‘French Girl,’ Model-Off-Duty Hair

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Let’s go back, wayyyy back, to October 2010— two whole years ago.

One of the first things that caught my attention, just getting off a plane for my first Paris Fashion Week for ITG (or ever), was a pair of fashion students perched outside the Sonia Rykiel show: Sofie and Natalia. I knew they were French…you could just tell. Partly because of the way they carried themselves (too cool for school), partly because you couldn’t put your finger on who made anything they were wearing and they looked great, but mainly, because of their hair. It was long, kind of wavy-meets-languid, and just a little bit…fuzzy. It’s that same quality of hair that most models seem to have miraculously been born with, and that same quality that, a lot of the time, hairstylists spend hours trying to replicate or (or resuscitate) for the runway. It’s carefree, it’s natural…it’s Jane Birkin Hair. And, as I finally discovered thanks to an eye-opening chat with actual French models, it all comes down to—drum roll here—brushing for your hair type.

Backstage at the Jean-Paul Gaultier show two weeks ago, everybody’s favorite catwalking Frenchies Constance Jablonski (with nothing more than a Velcro roller in her hair, courtesy of Guido, preparing for her turn down the runway as ‘Jane Birkin’) and Sigrid Agren (in full ‘Madonna’ mode) were killing time with Canadian pal Alana Zimmer and yours truly when the subject of hair came up. “Well, for French girls, you don’t do anything to your hair,” Constance said. “You know what I mean?” No. “I really don’t!” She continued, “I never brush my hair—I don’t have a brush. I would never brush my hair.”

Alana nodded in agreement, “I own one, but I don’t use it. I have wavy hair, and when I brush it, it destroys the waves.”

“Me too," Constance said. “I have waves. And waves never need to be brushed. But I think it depends on your kind of hair. So for certain hair… I think straight hair needs to be brushed, maybe.” Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

Constance: Yeah, like the girls will ask me, ‘Do you have a brush in your bag?’ And I’m like, ‘No, why would I have a brush?’ [Laughs] I do have a comb to do a part, that’s it. Just a straight, little comb.

Alana: I let my part fall wherever it feels like. [Laughs] ‘Cause I have so much hair, if I brush it, it gets so wide at the bottom… and I just look like a big triangle. I just comb it in the shower, with a wide-tooth comb.

Constance: With conditioner, always. And then I dry it with a towel, quickly…and that’s it!

Sigrid: Me too, I comb it in the shower.

Constance: But you don’t brush it, right? I mean, you don’t carry a brush in your bag?

Sigrid: I do!

At which point Sigrid opens the flap of her Chanel bag and takes out a tiny wooden, boar-bristled brush.

Constance & Alana: Noooo! [Laughs]

Sigrid: I have to! My hair never goes frizzy; it’s dead straight. It gets really tangly if I don’t brush it. I have straight, straight hair so it doesn’t matter if I brush it or not. If I don’t brush my hair it looks like… flat.

Frida Gustavsson [after overhearing the convo, chimes in]: For me, it tangles in two seconds. Alana, do you have a brush in your bag?

Alana: Never. I just wash my hair every three days, and use a dry shampoo in between.

Constance: Because I do sports, I wash it two times or three times a week—then I wash them after sports. [Ed. note: French girls tend to refer to hair as “them,” not “it,” in a terribly endearing way.] But if I don’t do sports and I don’t do work, it can stay clean for, like, five to six days. I swear! [Laughs]

Sigrid: Nooo… I wash it every other day.

Constance: But it’s because I have dry hair, so it doesn’t get greasy. But I also have dry skin, which is bad. Everything is dry. I need to moisturize. And the other thing is, I never [blow] dry it. I just wash it and let it dry by itself.

Alana: But naturally. If it’s cold out and it’s wet, I’ll just blow it a bit.

Constance: I would never blow-dry my hair.

Not even in the dead of winter?

Constance: Well, in the dead of winter, in that case… I would wash them at night. [Laughs]

So there you have it: washing, brushing, and blow-drying rules to live by, straight from the girls with some of the best hair in the biz. My M.O.? Wash, condition (no comb), air-dry, 3 mornings a week, wet hair out the door—weather be damned.

—Emily Weiss

Sigrid Agren [1], Constance Jablonski, and Alana Zimmer [3] photographed by Emily Weiss backstage at Jean-Paul Gaultier on September 29th, 2012.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Marta E

    Great tips! :)
    Love the last picture

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  • Inès

    Well I'm french and I couldn't agree more with these ladies. It is funny because all the french magazines always tell us about the american girls' "Way of life": the perfect hair and manicure, the skin well exfoliated, etc. And they always say that going out with wet hair is tipically american, since girls wash their hair everyday!

