We have all seen her. Sitting in a cafe, intently focused on some existential novel in front of her, casually sipping on a strong espresso. Minimal makeup, fresh faced, hair undone but not messy with a bohemian fashion sense that says laissez-faire but never I don’t care. Who exactly is this creature? Very oh-la-la and a tad je ne sais quoi, she is a French girl and we all want to be like her.
The French girl is not like the rest of us. She is mysterious, husky voiced, feminine, opinionated, well-read, political and she loves red lips. She only goes to the gym when she really wants to, would rather not blow dry her hair, and has no problem with nudity. When it comes to beauty, perfectly imperfect is her motto. Work with what you have, don’t over fuss or primp, and everything in moderation. The French girl also rightly believes that great skin has more to do with what you are eating than anything else. That is why the French girl will often be eating organic and is (rightly so) very concerned about food quality. She is also less interested in what is low-fat and more with what is high-sugar. But that doesn’t mean her skin care routine is lazy- not in the least. For her it is all about the right cleansers, oils, creams, tonics and in some cases, topical vitamins. Treat your skin right and the rest will fall into place.
In our quest to fully understand the French girl and her many inclinations, eccentricities and what makes her beauty so effortless we naturally consulted with Kristeen Griffin-Grimes, natural cosmetics pioneer and creator of French Girl Organics. Partly a French girl herself, Kristeen grew up with an admiration and fascination of French culture, botanicals and love for all things handcrafted. In the 70’s after college when many of her contemporaries were still nursing hangovers, Kristeen was busy tending to her greenhouse plants and beginning to formulate cosmetics at home for sale in her local co-op. This, and after her many trips to the motherland to better understand her background became the drive behind French Girl Organics: a handmade, all natural, chemical-free, seriously effective and addictive skincare line that still uses many of the original recipes tested and used by her family for over 20 years. We spoke with Kristeen about her French girl blood, the inspiration behind her fabulous line and how we can all learn to be a French girl.
- Tell us about your French girl background.
I was raised in a very wild setting on the coast of Washington state on an oyster farm. Our playground was the woods, the beach and the garden. Those are the first images that I have in my life – being in the garden in my father’s pea vines and watching bees, and of course there was the scent of the pea blossom. Down in that part of the state it was very unspoiled, so you got the pure essence of life down there. Also, my parents weren’t very well off, so as children we had to make whatever it was that we wanted from our imaginations (which ran wild, by the way) – we were making things from a really early age. Being forced into making things was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
New World French culture settled deep into my bones from an early age: I was raised in a Cajun family, my mother was part French and part Italian from New Orleans, and was a jazz vocalist; my father was an inventor and a maker, and we watched him solve problems… so that’s where a lot of the inspiration for anything creative in my life came from. The Cajun culture was very venerated in my household as I was growing up. And there was always somewhere in the back of my head this fascination with the Motherland, with France. I started making natural products just before college and I was very interested in botany, science and music and I followed my crazy passions as best I could.
After I got out of college in the 70’s I had a variety of incarnations. I co-founded a food co-op in Washington, became their herb buyer, and back then there were very few organic skincare products available at that time. That was when I really started making things for the face and body all at home, and I used to sell them at the co-op. That’s when I first realized that I could make some kind of a living doing this. That went on for a while… I always had something going on on the side that had to do with plants – wherever I was I was making something with plants or flowers.
Then: France. It wasn’t until I went to France in the 90’s that I really understood myself. It’s not that I was puzzled about why I was so deeply into beauty and aesthetics, but I swear the minute the second I got to France I turned to everyone and I said “Now I understand why I am the way I am!” – it was pretty much an epiphany. France woke something up in me that had been a little bit dormant: my love of natural scent, perfume, food- I didn’t realize food could taste as good as it did in France! France for me was a Julia Child kind of thing. We immersed ourselves for a month in the South West corner of France and ended up in Languedoc because it’s less touristy than Provence. The French and Germans vacation there, so there was basically no English at all. It was a really intense, difficult, steep learning curve vacation but it completely vaulted us over this wall of living – it changed the entire direction of our family.
The end result is when I came back to the US I was so inspired that I wanted to have a design outlet that would reflect the inspiration of France. So I went back to my arts and crafts and started a business called French Girl. We launched the skincare in 2010 on Etsy with about 10 products.
- What is the French Girl philosophy of beauty?
French girls are thoughtful, free-spirited and quality oriented. They don’t try to package themselves or imitate – they aim to enhance what they already have, without overly embellishing. The French girl loves herself first, and indulges in self-care – it’s almost more the feeling of beauty rather than the “look”, as she understands that true beauty comes from a feeling within. I created French Girl for French girls everywhere, really.
- Walk us through your daily skincare routine.
Unless my skin is feeling very dry which is rare (since I have oily skin) I begin with our Neroli Cleansing Wash. If my skin is feeling dry, I put Rose Facial Polish into my hand and mix it with the Neroli Cleansing Wash or even our Cleansing Oil and a soft washcloth. I usually follow that with one of our Toners, most likely Rose because I love the way it smells, and it’s the best for my type of skin. Then I use some of our Neroli Facial Serum before I put on foundation or anything like that.
In the evening I love to give myself a facial massage (I love Lisa Eldridge’s tutorial) , and for that I use the Rose Facial Cleansing Oil, and I just do a little jade roller that I use with that; then I rinse that off and use a washcloth because that gently removes everything. Occasionally I will double cleanse with a cleanser if I have a lot of makeup on – eye makeup, although our Facial Cleansing Oil works perfectly on its own for that! Depending on how I am feeling, I tend to use the Neroli Facial Serum as it’s light, or the Creme Lumiere at night because it’s the most moisture attracting of our moisturizers. I sometimes use our Neroli Under Eye Elixir (I should use it every night but like a true French Girl I go with how I’m feeling in the moment, as I toss my hair nonchalantly).
Every night I have a bath, with one of our soaks and polishes. I spray more toner on my body and apply more parfum (such as Jasmine or Rose) something that is restorative and relaxing. This is my nighttime ritual so that I can sleep – it’s so important to me, and I deeply believe that the scents work wholly on our subconscious.
- What do you consider the biggest problem with conventional skincare products and practices?
The biggest problem is that the litany of ingredients that are harmful to our bodies is being absorbed by our largest organ, the skin. I think it is a gigantic issue, especially for women. We talk about our health and healthy living as a preventative, and in our industry removing one or two scathing ingredients that are “known” to be linked to cancer – but no one really wants to talk about the elephant in the room which is that beauty products in general are toxic. Conventional beauty is created with 90% or more harmful ingredients.
This all sends me through the roof, especially with young girls, who get hooked on bath and body and skincare – and lips! – that are packed with nastiness. Thankfully I am encouraged to see people becoming aware of this issue and of course one of our core beliefs as a company is to create beauty products without harmful ingredients for both our customer and our Earth.
- What are your guiding principles for inner beauty?
To remember that we are all loved, to respect and love oneself, the planet and all of life; to enjoy life, and make life beautiful. To be grateful!