My French Beauty Uniform: Audrey Ducas

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)

  1. I had to do a comment on this and say thank you to you Jo and to Audrey. I was so inspired by this post and at a point of frustration with my beauty routine that didn’t feel like ‘me’. So I bought the Dr. Bronners soap, the witch hazel toner and the clay mask. All of which have done wonders to my skin and thus my spirit. Great, affordable, natural products. I too used to wash my hair rarely and just let it do what it wanted but got caught up in the corporate world and had been straightening and over-washing and I hated it. I’m back to my natural hair now and love it. Cheers!

  2. My favorite! This post was so inspiring! I particularly love Audrey’s thoughts on when a woman is at her most beautiful.

  3. Just wanted to share that I tried the mud mask that Audrey recommended (which can be found at Whole Foods) and it is amazing. Please pass along my gratitude to her for recommending something that is natural and good for the skin. I felt like my face was glowing last night!

  4. I love this series! So fun to read!

  5. I just love so much this series! It’s been lovely to read about Audrey! :)

  6. Great series! Thank you, Joanna. Keep it up! :)

  7. I love her natural approach to life and beauty. Thank you for this series, I always set time away to really read through the beauty secrets of these inspiring women. Definitely trying that clay mask once my Aveda one is gone!

  8. So lovely. I love the DIY treatments. I recently discovered I have some not so fun allergies (including fragrance) and it has been a trip repurchasing all new makeup and body products. Combined with accepting my post-baby body, the last few weeks have definitely been full of self-discovery.

  9. Thank you Audrey and Jo for this lovely post! :)

  10. I keep thinking of and coming back to this post. What she says is so true and resonant! (Also, just tried lemon on the nails; it works!)

  11. So inspired to do “french girl hair” now! I did it while on holidays over Christmas. I had no maintenance beach hair and it looked amazing. I don’t know why I thought I had to go back to blow drying and curling and maintenance when I got back to work? Anyway, I washed my hair this morning and combed it then let it air dry. It looks great! I can’t believe how much money and time I’ve been wasting! This is going to be my new year’s resolution and I bet it’s really easy to keep :) Thanks Jo and lovely Audrey!

  12. Simple and beautiful!

    Regarding the comb: I use an “extra wide tooth” comb and follow the “condition in the shower” trick (like @labeck). I have straight, thin hair but LOTS of it and it makes a huge difference.

  13. Perfect, authentic, beauty from within!

  14. I really enjoyed this post, especially what she says about femininity coming from your attitude, not necessarily what you wear or how you look. I just recently started dressing more put together, mostly because of work and going out to fancier places, and without really noticing, what I felt like wearing just went towards more feminine clothes. But I used to wear lots of t-shirts, jeans and sneakers and never really felt like a tomboy, and I don’t think others ever saw me that way either, because I’ve always had a “girly” attitude.

    At Michelle Baquie, I exercise 5 days a week, and I sweat a lot, even during weight training, and I just let my hair down so it air dries and recently started to apply dry shampoo between washes, but I guess it depends on how oily your hair is. Mine is very dry, and my sweat is kinda odorless, so my hair doesn’t really stink nor does it feel itchy after sweating.

  15. I love this series – I always have a full Amazon cart by the end! This one is very fitting for me now, as I’m on holiday in Paris for two weeks. Thanks Joanna + Audrey!

  16. I loved this post! Her beauty philosophy is so much like where I am right now, simplifying, not getting caught in a ton of products and going to basics and timeless pieces for clothes. Being authentic is something that is so consciously learned, I am working on that part..

  17. Thank you! This was very interesting, best beauty uniform yet. I liked that she didn’t list a lot of products but had a more holistic approach to beauty. Inspiring!

    Hanne M

  18. I love Audrey – had the privileged of working with her in NYC! What fun post – lovely lady. xx!

  19. I just had a look through the fiber art store on her website and am completely smitten with the textures ofthis piece. One day.

  20. Gorgeous woman inside and out!
    I love how effortless fashion is in france. I feel like we, as a culture, tend to try to hard in some aspects and not enough in others.

  21. This post was so so good! I am currently going through a metamorphosis (healthy body & mind) and I am learning so many new things. It is so true that when you Are true to yourself & live an inspiring life with gratitude & love, you tend to exude that energy to others. I have noticed many changes in my husband & daughter just because I am changing myself. The more beautiful & happier I feel, they quickly absorb my energy.

  22. What a beautiful interview! I love Audrey’s appreciation for the little things in life – like the orangey-red nail polish. Also, I’m tempted to try a head-stand before bed-time!

  23. I enjoy this series so much—every post introduces me to a new idea! Keep ’em coming, please! :)

  24. A woman after my own heart! Love the Beauty Uniform posts, this one in particular. Thank you for sharing, Audrey!

  25. I really loved this post , her view on life and beauty is inspiring and simply nice to see. Thank you!

  26. the best beauty uniform yet.

  27. Is she for real? So lovely…this one was like a love letter for Europe…as an American, whenever I have the pleasure to be in France, I always watch French women and think I have so much to learn about confidence!

