No one lives the “less is more” lifestyle better than French girls, especially when it comes to beauty. Appearing in what seems like constant #wokeuplikethis state, they basically wrote the book on lazy girl hair and makeup — fingers through bedhead, a wash of foundation (if any) and maybe mascara + lip gloss to get out-the-door ready. So it comes as no surprise that the one makeup trend they swear off is one of the most heavy-handed techniques around, and one for which *we* American girls have become globally notorious: contouring.

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In a recent interview with The Cut, French makeup artist to the stars and consultant for Dior Violette (a woman apparently so chic she only goes by one name) gave her take on why French women just don’t contour. “The main beauty philosophy in France is to accept who you are,” she said.” That’s what makes the French look so specific. We just do a little. We want to keep it simple. Even if we don’t have the best cheekbones, we put the focus on our lips or lashes. Changing our face doesn’t appeal to us.”


Once reserved for red carpets, runways and photo shoots, contouring — a makeup technique used to shape and define your facial structure, like the Photoshop of makeup — has now become a part of many American girls everyday makeup routines. But no one can really say why. Our own beauty expert Misty Spinny labeled it “extreme makeup” and something that is “wholly unrealistic” for the average Jane to master (even if you’re using Kim Kardashian West’s famous contouring selfie as a cheat sheet). That’s because getting the look is a process involving multiple products, precise application and tedious blending — hardly the busy girl-approved 5-minute face.

Makeup artist Nick Barose took it one step further in a in a recent interview with The Cut, saying “to me, real-life makeup and photo-shoot makeup are two totally different things,” largely because of the light source, which is fully controlled on set. He went on, “Just as you’re not going to wear stilettos to the beach (unless maybe you are on a TV show), it’s the same with makeup. In real life, if you walk around with too much contour, it will cast a shadow under your eyes. Too much white concealer under the eyes is too bright, although it’s meant to be correcting. You can’t just give yourself a new face. People start to expect too much of makeup.” Just watch Amy Schumer’s hilarious One Direction-style parody of popular beauty standards to see that sentiment brought to life.


Violette says that transformative view of makeup is a main distinction between French girl beauty and that stateside, “Here in America, you accept the best version of yourself. In France, it’s like, this is the way I am. Me, without artifice.” According to Violette, there isn’t even a French word for “contour.” It makes us wonder if Instagram filters are even a thing in France.


So what can you do to give your complexion that extra oomph without going overboard? If you *do* want to play with highlighting and shadowing, we recommend our ultra pared-down version of contouring, or polishing your features with our four-step base makeup tutorial. Or, do as the French girls do and give yourself a “glow-y texture” with just one product. Violette said, “I use a metallic cream (like Dior’s Glow Maximizer). We can put it on the bridge of the nose, cupid’s bow, and cheekbones to catch the light. We also like more fresh blush — it’s more in the center or on the bones to help sculpt. And brows give some structure to the face.”

Do you contour your everyday face? Tell us what your daily makeup routine looks like in the comments below.

(Photo via Stephen Lovekin/Getty)