    • Suzanne

      Going out with wet hair is NOT typically American (I live in California), but it is pretty tacky.

      • Lexee

        Yeah, I have to agree there- when you see people out with wet hair it makes you look down them a bit that they couldn't take those extra 5 minutes to put themselves together by drying their hair...

        • Sharon

          i really don't like drying my hair... it really ruins it, and it's a shame since i have really nice hair.
          to bad you look down at people like me...

        • Creezy

          5 min to dry my hair? Sounds like a dream... Too bad that's not possible. And too bad you would look down at someone for their hair.

        • Hototogisu

          If I blow dried my hair it would break to within an inch of its life, so I do as the Dutch girls do and let it be. It's never felt better. Dutch women have beautiful, beautiful hair, btw.

      • Filthyknitter

        That's a bit harsh! I have such thick curly hair that it takes at least 3 hours to dry fully after washing, which would be a lot of staying at home, sitting around twiddling my thumbs time for me if I didn't go out with damp hair....or is damp hair not considered so tacky?....hope not...;)

    • Cay

      Hah, American girls definitely do not ever go out with wet hair. First, in most places in the country right now, you'd freeze to death. But I would just never in my life leave my apartment with my hair wet, because it makes you look not put together (I'm in NYC).

      • kfgregor

        I'd have to say that women in NYC are the most likely to leave the house with wet hair. I see women on the subway every morning in full makeup and wet hair. It is, in fact, a thing. That being said, I think it is more prevalent in NYC than other places.. as when I lived in California and Seattle I very rarely saw women do this.

        • Heather

          I have lived in NYC for over 15 years and I rarely, if ever, see women on the subway or at work in the morning with wet hair. I wouldn't want to leave the house with wet hair, except for maybe on a very hot day when it's too hot to blow dry, in which case I'd put it in a very neat bun or twist so it looks purposeful and slick. I wish I could always let it air dry, as it looks way better when I do.

    • http://profiles.google.com/fitchic29 monica noir

      Ines,
      So French girls are being told "look like an American" lol meanwhile American girls are being told to look &behave like "cool French women".

      *le sigh*

      • http://ofstrangersensibilities.blogspot.com Joy Of Stranger Sensibilities

        And round and round it goes!

  • Seretclarrisa

    Love this. I also never brush my hair and rarely blow dry. I wash 2 times a week max and condition. I sometimes use a straightening iron. Done. Easy.

  • http://lerablogs.blogspot.com/ Lera

    I am not French. I wash my hair 3 times a week max, use dry shampoo in between washes, let my hair air dry, comb it after the shower. It is all individual, whatever works for a person.

  • Christine Bower

    Hah. This is exactly my (dry hair/dry skin) hair routine: wash one to three times a week, depending on the weather and whether or not I exercise; never ever blow-dry. The last time I went to the hairdresser, she was calling her co-workers over, shocked at how strong and healthy my hair is!

    I don't part my hair, but I do brush it: and it does look a bit like a wide-bottom triangle, so maybe I'll just let it wave.

  • VotreAmie

    I LOVE IT! And I am SO doing it. I wash my hair about 1-2 times a week, and air drying felt like a strictly Summer endeavor, but you are absolutely right - Weather be damned!! For fabulous French hair, totally worth it!
    x
    http://www.iloveublank.blogspot.com

  • MAry

    I love ITG and I love the French <3 But will there be people featured/coveted other than the French? I feel like ITG is becoming over-Francofiled (if that's even possible) and now I'm itching to learn about other people's beauty secrets!

    • mickharper

      The ITGers were recently in Paris for Fashion Week -- so that's probably part of the increase... rolling out some of the interviews put together while there.

  • ClosetCravings

    Interesssssssting. I tend to throw my hair up in a messy bun a lot (cause I'm lazy), so I don't always brush my hair. That being said, it will turn into a hot mess of tangles if I don't eventually run a brush through it. I also comb my hair in the shower since I use WEN, but the humidity keeps my wavy hair from being fabu-French though.
    Satisfy Your Cravings For Celebrity Style and All Things Stylish and Sweet

  • Camila

    Loved it. Useful!

    We’d love to know your opinion about Jessica Biel’s outfit in Paris. Do you agree with us?
    http://www.cottontrendy.com/

  • http://ibelieveinrosa.blogspot.com/ larissa

    Haha that's my exact routine, mainly because I have curly hair and if I brush it it makes it soo frizzy. I never brush it only in the shower I detangle it, but I haven't tried dry shampoo, don't know if it will work with my hair.

  • Jessica Ringle

    I have very wavy, bordering on curly hair. I do pretty much everything these girls do, except I have to run a brush through the underside of my hair when I wake up. It will turn into one big tangled dreadlock if I don't! Anyone know how to keep that from happening?

