My friend Audrey Ducas grew up in Provence and is now a textile designer in New York. She’s also one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. (Recently she came over to teach me yoga when I felt shy about going to a class!) Here, she shares her beauty secrets, including the drink that makes her glow and how French girls achieve that perfect bed head…

What’s your everyday beauty routine?
As soon as I wake up, I focus on setting the tone for my day—which means getting excited for the possibilities (as ordinary as they may be) by doing breathing exercise and meditation. I also drink hot water with lemon juice before breakfast. As far as products, I use only Castille soap for both my face and body. I drink a ton of mineral water and eat foods rich in Omega-3 (lots of fish!), which is most likely why my skin stays naturally hydrated most of the time. If my skin does feel dry, especially in the wintertime, I apply a little bit of coconut oil. I also recently started to use Thayers Witch Hazel toner, which I’m loving. It feels fresh and makes my skin feel cleaner and much smoother.

Do you have any favorite “splurge” items?
My favorite splurge products are French mineral water and tasty green juices. I always buy a lot of those, and it’s a big treat. I feed my body good food and good thoughts, which I hope shows on the outside!

What makeup do you wear?
I have light eyelashes so I wear mascara which makes my eyes pop. Just doing that immediately makes me feel dressed up. I use this Clinique mascara, which you can easily wash off with warm water. I also wear an orangey-red nail polish color (Meet Me at the Sunset) on my toes. Seeing a bright color on my feet makes me happy!

How would you describe your personal style?
I love yoga, and I love feeling free to go sit on the floor randomly during the day and do some asanas (postures) without worrying about my outfit feeling tight. I also love wearing boyish clothing; for example, I’ll mix a pair of skinny jeans with a man’s shirt and sneakers. I actually often feel much more feminine this way than if I wear a cute dress with heels.

The million-dollar question: How do French girls get their hair to look so perfectly…messy?
Many of my French girlfriends have this messy chic style. The key is to care about not caring, haha! It’s about brushing your hair very very little or not at all, and not doing anything else to it. I think it also has a lot to do with finding the perfect haircut that fits your hair texture. It’s also very important not to wash your hair too often. You leave your hair in its natural state.

What do you do to care for your hair?
I use baking soda with apple cider vinegar to rinse my hair, or a chemical-free shampoo called Stonybrook Botanicals. I rarely use a blow dryer and use a big tooth comb. I’ve heard that brushing your hair when it’s wet can break it but combing doesn’t. I also love using a comb because it’s very convenient to carry when you travel.

What’s your nighttime routine?
Before bed I like taking a very hot shower. I drink water, read some inspiring books or articles and often hang out on my head a bit: a headstand really helps slow down your breathing which is very relaxing before going to sleep.

Do you have a signature scent?
Although I come from a culture where people wear a lot of perfume (more than in America), I choose to wear essential oils instead. I love smells like amber, ginger and rose. I often wear rose water or rose essential oil. When I do, it’s always a hit. A lot of my girlfriends are now wearing the same thing: Isis Fragrance. It smells amazing. The key is not to put too much, though. The more delicate, the better.

Do you think French women have a different attitude towards scent than American women?
Generally I think American women might wear less perfume than French women. In France you’ll go into people’s bathrooms and often see a few perfume options, often from fancy fashion brands that create very strong scents. It seems to me that the American approach is less involved, fewer people wear perfume, and when they do it’s much more subtle.


What products do you always carry with you during the day?
I never leave home without my Acure lip balm. It makes my lips soft, and it smells like dark chocolate and mint! I even took a few on a recent trip to Asia. It’s always near me.

What did your mother—or aunts or grandmothers—teach you about beauty?
I watched my mother simply be herself. Although she and I have quite different styles (she wears makeup and heels every day which looks great on her; I’ve always been kind of a tomboy), I realized being beautiful and feminine is more of an attitude rather than the kind of makeup or clothing you wear. It’s about being kind, present, enthusiastic and authentic, which I think my mother has always been. I also often heard, especially from my grandmother: “Drink a lot of water and eat a lot of lettuce, and you’ll look great.” I still do it—greens and water are my favorite things!

What’s one beauty trick every French girl knows?
Soaking the tip of your fingers in lemon juice mixed with water will make your nails look healthy and beautiful. It whitens them and apparently removes nail stains. I grew up seeing women saving the rinds of lemons after squeezing them and then rubbing them on their nails. I actually got into the habit of doing it, too.

What are some French trends or tricks you wish would catch on in the U.S.?
In Paris, pretty much everyone wears scarves. Someone can be dressed very simply and have this little touch around their neck of a material that has an interesting texture, pattern or color. It’s a small detail that can change someone’s whole look.

How about exercise? What kind of movement makes you feel your best?
I exercise almost every day, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. I do a mix of cardio, dance and yoga. It goes way beyond sculpting my body (although I like feeling fit); I love challenging myself with little personal goals such as being able to get into a new posture or do new moves. It’s very empowering. I also love outdoor activities, like hiking and riding bikes. I want to know that I’m physically ready for a difficult hike at all times. That actually happened a few months ago: During what I thought would be a trip focused on yoga and meeting textile artisans in India, I ended up going to Nepal and trekking in the challenging Himalayas. I was grateful I had a fairly fit body!

Have you ever tried any really “out-there” beauty methods?
I’ve tried a few DIY treatments to moisturize my hair: egg yolks, olive oil, coconut oil. But where I’ve experimented most is with diets; I really pushed the envelope for a few years. I believe experience is our best teacher. Everyone has very different needs and desires, and the journey isn’t always fast and easy towards knowing what suits you best. You often never know until you try! I’ve tried macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan, Ayurveda, raw foods and Paleo diets. It’s been fun and insightful. I learned so much and experimenting led me to find my balance with a varied and healthy palette of foods that I truly enjoy.

Last but certainly not least: do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
A woman is at her most beautiful when she’s kind, lively and imaginative, goes through life consciously and stays authentic, however she looks. Being true to oneself, with a willingness to question things, take risks (emotional as well as physical), learn, change and grow is my motto. Smiling and having fun along the way is key: the happier you feel, the more beautiful you look!

Thank you so much, Audrey! We love you!

P.S. Eight more beauty uniforms, and a genius hair trick.

(Photos provided by Audrey Ducas; interview by Caroline Donofrio)