I’m not an American by any means. I was born in Israel and have lived most of my life in Canada, spending no more than a few days a year in the US to visit and shop. And still, one thing I can tell about our neighbours to the south is that they don’t like to be insulted by a non-American for being American (or anything else, for that matter).
If you are an American citizen and the description above fits, you may want to stay away from “The French Beauty Solution” by Mathilde Thomas. Mathilde is the founder of Caudalie, a high-end French-inspired skin care brand that retails at Sephora and Nordstrom. I have previously used and enjoyed quite a few of their products and thought that this new book would explore the brand’s history and inspiration a little – I was wrong.
This book, published by Avery this summer, instead focuses on what Mathilde perceives to be the French approach to beauty (the French-born entrepreneur now lives in New York); skin care, body care, hair care, fine fragrance, makeup and even lifestyle are discussed in separate chapters that include “French Beauty Secrets” and recipes for at-home cosmetics. What I find utterly ridiculous, however, is that Mathilde assumes all Frenchwomen (she indeed refers only to ladies in this book – gentlemen in France apparently care not for any of this stuff) are identical in their style and approach to life. She claims that all Frenchwomen wear minimal makeup and naturally colored and styled hair, which I laugh at because just the other day I met an elderly Parisian lady wearing dark green eye shadow and bright red lipstick (and a fur coat!). Other bizarre notions are that the French do not eat processed foods, are meticulous about their skin care (at the same time she repeatedly and contradictorily stresses that they are lazier than Americans, who in reality cleanse and moisturize at best), and drink tons of red wine with every meal. Okay, maybe that last part is true, but the amount of assuming that goes on within these pages drove me bananas. Not everyone is the same, and a beauty company should know than better than anyone and embrace it.
However, if you can get past the chapters that do nothing but reason all American women want to be exactly like some mythically-perfect Frenchwomen, this book does have an extensive chapter on skin care ingredients which everyone could benefit from browsing and is in fact quite informative. The recipes included for at-home masks are also quite intuitive for a book of this kind; however, it makes me question just why the Caudalie range is so expensive when its owner recommends at-home remedies instead…
The cover of “The French Beauty Solution” boasts of the 3-Day Grape Detox, which I admit I never heard of before. Turns out that for about three centuries people have eaten nothing but grapes for weeks and months to cure everything from gout to cancer. Mathilde doesn’t outright say that this works, but promotes a three-day grapes-only diet to improve energy levels instead. I’m no dietician, but I vaguely remember being taught in school to eat a balanced variety of foods every day. If you do attempt this detox, please let me know how it works out. I’d love to know! I will say that for all that I disliked about the content, the book is well-organized and the illustrations in every chapter are pretty to look at.
Verdict: This book provided a disappointing read as a North-American beauty junkie interested in learning more about a good brand. There are a fair bit of plugs for Caudalie in the book, but nothing like an in-depth exploration of how it came to be as I had hoped (I’m referring to “The Bear Necessities of Business” by Build-a-Bear Workshop CEO Maxine Clark for comparison). I suppose the skin care ingredients chapter and the recipes are a good bonus, but for the price of $32 you could not only look them up online but also probably make a good few of them. I think I’ll stick to just Mathilde’s potions and creams for now – that seems to be what she’s best at. Thank you to Avery for providing me this copy for review!
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