Coveted by beauty editors, models and makeup artists around the world, French Pharmacy brands have grown a cult following over the last few years. Striking the balance between function and efficacy, these products have earned their status for offering luxury results at reasonable prices. The thermal water sprays, multi-purpose cremes and oils that line the pharmacy walls are famously kind on sensitive skin, focussing on the gentle hydration and renewal of the complexion. Whilst these brands were once so elusive that they used to demand a trip across the channel armed with an empty suitcase, they are now widely available online. But, just in case you have a trip to the French capital in your sights, we have included a round-up of the best-stocked Parisienne pharmacies below.
The best destinations for French beauty shopping
26 Rue du Four, 75006 Paris, France
City-Pharma is recognised by beauty aficionados worldwide as setting the gold-standard for French pharmacies. Considered by many as the cheapest source for beauty products in Paris, this beauty Mecca is constantly packed with both locals and tourists; so-much-so that it’s owners ensure that there is a 1:1 ratio of staff to customers to protect their precious stock.
Pharmacie Des Archives
2 Rue des Archives, 75004 Paris, France
A stone’s throw from the River Seine, this petite but well-stocked spot hosts all of the French pharmacy favourites at impressively competitive prices. Unlike many of the pharmacies in the city, Pharmacie des Archives is open on a Sunday giving you one extra day to stock up on the essentials.
74 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris, France
Another French beauty haven, Pharmacie Monge is so popular with tourists that it is equipped with an army of multilingual staff with the ability to respond to your beauty queries whether they are in English, Arabic or Korean. Open until 11pm, the pharmacy is an ideal place to spend the day discovering and experimenting with new products.
Cult French beauty products that are worth the trip
Taking the No.1 spot in the Oils category of French pharmacies, the iconic Huile Prodigieuse is a multi-purpose staple. The versatile dry oil features an infusion of seven botanicals including almond, camellia, macadamia and the anti-ageing tsubaki. With active anti-oxidant properties, the oil provides a protective layer against pollution and also works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and stretch marks. Delicately fragranced with notes of Orange Blossom, Magnolia and Vanilla, the Huile Prodigieuse offers a luxurious experience and it’s versatile nature means that there are no rules to it’s application.
BEAUTY ELIXIR | £32
Listed by Adriana Lima and Liv Tyler as a must-have item for in-flight hydration when travelling, Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir is a quick and effective way to rejuvenate a dull complexion while on the go. Inspired by the so-called “elixir of youth” used by Queen Isabelle of Hungary, the spray has a garden-fresh key ingredient list that includes grape, rose, orange blossom and rosemary. Its travel-sized proportions make the elixir ideal for keeping in your bag for application throughout the day, however, it is also effective as an addition to your daily beauty ritual. For a refreshing morning wake-up call, spritz the elixir onto the face before applying a moisturiser, alternatively, apply after completing your makeup to create a dewy, lived-in look.
Eau thermale Avene
No French beauty counter would be complete without a bottle of Eau Thermale Avene’s Spring Water Spray. With a close-to-neutral pH level, this iconic product is ideal for soothing sensitive and easily irritated skin. Best used as an no-fuss addition to your current skincare routine, it works well as a gentle hydrating toner to cool and soothe skin before applying the next steps. Eau Thermale Avene is also known.
Vichy products have been a permanent fixture on French beauty shelves for over 80 years. Best known for it’s use of naturally inspired active ingredients, the range’s newest addition, Mineral 89, uses a unique combination of the brand’s namesake ‘Vichy Thermal Mineralizing Water’ and hyaluronic acid. The gel-like serum hydrates and plumps skin with each molecule of hyaluronic acid acting as a moisture magnet with the ability to hold 1000-times its weight in water. Best used to prep the skin after cleansing, Mineral 89 is an ideal barrier for all skin types.
No make-up artist’s tool kit would be complete without a bottle of Bioderma’s Sensibio H20 Solution. A holy grail product in France due to the country’s harsh tap-water, the gentle solution uses liquid molecules called micelles to trap the oil in makeup and make it easier to remove. When applied to a cotton pad, the alcohol-free, soap-free and fragrance-free formula sweeps off all traces of dirt and makeup and negates the need to be rough on skin in order to achieve a thorough cleanse. For the French, the best part of using Sensibio is that after it’s use the liquid simply evaporates from the skin, meaning that there is no need to rinse.
Incorporated into the daily skincare rituals of Karlie Kloss, Lindsey Wixon and Caroline Issa, this French pharmacy veteran is a plain but powerful tool. Designed as a facial moisturiser, in the 60 years since it’s introduction the highly versatile Lait Creme Concentrate has been used by fans as a cleanser, makeup remover, beauty mask, primer and even as a soothing post-shave balm. The fast-absorbing cream uses hyaluronic acid to grab and retain water, ensuring that skin remains plump and hydrated throughout the day. Miraculously, the Concentrate is an ideal product for all skin types; those with oily skin should apply the product sparingly to create a lightweight but effective layer of coverage while those on the dryer side types can use it as a priming base before applying a richer moisturiser.
Klorane’s Oatmilk Gentle Dry Shampoo is relied on by many to extend the time between washes while keeping hair looking oil-free and voluminous. Restoring freshness with its gentle formula, this French favourite is used by clean beauty fans such as Miranda Kerr and hair experts like Bleach London founder Alex Brownsell. For the best results, spray the shampoo over your roots, allow it to set for two minutes and brush it through.
Award-winning La Roche-Posay is respected in France and internationally for its range of highly effective products that repeatedly challenge the integrity of their high-end counterparts. All of the brand’s products are designed to be gentle to sensitive skin while providing effective results for all. The Serozinc is a toning facial mist specifically formulated to target oily, blemish prone skin. Effectively minimize the size of pores, tackle excess oil and mattify skin by spraying the mist onto the face and allowing time for it to sink in before adding any other products.
Illustrations by Alice Nyong