The Beauty Products This French Make-Up Artist Uses to the Very Last Drop

Guerlain lipstick, Violette_FR perfume, and Aveda lip balm.

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Courtesy of Guerlain
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Courtesy of Guerlain
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Courtesy of Guerlain

On the Beauty Group, a Facebook community co-founded by the Cut and the Strategist, people chat all day long about the products they love — the ones so good they’ll make you hit that little “auto-refill” box at checkout. Below, we asked one of our favorite beauty pros to share her selections.

Violette Serrat, better known as Violette, had her first idea for a make-up product at the age of eight. “I was in the Rosery of Bagatelle, a rose garden in Paris — there are flowers everywhere and there’s a peacock that just walks around,” she says. “And I saw a rose that was red but almost black — it was the first and the last time that I saw one in my life — and I was blown away. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this color in a lipstick would look sensational.’” The image of the flower — and the idea for the lipstick — has stayed with Violette since.

Now, Violette has eighteen years of experience under her belt as a make-up artist — she’s worked with everyone from Léa Seydoux to Natalia Vodianova — and she’s heading up two  beauty brands. The first is her own: Violette_FR (like her Instagram account), where you can find the lipsticks, eye paints, and skin care products that are essential to her pared-down, and yes, “French girl” aesthetic.

She also joined Guerlain as the French house’s Creative Director of Makeup over the summer (she was previously Estée Lauder’s Global Beauty Director). “It was a no-brainer working for a brand like Guerlain that has been writing history for ages,” she says. “I visited the house’s archive, and I saw a lipstick that was 100 years old. It’s incredible; I can’t get my head around it.”

Below, the make-up artist shared the products she swears by, including the oil cleanser that removes every bit of make-up, the matte lipstick that does not dry out her lips, and the “best” mascara.

The Lipstick

“Guerlain thought, ‘How can we make something matte and very vibrant in color but very, very comfortable at the same time?’ It’s not drying at all, and that’s really innovative. With M.A.C.’s Ruby Woo, the color is sensational, but the texture feels like it will suck the life out of you. [Laughs] With this one, I just love the sensation of having it on, which is quite rare. I love the 880 Ruby Red.”

The 3-in-1 Mist

“It took me three years to develop this. It was a huge pain in the ass, I’m not going to lie. I pitched it to one of my best friends, Caroline Wachsmuth, who created one of the first certified organic skincare brands, Doux Me, 20 years ago. She’s a skin care genius. I pictured this idea of ‘a beverage for your skin’ that’s highly soothing because I know that most skin issues come from inflammation. I also have dermatitis so I have a reaction to almost everything that touches my skin. I really wanted something that was highly moisturizing, focused on retaining moisture, and helped boost your own skin carrier. When I told her that, I said, ‘It should be like a workout for your skin. The more you wear it, the stronger your skin becomes.’

The main ingredient is betula pendula (birch) sap. We have 38 percent fermented sap in it, which is quite unheard of. We use this ingredient a lot in France, but a lot of brands don’t really work it in such a high concentration because it is very expensive and it is only harvested once a year. I really think of it as an anti-inflammatory product, but with squalane and olive leaf extract, it also helps to clear the skin and prevent new breakouts.

Every season, except in winter, this is all I use. It really acts like a 3-in-1 toner, serum, and moisturizer. I can’t live without it.”

The Serum

“You hear Charlotte Palermino, one of the Dieux founders, talk about skin care, and you just trust her because she really knows her stuff. I have so much respect for this because there’s so much nonsense in the beauty world. I love Charlotte because she really wants fact- and science-driven products. I wanted to try it because my skin is so sensitive, and the serum is very soothing and helps to even it out. My skin totally loves it. I had some dark spots because of pregnancy, and this helped with that, too.”

The Mascara

“I have very few, short, thin lashes, but I love lashes and I don’t wear false ones so I need a mascara that checks all of the boxes. It has to make my lashes long, fluffy, thick, keep up the curl, and it has to be black. Pat McGrath’s is the best.”

