How to Get the Perfect French Girl Hair Texture (and the No-Brainer Step You’re Totally Missing)

Earlier this week, one of the best hashtags ever was born: #CoiffeurGate. Its origin was the scandalous news that French president François Hollande pays his hairdresser over $10,000 USD a month. MON DIEU! Given Hollande’s receding hairline, Olivier Benhamou, the coiffeur in question, has like the EASIEST job ever styling le prez every morning. A few swipes of the comb back, et voilà!

Meanwhile, the women of Paris have long known that the secret to incroyable hair costs nothing. True story: last year at a party in the City of Light, I spotted It-girl Jeanne Damas. She was a Pinterest image come to life—effortlessly cool in skinny jeans, heels, a tweedy blazer, red lips and hair with that texture. It was the dishevelled, undone kind I strive for daily with a combination of beach sprays and a strong-held belief that blowouts and brushes are to be avoided at all costs. Through some casual sleuthing, I was told that Damas’s secret was not using conditioner. Quoi? Had I been missing a crucial step in my routine?

“Shampoo is alkaline, so it lifts your cuticle up,” says hairstylist Susana Hong. Conditioner smooths the hair shaft back down, so French girls are simply forgoing that process. “They have that airiness all the time, so that makes total sense.” She’s right; when I study photos of Damas or Caroline de Maigret, there’s a slight halo of fuzziness that never looks frizzy—just fantastique.

Part of that effect is from air-drying, since it encourages natural texture. And since skipping conditioner means you haven’t laid the protective cuticles back down, you shouldn’t expose it to any intense heat. “The key is to lay off the hot tools,” cautions Hong. And that’s part of the French approach, too: They don’t put their hair through as much trauma as North Americans do, so they don’t have to treat the damage. “I love that minimalist attitude they have,” says Hong. “They really invest in a cut that will give them the result they want.”

Even if you do use a bit of conditioner on the ends, Hong says you can offset it with salt spray, which is even more alkaline than shampoo, to get that gritty airiness back. But the best way to get perfectly dishevelled bends: “Sleep on damp hair, without brushing or combing it,” she says. “You’ll get amazing texture in the morning.” Bonne nuit.

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