup light, if de Libran is going out, she focuses on just adding a little something to her eyes. “I discovered this liquid liner that’s so easy to use. It’s from Charlotte Tilbury. And then on top, because I like a black eye with a smudged look, I use a Chanel or Sisley liner,” she said.

4. Eat that cheese, bread and wine … but exercise first

Like most women, de Libran admits that she needs to pay attention to her diet and her fitness together to stay healthy. “I’m vegetarian. I try to not have sugar. That’s the worst thing for me,” she says. But it’s all about balance: “If I’m exercising, then sometimes I can have my cheese and bread and wine at dinner.” So, if all else fails, just picture that delightful wedge of brie in your fridge as you run. By the time you come home, you’ll have earned it.

5. Positive energy

That’s right, age is all in the mind! Ms. de Libran indicates that how you feel mentally has a lot to do with how you look physically: “I also exercise for my head. It’s a way to liberate and get positive energy.” Once a week, she runs, and also switches things up with pilates and stretching sessions that help clear her head. The idea is to do fitness that makes you feel good as a whole, your body, and your brain. But she also admits that there’s a little American trick built into her French fitness regime, too: “I have a new trainer who is making me do things I hate, things I did at my American high school, like squats.”

Natalie van der Meer
Natalie van der Meer
Senior Editor Natalie van der Meer is a former editor for Redbook, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest and Allure, covering fashion, beauty, travel, family, book reviews, and much more. She lives in New York City.

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