French women don’t get fat, drunk, face lifts, or touch themselves, in that way (the Divinyls way). But even the easygoing French worry about cellulite, a beauty problem so pervasive that it’s the same word in French and English. It is a word that sounds no better in a French accent. Through an enlightening conversation with Marie-Laure Fournier, a French beauty publicist who serves as the unofficial Gallic beauty ambassador to American beauty editors, I learned about how the French combat the most unglamorous of beauty problems.
Cellulite sounds no better with a French accent. What are French thoughts on it and the idea of fat?
French women don’t get fat because they are obsessed with weight. It’s funny because I was with a girlfriend and I was like, “Jesus Christ, I eat less than you, and you are smaller than me!” But the trick is that if she or a French woman goes out for dinner, she will eat soup for lunch. One of the meals is extremely light. I was in Paris in April and already the magazines had stories about how to lose extra pounds for the summer.
What are the magazines recommending for weight loss?
In France, we’re not the most in love with boot-camp kinds of exercise. But that’s why we love bicycles. You can see the bicycle trend came from France. My mother is almost 70 years old, and she still bikes! But we don’t think of it as exercise. We take the bicycle to go to places.
But the French seem like they have an insouciance that makes them beyond obsessing about weight.
We are very much completely obsessed with weight! We will do everything we can to eliminate the first appearance of anything resembling fat or cellulite. But one of the big secrets of the French is lymphatic drainage massage with thoracic therapy.
I remember when I was a young girl: One of my girlfriends (who was the daughter of a big socialite in France), her mom was in her 40s and had never had an inch of cellulite. She revealed to me that her mom’s secret was lymphatic drainage once or twice a week. I did it with her one week — three times. And I actually lost one size.
Lymphatic drainage is the best beauty regime you can do without exercise. No matter what, you do need to do it, for everything. If you have heavy legs or blood-circulation problems, you need to do it. The only thing is that you can’t do lymphatic drainage when you are drunk. [Laughs.] I mean, I am laughing, but this is very serious.
Because it’s actually a serious massage. It can hurt like hell. It moves your entire body. When I was smoking, I wanted to throw up after I did it. It’s moving the toxins out of the body, which is a big shock. Now, I don’t smoke so it’s easier. But it makes you very tired at the end. The lymphatic system is the toilet system of the body.
Every good facialist will put lymphatic drainage in the facial. It’s not only about extractions; it’s about different ways to detoxify the skin. When you get it done [with] facials, you can see it right away on your face and [in] the size of your neck. You’ll see that it’s diminished and the sides of your cheeks look different.
Where do you get it done?
I’ve never had anyone in the States who knew how to do it. The only ones that know how to do it here are Isabelle Bellis and Laure, another French woman I know who does in-house calls. She’s incredible. I don’t have time to do it more than once in a while. But I have a French girlfriend who has done it three times a week. I know someone who lost two sizes in a month.
It sounds a little too good to be true: no exercise, and you lose weight and cellulite?
No, no, I mean you cannot eat a cassoulet and think you are going to lose weight. If you have a good diet and do that, you can definitely do that.
Lymphatic drainage for women is like going to the bathroom; it’s a necessity. Laure does another thing that Americans never do, American women are very traumatized about this. She massages the stomach. In France we all say the tummy is the best. It is the cradle of all the emotions for a woman and all the stress. A lot of people get a bigger tummy because of that. Massaging the stomach is very important. You have things that are stuck! You guys will go for things for colonics in two seconds! But will not get a stomach massage; go figure! [Laughs.]
Also, here, in America, we think that anti-cellulite products that help you lose weight don’t really work. But in France, it’s a huge market. Every French beauty line has an anti-cellulite product.
So over-the-counter cellulite products actually work?
A couple of years ago, one of my brands was coming out with a cellulite cream. And a beauty director of a magazine said, “I don’t believe in any of that crap. I exercise.” But you know it helps! The more you massage your thigh and increase your circulation to get rid of toxins, the more it acts on cellulite and fat. The only problem is that it comes back.
French women go to institutes for lymphatic drainage and massage their thighs at home, using a scrub and an anti-cellulite cream like Orlane’s Aqua Svelte Slimming Scrub. Even just the gesture of putting on a cream or scrub will activate the blood circulation to all the vessels and help get rid of toxins and make things smaller.
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