Few women come from a beauty pedigree like Clémence von Mueffling. She grew up in the offices of French Vogue — both her mother, Lorraine Bolloré, and grandmother, Régine Debrise, were beauty editors at the iconic magazine.
But it is not the shiny offices that were paramount in her beauty education (although they didn’t hurt). No, Mueffling learned everything she knows today directly from her mom and grandmother, forming a dynamic beauty trio, if you will.
And while most of us succumb to the same age-old beauty advice from our mothers (like washing our faces and how a good lip can dress up any outfit), not all of our mothers are giving us stretch mark cream at age 13 (a true story for Mueffling).
With Mother’s Day coming up, Mueffling — who has twins of her own — reveals everything she learned from her French beauty dynasty (plus a few things she has picked up on her own along the way).
Q: How do French mothers typically approach the topic of beauty?
I think that something a lot of French mothers teach their daughters is to learn to enhance their best features. And I can see even today, when I look at French women, that it’s not about perfection when you look at them. You know, the hair doesn’t look perfect, it’s more about keeping a sort of natural aspect, and a good routine at the same time.
Q: Did your mom teach you the same?
Both my mother and grandmother … taught me at a very young age all the beauty vitriols and that good skin doesn’t happen in one day, that good skin requires a certain routine. And it doesn’t have to be very complicated … you just have to do it. It became really ingrained in me — I learned all these things when I was learning my ABCs. It taught me that self-care also is not about vanity. Self-care is really about self-confidence.
Q: What is your first beauty memory?
My mother would sometimes take me to her office, [which] was French Vogue with beautiful offices in the heart of Paris. And I remember being just a little girl and being brought into that world with all of the elegance. Editors, fashion editors, beauty editors — they all had their desks full of perfumes and products and things they were trying. And of course, as a little girl, they were happy to give me a little sample of something, and that was truly magical as a little girl.
Q: What does your grandmother think of today’s beauty landscape? It must be so different.
She loves it. Because she keeps telling me how lucky we are to be able to, first have access to so much at a very accessible price, which was something she didn’t really have at her time. And to be able to also play with texture. You know, we can now put on makeup and have a no-makeup makeup look. To have a blush that has a glossy effect. We have lipsticks that will last all night long, mascaras that make your lashes super strong and super long and full at the same time. She definitely thinks we have the best right now.
Self-care is not about vanity. Self-care is really about self-confidence.
Q: What was your first beauty product?
I was 13. [My mother] sent me to a summer camp in the U.S., and in my suitcase, she had packed three products: a stretch mark prevention cream, a body lotion from Clarins that really smelled very strong, and a perfume from Estée Lauder. And I remember arriving to my camp, and of course … I realized very quickly that I was better putting all my products back in my suitcase and not using them until I would go back home. That was definitely a big moment.
Q: Did you grandmother give you anything?
Every Christmas she would gift [my sister and I] perfume. And at the time I thought, you know, this was sort of like the normal thing that grandmothers were doing — I realized much later that it was not. For my grandmother, it was always very important for a woman to have her signature scent. And because … it’s expensive to buy perfume (especially when you are a teenager), that’s why she wanted, at least, every Christmas, to give us our bottle of perfume.
Q: Do you have a signature scent today?
We definitely all love to have a signature perfume. My sister has a signature perfume. My grandmother, as well. My mother, I think she really tried a lot, but she definitely has three to four perfumes that she always loves. But I think this is definitely something I will pass on to my children as well. Today, I love Tuberose from Aerin. She has Tuberose for the day, and Tuberose for the night. I actually mix those. I spritz a tiny bit of Tuberose Le Jour and a little bit of Tuberose Le Soir, and I love that.
Q: Aside from perfume, what is the best beauty advice your mom and grandmother have ever given you?
I learned from them that you have to treat your skin like your favorite silk blouse. And I really love that expression because I feel that everybody can relate to that. You would never do any type of super harsh treatments on a silk blouse, so we have to treat our skin the same way. You know, we only have one face. We have to be gentle. [And] one of their beauty secrets — which I have to say is one of French women’s best kept beauty secrets — is the face massage. It is very easy to do. The face massage is a great way to activate the production of collagen, to activate the circulation that will really awaken your complexion. It is quite a way to really keep your skin toned. That is something that I also now always love to recommend as well.
Q: How do you talk to your children about beauty? It must be a favorite topic.
They are eight, at the moment. They are twins (boy, girl). So … we are not there yet. But, first of all, I do believe that a good hairbrush makes a big difference. So, in the family we all use the brand called Mason Pearson. My daughter, she understands that she has a good hairbrush. She really likes that. [But] I would say, at the moment, I am more careful about my son. I’m trying to avoid sunburn. Teaching them that of course we need a little bit of sun, we need vitamin D, we need to be outdoors, but you do it wisely — maybe avoiding the hours when the sun is super strong, wearing a hat, long sleeves, rash guard. These kinds of things they already understand.
Q: You moved to the U.S. in 2006, how did you find American beauty to be different?
I find it very feminine. I love American women, [they] always have their nails perfectly done. I find that hair always looks beautiful. [And] they really love to share. I think if you ask a French woman what is the color of her lipstick or what is the brand, she might be like, ‘Oh, I don’t remember.’ You know, of course she remembers. [Face massage] is a best kept beauty secret because most French women will never say that they go to that facialist to have a face massage once a month or twice a month. I think it’s better to share. That’s a great example I learned from American women.
Q: When you do get to practice some self-care, where do you go for facials?
I have a few. I love the French woman Isabelle Bellis. I really love also the method of Alexandra Soveral — she’s a British facialist. She has trained some facialists to have treatment rooms at the Four Seasons Downtown.
Q: Mother’s Day is coming up. What does the day mean to you and your family?
All occasions to gather as a group, whether its family or friends, I think are very important more and more today as we get disconnected sometimes from people and more connected to electronics. We’d always gather, my mother, my grandmothers growing up. It was just an occasion to have a family meal on the weekend. And that’s something I continue to do today in New York. Some people will sometimes buy a little something that … is close to your heart that you want to share with your mother. But I think it’s really more the occasion to spend quality time with the people you love.
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