    • Ekaterina

      I second that question! I have fine hair and if I don't brush it, then the underside gets sooo tangled! I thought maybe I wasn't conditioning it enough, so I've been putting extra conditioning on the underside, but it doesn't seem to be working :/

      • Nina Ulrich

        I have fine hair too and the tangles can be a nightmare! Not so much anymore though, using a light oil like Davines Oi treatment (one pump in the lengths only) has helped me a lot - and cutting seriously down on the washing. Still, I could never go without a brush. Also, proper brushing is a nice way to add volume in fine hair, I think.

    • http://profiles.google.com/fitchic29 monica noir

      Ladies try sleeping on satin pillow cases. You can them from Family Dollar or Dollar general for less than ten bucks for a pair.

  • Denis R

    She look great. Great tips and her lipcolor.

    http://fashiondenis.blogspot.sk/

  • http://dipitblack.com/ dipitblack

    Lovely picture! And great tips!
    But I always get headacks when dry blowing my hair...

    X
    http://dipitblack.com

  • Biz

    The refer to their hair as "them" because hair in French is les cheveux, plural and masculine. The closest plural definite article equivalent is them.

  • kayla

    I also never brush my hair. I have very thick, ropey/loose waves that is kind of fluffy/fuzzy.

    Up until my last years in high school, I brushed my hair every day because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. You know, that's what everyone else did and that's what all the magazines said. But I was walking around with the worst Christmas tree hair. I owe my awkward years to that hair and brushing it.

    Now I always wear my hair natural--no brushing, no product, no tools. I guess you could say it's kind of "beachy/messy/tousled" look. Sometimes women will say "you need to brush it" because it's not sleek and smooth. But brushing it will just make the waves poof out and the frizz a millions times worse.

    • lola_cola

      I did exactly the same in high school - brushed my waves into a fluffy triangle, because I thought it was the healthy and normal thing to do. Teamed with braces and teen acne...

      Now I wash three times a week, wide comb when wet and air-dry. Sometimes curl cream or salt spray. The best trick is to plait it whilst wet and it dries into defined waves. And no brushing! Occasionally I blow-dry and straighten, but it just takes forever. Guaranteed to run late if I take that route.

  • Chrysa

    I would like to make a correction: Natalia is Greek, not French....:)

    Chrysa
    http://www.storiesandsequins.com

    • eva

      Both Sophie and Natalia are Greek.

      • IntoTheGloss

        Hi Eva & Chrysa, that may be true, but one thing they definitely learned while at a French fashion school was the art of perfectly disheveled hair. XE

  • Guest

    Love hearing about French beauty secrets! But I would like to hear about other's as well (possibly, Scandinavian, Middle Eastern etc)

    • Maria

      Asian, too!

  • Laura

    I do the same, and use a leave-in conditioner after I shower as a detangler when I comb my hair. The only problem is that every time I see my mom, she'll ask me why I don't brush my hair, and will inevitably reach into her giant purse and pull one out.

  • Cece

    Winter, spring, summer, fall, I never blow dry my hair! (I live in Toronto.) However, my hair is extremely curly, so it is best when left alone. I just leave it wrapped up to dry and set in an old t-shirt for as long as possible before going out.

  • Joanna

    I, too, have thick, wavy hair. Brushing it would turn it into a major ball of fluff (and not in a good way). I only comb it using a heavy conditioner either in or just out of the shower. I also like to use coconut oil to give it a nice sheen and texture.

    I've been doing this for years. I am so french. (sarcasm)

  • http://www.commonromance.com/ Couteau

    Emily: Are you going for a "French look" or for the French approach to beauty/grooming/being. A French girl with ultra straight hair would wear it like it's the height of fashion... Same with hair color. They enhance, rather than transform.

    The French way is to make a unique and genuine pitch to the world. Pulling an Emmanuelle Alt or Lou Doillon is a different story.

  • fairytalesandcoffee

    this is great - all this time I thought I was committing slovenly hair sin...I only brush or comb my hair after I wash my hair to untangle it. Always air dry in low ponytail. Dry, fine, tendency to frizz hair on edges with mild minnie waves that turn to full on FRIZZ if brushed or combed...PASS! Glad to know I was being smart and not lazy...I prefer wavy, fuzzy on the edges hair...it's not a look for everyone or everything...

  • Hana

    This post is amazing! Thanks, Emily. I have a few questions and I'd be so, so grateful if you answered. Firstly, how do these women have time to wait for their hair to air dry before they go out in the morning? Do they mostly wash it at night? Secondly, it seems that alot of French women use dry shampoo. Surely they must have to use a brush to brush it out of their hair, no? And do they really not use any products at all? Nothing?!

