Beauty is in Clémence von Mueffling’s blood.
Von Mueffling, who founded the web site Beauty and Well-being, is the daughter and granddaughter of former Vogue Paris beauty editors, Lorraine Bolloré and Regine Debrise. While von Mueffling can’t share her stellar gene pool with the general public, she is divulging a lifetime of beauty advice in her first book, “Ageless Beauty the French Way: Secrets From Three Generations of French Beauty Editors,” out this June from St. Martin’s Press.
Von Mueffling’s literary debut leaves no part of the body unspoken for, covering advice for everything from the hair, skin and feet to the importance of posture and breathing. Inspired by the beauty routines of the 39-year-old author, her 69-year-old mother and 88-year-old grandmother, the book breaks tips into three key age brackets — Jeunesse (20 to 35), Pléntitude (35 to 55) and Maturité (55 and older).
“Many women [in their 40s and 50s] don’t find enough advice on how to take care of their skin and hair,” said von Mueffling, who got her start in beauty on the business side, working for European giants including Clarins, Dior and Puig before starting Beauty and Well-being in 2014. “The idea was to write a book and include women of all ages.”
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Advice from von Mueffling’s personal black book of trusted — mostly French — experts is sprinkled throughout the pages— cult Parisian facialist Joëlle Ciocco, Biologique Recherche founder Dr. Philippe Allouche and two of Paris’s best-known hairdressers, Christophe Robin and David Mallett – are among the surveyed.
The French edition of “Ageless Beauty” is due out in October, but much of its wisdom is targeted at American women, who have all but mythologized the subtle French approach to beauty. “French women are very confident — they learn at a young age to do the best with what they’re born with and how to take care of themselves,” von Mueffling said. “And when you take care of yourself, you feel better.”
WWD caught up with von Mueffling to learn about her own beauty routine and the best advice she’s learned from her family of beauty editors.
WWD: Did you always want to go into beauty?
Clémence von Mueffling: I always knew I wanted to work in beauty. It’s such a positive industry and it’s always growing — even when the economy isn’t doing well. It was interesting to work on the other side first — I wanted to learn how a beauty product is born, and I loved working with scientists, developing stories around new ingredients and seeing ideas turn into a product being sold in a department store 18 months later.
WWD: Do you have memories from when you were young of seeing your mother and grandmother work?
C.V.M.: On school holidays, my mother would take me to the Vogue office on the Place des Vosges in Paris. I’d try the creams and fragrances and come back home with all these treasures. My mother’s specialty was writing about fragrance, and she worked often with an Italian professor of experimental archaeology whose specialty was recreating antique perfumes. He once gave me a re-creation of the scent Cleopatra wore — I kept it and still have it.
WWD: You promote a mix of classic French pharmacy staples and American clean beauty brands on Beauty and Well-being. What is your philosophy when it comes to using natural beauty products?
C.V.M.: Everything in life is about being sensible and taking a balanced approach. When you put a body cream on, the amount you use is quite important, so you want to choose a product that is clean. When I [apply] mascara, the quantity is so small that I go for the brand that makes my eyelashes look the best. I say in the book that it’s important to make small changes rather than drastic. That’s what I do with nutrition and sport — I try to keep it very balanced, and it’s the same when choosing beauty products.
WWD: What’s your personal approach to diet and exercise?
C.V.M.: When I was [pregnant] with my children, I started to read books on nutrition — “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan and “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber. The more I read about living a healthy, balanced life and making the right choices, [it clicked]. If there are too many ingredients [in a product] with names you can’t pronounce, if your grandmother can’t recognize it, it’s probably not good for you. Then when I wrote the book, I met all these experts and I’ve learned so many things. There’s [having good] posture, which is just as important as exercise. If you don’t have good circulation you’ll have cellulite and [varicose] veins. Running is not the ideal sport. You should avoid high-impact [exercises]. Water sports, bicycling, walking or going up and down stairs — these are much more effective activities.
WWD: What’s the difference between the French and American approaches to beauty?
C.V.M.: The difference is perfect skin. In my opinion, the goal [in the U.S.] is to have perfect skin, and I think French women would be happy with just good skin. When you want perfect skin, you might make the mistake where you go in for a very harsh treatment or go for a beauty cream with very strong ingredients. You’re starting invasive treatments early because you want perfect results. Sometimes you just need a gentle, daily-double cleansing and a face massage. I feel this is one of French’s best-kept secrets — you can get really good results from facial massage. French beauty isn’t about looking younger, it’s about looking good for your age — good skin and trying to do the most with what you are born with. Look at Brigitte Macron — she is not the most beautiful woman on the planet, but she looks really good and knows how to make the absolute best of her looks.
WWD: What is it about French women and beauty?
C.V.M.: French women are very confident with themselves. You learn from a young age to do the best with what you’re born with and to not try to look like someone else. We learn as teenagers to cleanse our faces, and we go regularly to neighborhood beauty boutiques — like the nail salons on every corner here in the U.S. — from a young age for waxing, eyelash tints, whatever is part of your beauty regimen. You learn that when you take care of yourself, you feel better — I think it removes some of the pressure that some women can feel.
WWD: Are there any products that you’ve learned to use from your mother and grandmother?
C.V.M.: The Nu Skin — not [to be confused] with the NuFace. They were the pioneers in [at-home] microcurrent technology. My grandmother got it and gave one to my mother, and my mother gave one to me. As a noninvasive treatment, microcurrent is incredible — it’s a great way to keep the skin toned and lifted.
WWD: What’s the best advice you’ve learned from an expert you interviewed for “Ageless Beauty”?
C.V.M.: I learned the double-cleansing method from Joëlle Ciocco and Isabelle Bellis, and I’ve definitely noticed an improvement on my skin. I interviewed a lot of French dermatologists for the book and learned that scrubbing too often is something you should avoid. Every time you scrub, you remove three layers of skin and it takes two days to rebuild just one, so it takes almost a week to rebuild. Without those layers, your skin is so much more sensitive and you’re prone to sun spots and rosacea.
WWD: What do your mother and grandmother make of today’s green juice and SoulCycle-crazed wellness culture?
C.V.M.: They’re into it. My grandmother uses an app on her phone to track her steps — she tries to do 5,000 a day. She’s incorporated [breathwork] into her routine. My mother has discovered Pilates, yoga and stretching. They are still trying so many things — they’ll try things and then send them to me.