Book Review: “French Women Don’t Get Facelifts”

 Hardcover ISBN 9781455524112 $15.84 December, 24 2013
Ebook ISBN: 978145524129 $11.04
Grand Central Publishing:

Mireille Guiliano , the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “French Women Don’t Get Fat” has written a new book called “French Women Don’t Get Facelifts” due out on December 24.   Having not read the aforementioned title I was nonetheless curious about the new one subtitled “The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude.”  Lest you wonder who the author is, she is a former chief executive at LVMH (Clicquot Inc.) and has authored two other books as well as a cookbook.  She and her American husband divide their time between Paris, Provence and New York.

Ms. Guiliano eschews the phrase “aging gracefully” for the more dynamic “aging with attitude” and prefers a holistic approach over the scalpel.  “As one looks at the second half of one’s life, it’s good to have a plan, a strategy based on ‘knowing thyself,’ common sense, and a zest for life.  For me it is about being bien dans sa peau (comfortable in one’s skin) through all episodes and stages in life,” she exhorts.  She explains that she prefers “to paint first from the inside out, not from the outside in, as a means for aging with attitude.”  There are many anecdotes and stories about people of various ages and what, Ms. Guiliano, believes they have to add to the subject of aging with flair.

Ms. Guiliano acknowledges that the French culture is different from les Etats-Unis and other “Westernized” countries in that France is not obsessed with youth the way we are.  In fact, in much of Europe, age is respected and venerated in women as well as in men.  The French femme d’un certain age is celebrated in films (Catherine Deneuve, par example) as being still sexy in their “wholeness and experience.”  According to the book, French women have a different definition of what constitutes being old.  In a multinational study which Ms. Guiliano refers to, the French proved to be the least concerned about aging, and a cool third believed “old” starts after eighty.  She claims that a woman in her forties or fifties is still seen as” alluring and an object of desire who acts the part” in France.  She goes on to state that these women have not turned a blind eye on aging and don’t attempt to emulate their 20 year-old selves.  They must “access gravity” and update what works for them in fashion, beauty, exercise and nutrition rather than trying to stay frozen in a time warp of their former selves and should above all, never se laissent aller (“let themselves go”).

The middle of the book gets bogged down in specific recommendations for skincare (Argan oil, Nivea, exfoliation / masks, sunscreen, drink tons of water) and mentions microdermabrasion, photorejuvenation and various heat techniques to firm the skin such as Thermage and Ultherapy.   One contradiction that I found amusing is that Ms. Guiliano admits that while some French women will seek Botox, more will go for liposuction making her last title about French women not getting fat a bit ironic.

In the skin care section she addresses several foods that she claims improve the skin’s elasticity  including spinach, oysters, avocados, and bananas and then supplies several recipes including these ingredients.  In my opinion, the next chapter on hair care and styling read like it was written for an unsophisticated pre-teen in its basic nature including getting a good cut, shampooing, brushing and blow drying.

The author goes on to give makeup suggestions (“less is more” for aging skin), diet (the author swears by honey as a wonder food), daily exercise (if not Yoga then at least walk but French women don’t go to the gym because they don’t like to sweat), vitamin supplements (Vitamin D3 is the only one she believes in although she repeatedly states that she is not a physician), followed by more anti-aging cooking recipes (the food on your plate should be colorful).

The real secret is saved for the very end of the book…a “small dose” of Estrogen (which Ms. Guiliano mentions offhandedly having had to change doctors as one tries to wean her off, in order to maintain her controversial prescription).  Perhaps her next book will be entitled “French Women Don’t Get Hot Flashes.”

Click to purchase book on Amazon: French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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