The Bronzing Powder

“When you have olive skin like me, you have green-yellow undertones, and when the winter comes and you haven’t seen the sun in a while, you do need a little bronzer to wake up the complexion. I have a tendency to look a bit dull. I don’t contour, but I love to warm up my skin with Guerlain’s Terracotta Powder. For me, it’s the best because it doesn’t have red or orange undertones. It’s very neutral so it really replicates your own natural sun-kissed look.

When it comes to contouring, I hate it. I think it’s a cultural thing. It never made it in France like in the U.S. Brands really tried so hard to make it a thing, but in France, we think that bare skin is the most sexy thing. As a generalization, I would say that we don’t like to ‘transform’ ourselves; we really use beauty as a way to celebrate or to feel ourselves but not to transform. And the problem with contouring is that it adds so many layers on the skin, and we feel it’s a bit embarrassing for us to show that because we don’t want you to see the magic behind the curtain. Also, we think, ‘This is how I was born. If you don’t like me, if you don’t think I’m beautiful, then you don’t need to stay around me.’ So we just do bare skin and add a red lipstick or glitter on the eye for a little something special.”

The Perfume

“Some say this perfume smells like a baby to them. Some say it smells clean. Some, like me, say it smells like skin at the beach. It’s all thanks to amber, santal, vetiver, ylang-ylang, and bergamot. It’s in an oil base, and it was so hard to develop this packaging because very few brands do a roll-on that’s not in a tube. But I wanted a bottle that looks chic in your bathroom or in your bag so I looked for nail-polish bottles and added a roll-on.”

The Body Lotion

“My skin is so dry. This is the lotion that penetrates my skin the best. I want something like a treatment that will keep moisturizing my skin over time and I don’t see that on the market yet, but this does the job in moisturizing my skin immediately. I also really trust the ingredients and the brand’s packaging. I know Nécessaire is focused on sustainability, and that’s how I shop — I’m not just shopping for a good formula; I don’t see the point of paying $200 for cream with packaging that’s not sustainable.”

The Shampoo

“I have very, very, very thin hair, and I have tried everything for it. I used the wrong products when I was younger, and it took me like five years to repair it. I had so much breakage, it was dull, it was dry, and I lost my curls — I’ve had very severe anemia since I was a kid and that’s also part of it. I really wanted something that would nourish and repair it, and that’s what Aveda’s shampoos (and conditioners) do for me. My hair is just better and healthier since I started using the brand.”

The Blush

“I love when blush is velvety like a rose petal, and this one has a beautiful texture, and the color is the perfect pink for my skin tone. It just does the job.

In terms of blush placement, it really depends on your features. Honestly, that’s why I hate trends that say you have to do things a certain way. Everybody’s different, and there’s no way you can apply one trend to everyone. I saw a video that said you should wear your blush really high up, but my face is quite narrow so if I do that, I’m going to look even more narrow. I actually have to do the opposite; I have to wear blush on the center of my cheeks to round my face a little.”

The Oil Cleanser

“It’s not normal how obsessed I am with this oil cleanser. In French culture, we go to a dermatologist very young, and the one thing I heard loud and clear was that you have to cleanse your face every day — there has not been one day in my life where I’ve gone to bed with make-up on. But to be honest, I used to hate cleansing because I wear all this glitter on my eyes, and when I go home, I know I’m going to have to rub my lashes and lose my lashes in the process. If I used micellar water, my skin would be so dry afterwards. Then I tried double cleansing and this oil. The texture is so cocooning, and it melts everything in two seconds. I rinse it away, put on a gel cleanser, and my skin is so clean but not dry at all.”

The Lip Balm

“I have the driest lips on the planet. They are very textured, and if I don’t moisturize them, they look almost sunken in. I tried everything, and nothing works on my lips except for this.”

11 Beauty Products This French Make-Up Artist Swears By