There’s nothing quite like a French pharmacy! Personally, I can spend hours in them looking at all the products. When I first moved to France I had no idea how essential pharmacies were. On my first solo trip to the grocery store I was honestly shocked to learn that if I wanted aspirin, I wasn’t going to get it there!
For that, and many other items I could normally find in an American grocery, it required a trip to the pharmacy! Very quickly realized how cool the pharmacies were in France. I highly recommend that on your next trip to France you check one out.
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There is practically one every block in Paris. Some are quite old with beautiful facades, some more modern, and others just simply utilitarian, serving the purpose it was created for. No matter which pharmacy you visit in Paris (or France) I wanted to share some of the items you might think about picking up and a few items I would discourage you from buying.
French skincare products
The French are well-known for their unique fashion, their rich cultural experiences, and their quality products, be it cheese and wine, perfume, or beauty products. French pharmacies are stocked with the best of the best skincare and beauty products that have become a part of the daily routine of the locals.
French women often begin their skincare routines at a young age by shadowing their mothers and grandmothers. (Read Clemence’s von Mueffling book Ageless Beauty the French Way: Secrets from Three Generations of French Beauty Editors, it’s fascinating!) It’s as easy as a quick trip to the nearest pharmacy to gather simple products. French pharmacies are well-equipped with readily available quality skincare for all types of skins.
When I lived in France I took advantage of the access to a myriad of French skincare products. I mainly stuck with Vichy, Avène, and La Roche Posay. All 3 of these brands create their products with volcanic, thermal, or mineral water in sources that carry their names.
These lines were not available in the US. Now they all are! And I did the research to see if buying in the US versus France is cheaper. I had my friend who lives in Nice visit a few pharmacies and I checked the prices which I compared to Amazon. Here are the results and my recommendations.
Avène: Buy in France
Vichy: Buy in France
La Roche Posay: Buy in France
I was honestly surprised by this. I was sure that I could find them on Amazon cheaper, but alas, no.
If you can’t hop on a plane to Paris, and let’s face it, it is getting harder and harder to do, then look for sales at Walgreens and Ulta, who both carry Avène, La Roche Posay, and Vichy. Target carries La Roche Posay and Vichy. Ask for gift cards from your family and use them to pick up these wonderful French skincare lines.
But I think every trip to Paris should include a pit stop at a local pharmacy to stock up on a wide variety of skincare must-haves. For this post, my gal-pal in Paris, Mitalee, did some intensive research that involved many beauty discussions with Parisians and expats alike over lots of glasses of wine. And she has rounded 9 of the best French skincare products that you can easily get at the pharmacy around the corner or even order online from the comfort of your home.
Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50+
Sunscreen is probably the most important and the most underrated skincare must-have on this list. Wearing sunscreen is one of the easiest ways to protect your skin from harmful rays and ensuring its healthy appearance all year round. La Roche-Posay is an award-winning French pharmacy brand that was established in 1975 and consistently works with dermatologists to create effective formulations with active ingredients.
La Roche Posay’s Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50+ has an ultra-resistant formula with very high protection of SPF50+ along with protection against UVA rays with PPD 46 to prevent dark spots from forming and getting darker. The sunscreen is non-greasy and lightweight. For a pharmacy brand, it does seem on the more expensive side but with benefits like sand, sweat, and water resistance, it is one of the highly coveted sunscreens for summers.
Eye Cream: Filorga Time Filler Eyes Absolute Eye Correction Cream
Reportedly the most Googled beauty product of 2018, Filorga Time Filler Eyes exceeds its expectations and is well worth the hype. With a creamy, gel-like texture, this eye cream is aimed at improving wrinkles, eyelash volume, under-eye hollows, dark circles, and eyelids. Claimed to mimic botox effects, it moisturizes the area around the eyes, fades dark circles, and supports healthy eyelash growth.
Lip Balm: Nuxe Rêve de Miel Honey Lip Balm
Unlike many other lip balms, Nuxe’s Rêve de Miel Honey lip balm has been a French favorite since 1994 and continues to live up to its hyped status. Thanks to its thick, mask-like texture, the balm is long-lasting and leaves the lips feeling hydrated without constant reapplication.