    • Heather

      I don't brush after I apply dry shampoo. I just massage it into my roots and that's it. I feel that if I brush it through, it gets all over the length of the hair and makes it look kind of dusty.

  • http://wamp-nation.blogspot.com.au/ Alice

    yes I remember girls in high school asking me how i did my hair and i was like "i just don't brush it" Simple . I brush before I wash it then natural dry, I never blow dry it unless its the middle of freezing winter. BUT my hair is curly/wavy and i back comb it like f*#* as soon as its dry

  • Creezy

    I think it's a vicious cycle, the more split ends you have, the more your hair tangles. The more you brush it, the more split ends you have. I wash my hair every 3 days or so. I let it air dry in a bun, so it has perfect waves when I let the bun down. I use a wide tooth comb immediately after washing to evenly distribute my leave in conditioner. I brush my hair about once a week, with my coveted mason pearson brush. this method seems to be working for me.

  • Brietait

    If you happen to be in Canada right now, leaving with wet hair = runny nose and that god awful chill in your bones. Well some parts of Canada.

  • Kot

    It's not just the French - most Europeans are sensible about these things. In my family, we wash our hair once a week (I thought everyone else did this for the longest time: I can't even believe there are people out there that wash their hair daily, gross - and poor hair!) and we never, ever brush it. My mother doesn't even use a comb, though I do, and only to comb argan oil through my hair and define a part when it's wet. And, of course, always let it air dry when in a bun or a plait! It adds body and the plait strengthens your hair over time. One should ideally wash their hair at night and sleep with it in a plait until morning (and don't dare brush it out)!

    • Steph Lepane

      It is interesting and informational to learn about the grooming habits of others, hence my reason for visiting this website. I am North American and wash my hair every day. I work part-time in a dirty factory, and I need to wash my hair daily. If this is gross to you, 'sorry'. Even if I didn't work at the factory, who are you to judge how I groom myself. Maybe think before you pass judgement on something so trivial, I could easily say that your lack of hygiene is gross as well...

      • Maggi

        I agree. I personally love the feeling of freshly washed hair and one of the grossest things to me is the smell of unwashed scalp.

  • http://www.glistersandblisters.com mkoesnadi

    I stopped brushing my hair like 4 years ago and I swear it works !
    I live in a humid country so I wash it eveery 2-3 days and I put my hair in a -near-forehead-bun so I get texture and volume within my straight hair...

    I also think that getting the correct haircut helps for this particular look..

  • 4jsc

    As a NYC woman who never brushes or blow dries, I've not noticed anyone looking down on me or my thick wavy hair. I'm middle aged and if they do, I don't really care. This is what I've done for years and years and my hair still looks pretty great even with the addition of color. Though I will note that at my new salon, which btw is on the upper east side, they're invariably surprised when I opt out of the blow dry and am done with styling in a matter of minutes.

  • http://rokderm.com/ ROKderm

    Lovely! I've neve been a good comber, although I like brushing my head upside down once in while for volume, and I think it might be good for the roots too ? It's especially nice for updos.

  • vlada

    i never blow dry my hair ever! i just shower a few hours before bed time and let it naturally air dry by itself...also, i don't own a brush either..i just have a wide tooth comb that i comb my wet hair with..and that's all..i get a lot of compliments from other women about how effortless my hair looks.

  • kat

    They refer to their hair as "them" because the word for "hair" in French is plural; they actually say, "the hairs" (les cheveux) when talking about the hair on your head. Still cute though :)

  • Randi

    This is my hair routine, basically. Does this mean that I'm French or just lazy? I never wash my hair in the morning, unless I feel like getting up at 5 am. Which I don't.

  • Nina Ulrich

    Love this post and the so called "French approach" to beauty (I think it goes for most Europeans). But if I didn't brush my fine hair, it would soon be one thin looking, tangled mess. I love my Mason Pearson brush and wouldn't be without it for a day. I think it's good for the roots and the scalp too. That being said, ever since I cut down on the washing my hair's looking and behaving better than ever. I used to wash every second day, because I thought I had greasy hair. Turns out, my hair's not so greasy when I wash once a week. Of course I use dry shampoo in between, but it's such a bless, really. Saves me time and the natural sebum kinda works as a styling agent (yeah it sounds gross) = a lot more texture and body to my otherwise straight and silky soft as hell Scandinavian hair. I would say that Klorane dry shampoo, Oribe texture spray and my MP brush are my hair HG's.

  • Petra

    I learned this from a French exchange student in tenth grade and heavens really brushed my hair since :)

  • MakeUpWithASmile

    LOL, ' weather be damned ' hahaha. It's good I already do this naturally :P, though I do condition my hair

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