As anyone who has spent most of their adult life longing to be French will know, Caroline de Maigret is the patron saint of French girl hair. “French women always want to look more smart than beautiful,” the Chanel model and DJ once quipped. “If you’re spending two hours under the hair dryer, when do you have time to read?”
That said, even she has bad hair days. “Sometimes I feel like I have an octopus on top of my head, but I brush it away,” she told Vogue. That slightly wild texture is key, however, to the French girl hair of yours and every other Francophile’s dreams. It’s what gives that “woke-up-like-this” charm, that artfully disheveled and yet totally sophisticated vibe we’re seeking from our hair.
There is some debate over conditioner: De Maigret is strictly anti-, though Jeanne Damas, another expert practitioner of French-girl hair, suggests that almond cream on the tips is the way to go. Both have suggested that wet hair swept up in a chignon will give the ultimate wave once released. But we all know how that looks when you actually try it.
Although the French can insist all they want that this style is “effortless”, as hair stylist Adam Reed asserts, apeing the professionals does in fact require some effort. Still, once you have the formula nailed—happy days! Here, Reed breaks down how to achieve French-girl hair in four easy steps.
Do your texture prep
“French-girl hair is all about the texture, so it is important that you choose a great foundation product to prep the hair. I always use an oil so that the hair looks in great condition—I like to use L’Oréal Professionnel Mythic Oil.”
Next comes primer
“Over the oil, use a product that will help add body. If you want a bit more volume I love to use Larry King Volumising Hair Mist. For a great, soft finish that will hold its shape, I prep with L’Oréal Professionnel Techni.ART Pli Shaper, and for something a little more worn in and beachy, I love Beach Waves by L’Oréal Professionnel. A word of caution: whatever you do, do not be tempted to overload the hair with product as this can make the hair look too ‘set’.”
Select a large brush and get drying
“Next, dry your hair—but avoid rough drying. Instead, dry it with a large, round brush to set the foundation into the hair. This means that the hair will look effortless and not messy. I then use a curling tool—I like the GHD Curve Soft Curl Tong—to create a cool-girl wave, before misting the hair with a dry texturising spray such as Oribe Dry Texturising Spray. Run the tong down the hair making sure that there is no uniformity to the direction in which you are waving the hair.”
Comb through to add body
“Mist a wide-toothed brush—I use the GHD Dressing Brush—with the dry texture spray you used before, when creating the waves, then comb through the hair. If you like something that is really worn in, I love using a mattifier scrunched into the hair. Try L’Oréal Professionnel Techni.ART Depolish and then leave your hair—the effect you’re going for is perfectly imperfect.”
This story originally appeared in British Vogue.