French women look seven years younger than British women by the time they reach 40, says a new survey.

More than 80% of British women think that French women are the best preserved in the whole of Europe and that they age much more gracefully than us Brits.

In a survey commissioned by UK beauty retailer Escentual.com, British women judged their French counterparts to look seven years younger than them by the time they hit 40. And in the case of some famous French women it was more than seven years. Politician Segolene Royal, 59, was thought to be 12-years-younger at 47, and actress Catherine Deneuve, 69 was thought to be 10-years younger. French actress Audrey Tautou, who is 36 – they thought was 29. Actress Juliette Binoche, 48, was judged to be 41.

The vast majority of British women (89%) said the secret to French women’s youthful visage is their anti-ageing skin care regime. French ladies start using skin repair, anti-ageing creams and serums at least five years earlier than British women – 33% of French women start as early as 15, and by the age of 20, nearly two thirds of French women are using specialist anti-ageing French pharmacy brands like Avene, La Roche-Posay and Caudalie.

On our side of the English Channel women generally don’t start on their skin-care routine until the age of 25, and even then it’s only half of British women that would have a consistent regime of anti-ageing skincare.

Escentual.com skin-care expert Emma Leslie said: "British women tend to start using anti-ageing products when they start to see the first effects of ageing, which can be a bit too little too late. Whereas French women will often take preventative measures even when they are in their mid to late teens."

The French are by far the biggest spender on anti-ageing products in Europe – spending £1.9 billion on facial skincare in 2009, an average expenditure of £78-a-year for every female over 15 in France. British women spend less than half that (£854 million) which may go some way to explain the comparatively wrinkle-free French visage.

When British women were asked if French women’s increased expenditure had worked for them 90% said they thought it had, and 51% of that number said they would be happy to spend that much more if they could get the same results.