It’s no secret that I have a deep obsession with Paris and anything remotely French. My Francophilia only grows when we start talking beauty and skincare products. Whenever I go to France, there are a handful of items on the mandatory restock list. The best place to find skincare products in France is at the pharmacies, usually marked by a green cross outside.
From serums to things I never thought I’d need (and now I can’t live without), I never leave a pharmacy empty handed. You can find these all over the city, serving as beacon of hope to capture that timeless beauty of the French woman.
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We recently moved from Italy to California, and I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up my twice a year jaunt to a Parisian pharmacy. Luckily most of my favorites are available at Sephora, Nordstrom or Dermstore. In this guide to the best French skincare products, I’ll share some cult classics, my personal favorites and where to get them (in Paris or delivered to your door).
I’m a little embarrassed at how full my drawers are of products, but it wouldn’t be a proper post if I didn’t share it all…
Best French Skincare Products
Caudalie is my go to brand for French skincare. Their serums, moisturizers and cult classic beauty elixir contain grapes from vineyards throughout France. I’ve used many of their natural, paraben free skincare products and can’t begin to choose a favorite. Most products are available at Sephora or Dermstore, but you can also order directly from their US site for free shipping on all orders and three free samples.
In Paris, the ladies at the pharmacy suggested the VineActiv line for women in their 20s or 30s as it protects against free radicals. So I picked up this serum along with their cult classic Vinoperfect serum that fights against dark spots and wrinkles. Did you know one of these are sold every 30 seconds worldwide?
July 2020 update: I just tried their new Vinoperfect moisturizer and it’s my current favorite.
When I first heard about water sprays I thought, “Sounds ridiculous. Do I really need that?” The answer is, “Yes. Yes, you do.” I use this one daily after applying a serum or moisturizer. Then I use a jade roller (another thing that sounds ridiculous, but is really amazing) to press it all in.
I also use their micellar water and the Deep Cleansing Exfoliator. I saw an interview with founder Mathilde Thomas where she suggested mixing the exfoliator with your daily cleaner so you save an extra step. Genius, right?
Eager for more insight into the French beauty industry, I picked up her book The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested Secrets to Look and Feel Beautiful Inside and Out. Not only does Thomas tell the story of how she founded Caudalie, she also explores the cultural differences between the States and France surrounding beauty, aging and skincare.
If you love the idea of micellar water, you should also pick up the cult classic by Bioderma (also available at Dermstore). People rave about how soft it makes your face, but I’m in it for the cleaning power. There’s something so
satisfying gross about seeing makeup residue and dirt on a cotton pad. Parisian women are known for not washing their faces with the harsh city water. Micellar water is the only way to get a good clean without water.
As far as day moisturizers go, I reach for Avène Optimale Moisturizer made with thermal water and SPF. Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre is also famous and used by celebrity makeup artists. I’ve seen women wipe out an entire shelf, dumping about 20 bottles in their hand cart at CityPharma in Paris. It’s one of my favorite French moisturizers too and it’s at a great price point. You can’t go wrong.
Be sure to pick up a bottle of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil at the beginning of your trip and use the multi purpose oil during your stay. Memories are strongly linked to scent. Each time I use my oil, it brings me back to days walking around Paris and nights spend under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower.
Best French Haircare Products
I have very long, curly hair and as long as I’ve lived, I’ve never washed it everyday. Klorane helps on that second or even third day when your roots need a quick refresh.
Phyto is another go to French brand for haircare. I’ve used Phyto 7 for years and as you can see, I’m almost out. This product is great to put over your ends for extra shine and to add moisture.
The Best Pharmacies in Paris
City Pharma is the Mecca of all Parisian pharmacies, (26 Rue du Four, 75006). With two stories and hidden corners full of French beauty secrets, it’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed. Expect it to be busy. However in the winter months, I’ve gone in and out in a breeze. If you don’t want to be perusing for hours (more time for eating macarons, if you ask me), have a list ahead of time. Find an employee (white coat, flawless skin) and show her your list. Most of the ladies speak English perfectly so feel free to ask for suggestions if you have a particular problem. They’ll give their honest recommendations without being salesy.
If City Pharma sounds too much like a zoo for you, there are two wonderful pharmacies in Le Marais that will also suffice. Pharmacie Archives (Rue des Archives, 75004) and Pharmacie de la Mairie (9 Rue des Archives) are just around the corner from each other. They have all the same staples as CityPharma and the prices are still much less expensive that what you’d pay in America.
I’ll always pop into BHV also. It’s right across the street from these two pharmacies and is a shopping destination in itself. On the bottom floor, you’ll find a small but noteworthy beauty corner. They always seem to be having a sale and I usually pick up a pack of travel minis.
Not going to France anytime soon? Me either, and I sympathize. I’ve linked all the products in this post to Amazon or online retailers. You can order straight from their website and have it delivered to your door… wherever you are!
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