  28. “Drink lots of water and eat lots of lettuce” is hands-down the best beauty advice I’ve ever heard! Made me smile hugely…

  29. jm says...

    She is just lovely.

  30. Wow, this article was so inspiring. Thanks Audrey!

  31. Wow, this makes me want to stop what I am doing, throw on a clay mask, drink some lemon water, and put on Enya while beginning my Sun Salutations.

    Gorgeous woman. Simple.

  32. Loved this post! Thanks Audrey :)

  33. I love your photographs! What do you use to edit them?

  34. I really enjoyed this post and reading about women who completely own their lives. From top to bottom she is so in tuned with who she is and what she wants. so inspiring! Plus she is more comfy as a tomboy…me too :)

  35. This has been my most favourite beauty post so far. I’m sure it has something to do with the simplicity and the focus on the internal qualities and less about spending large amounts of money on products. I felt incredibly inspired by this post and her routine, and how it went past what she puts on her face and hair and more about her whole self. Thank you so much for this!

  36. @labeck, she told us she washes her hair every four days. she said that if she washed it more often, it gets oilier, but once it gets used to less frequent washings, it doesn’t get as oily. hope that helps!!

  37. i loved her line about feeling more feminine in a men’s shirt and sneakers than in a dress and heels. i feel the same way but i had never really articulated that to myself! :)

  38. thanks for these lovely comments! @helen, i originally met her through friends and she actually used to date my brother!

  39. Audrey is lovely and has a beauty routine I admire and relate to! How did you two meet?

  40. completely inspired by her attitudes and values. thank you for sharing Audrey with us!

  41. Oh dear…she is a little bit too natural and perfect for me! :-)

    Audrey seems quite nice, but I am a women who is into makeup and products, so I have little in common with her, not that I didn’t enjoy reading about her routine…it’s just too little for me to be able to identify with much of what she says…

  42. Really enjoyed this one.

    p.s. i just chugged a glass of water and fixed my posture. :)

  43. I really liked this one! She had some great recs for natural products that are actually affordable. I love the Dr. Bronner’s hand soap, so I’m going to try the bar soap as well – love that it’s unscented. Also going to try the unscented shampoo. Fragrances in shampoos and soaps are generally made from harmful chemicals so I’m really trying to weed them out of my beauty routine. So happy that Audrey had some great suggestions!

  44. This was my favorite one! I found myself clicking on all of her suggestions to check them out. Keep ’em comin!

  45. Great post! I learned a few things :) Thanks Audrey!

  46. I’ve been loving this entire series, but this was by far my favorite one!

    As a yoga teacher, I found Audrey’s outlook on life was very in line with my own. What an inspiring and clean way of living and taking care of the self.


  47. this is lovely!!!!!!! angie

  48. Having lived near France for 4 years, I miss seeing the various styles of French women! This is a wonderful post.

    I would love to ask Audrey how she avoids washing her hair after working out? I also work out daily and would love to wash less, but my hair is super sweaty (and stinky) after my runs. Thank you!!

  49. I dig this interview. As someone who wears very little make up and doesn’t like spending a lot of money on beauty products, I appreciated learning Audrey’s outlook on beauty which is holistic and minimalist.

  50. I feel like its 100% perfect that her name is Audrey.

  51. I don’t know if it’s because I’m such a Francophile, but this was easily the best beauty routine post you’ve ever done, which is funny since it’s probably the least amount of products used! WWAD is my new motto.

  52. This is great. I love her inside-out beauty, and tips on how to achieve it.

    I also really love hearing a beauty uniform from a woman that, from what I can tell, does not have kids. While the women with children who’ve been featured in this series have great stories and beauty to share, as a woman without kids, I like reading from the childless perspective, too.

  53. I love her perspective and attitude. This is one of my favorites of this amazing series, and I feel like I particularly connected with her. Especially since I love kind people, fragrance, just got into essential oils and am a bit of a tomboy and love textile design :)

  54. Love the natural approach! And that first beach headstand picture MUST have been taken in Truro on Cape Cod. Would recognize it anywhere :)

  55. Love this – kindness and authenticity is the best kind of beauty. TRUTH

  56. This is amazing. I would love to live a lifestyle very close to that.
    I try to do yoga or some kind of activity on a daily basis. And I eat good foods, some of the time, but I def fall behind on that. Being lax on either of these I right away start feeling sluggish and feel it is visible too.
    Thank you for sharing.

  57. What a beautiful spirit she has. I love her attitude and philosophy on life as a female. She seems like a warm and joyful friend to be around :)

  58. This is lovely! I love how your beauty uniform often focuses on healthy foods and sweet attitudes! Great great post.

  59. Wow, so inspiring! To be kind, authentic, and present… and drink lots of water! Great beauty advice. She is absolutely radiant.

    I also really like that she inspires women to be true to who they are, and that their femininity will shine through. Love this series, Joanna!

  60. Love this! What a lovely balance Audrey has.