It also combats dryness and aging lips. The only potential downside is that it contains silicone which contributes to the soft, dense texture. The silicone can irritate sensitive skin and cause breakouts.
Note from Andi: I buy 5 or 6 La Roche Posay lip balms on every trip to France, this has been my go-to for decades!
Micellar Water: Bioderma Sensibio H20
Micellar water is a staple product in a makeup toolkit. It is a quintessential pharmacy product found all over France, and you can rarely go wrong with it. It draws out impurities and leaves the skin refreshed and clean. The soft formula in Bioderma Sensibio H20 works wonders on all skin types and is an excellent makeup remover for heavy and long-wear makeup. It also works well on waterproof makeup without irritation or deep rubbing.
Note from Andi: I also use Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water. Every morning and every evening!
Moisturizer: Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentré
French pharmacies come equipped with moisturizers for all skin types. Embryolisse is one of the most iconic and popular moisturizers on the pharmacy shelves. Created by a Parisian dermatologist in the 1950s, this moisturizer has been used by makeup artists all over the world for its hydration without any irritation.
The creme is multipurpose and can be used as a simple moisturizer, as a makeup base, as a mask to smooth and repair, and also as a shaving cream.
Oil: Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil
Used since 1991, this multipurpose oil has been a favorite of the Parisians for its subtle, summery scent and its high-absorbant texture. Made up of 98.1% natural ingredients, and seven different types of plant oils, the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil doesn’t leave behind a greasy texture.
It has a great hydrating, anti-aging, and softening effect, and can be used everywhere on the body, including your hair. It is free of preservatives and silicones. Its pleasant summery scent matches perfectly with the summer season and gives the skin a youthful, glowy appearance.
Clay Mask: Cattier Ready For Use Green Clay
If you’re looking for some indulging creamy clay masks, look no further than Cattier! A mask that removes impurities and excess oil while softening and making the skin glow. With three types of clays sourced from all around France, the Cattier Clay Mask doesn’t contain ingredients that could irritate the skin.
One thing to keep in mind while using it is to not let the mask dry out. Use a spray or mist water to keep the mask moist. Since the clay can be a bit drying, it is advised to moisturize your skin after washing the mask off.
Serum: Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is one of the bestselling serums at French pharmacies. With its extra gentle nature, it works on all kinds of dark spots (sun spots, post-acne marks, and aging spots) without any irritation.
With a lightweight, oil-free texture, the serum is highly absorbent and has a lingering fruity scent. The serum adds a radiant effect to the skin and evens out the color.
Dry Shampoo: Klorane Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoo has been a favorite of hairstylists for quite some time now, and their love for Klorane has not diminished over the years. Since 1971, Klorane has refreshed the scalp by not only creating volume but also rendering the signature disheveled look adored by hairstylists everywhere.
Thanks to its unchanged formula, it doesn’t leave any residue on the scalp, can extend the life of a blowout, and add fantastic texture to give you the cool ‘je ne sais quoi’ look.
What Not to Buy
Now that we’ve shared some great buys, here are a few things I don’t recommend.
- Deodorant: it is way more expensive and if you prefer sticks to sprays, I find that they are not as effective as our American versions.
- Hair spray: if you use a stiff hair spray as I do, it is impossible to find! All the hairspray I have bought in France is not strong enough for me.
- I know that we mentioned Klorane’s dry shampoo, but in general, you don’t need to buy shampoo, conditioner or body wash in a pharmacy you will pay more than you need to as you can buy really good quality French brands in grocery stores.
In general, pharmacists and their staff are very helpful. Although I will say, that if you go to one in a very touristy area they can be overwhelmed and harried and may not spend as much time as you like helping you. However, if you go to a “regular” residential one (maybe in the neighborhood your rental apartment is) you will probably have a good experience! Always remember to start your request with a “bonjour.”
If you want to embrace your inner French girl, then trying some of these wonderful French skincare products that you can get at any French pharmacy is a good start. The French trust their local pharmacist as if they were an old family friend and French skincare brands have a tradition of medicinal products utilizing ingredients found in nature. I encourage you to step inside a pharmacy the next time you visit Paris!
How about you? Do you have a French pharmacy find that you want to share? Do tell!
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