Best of France - French Pharmacie Must-Haves

Best of France - French Pharmacie Must-Haves

Being French, I often get asked which beauty products to bring back from France. Even though it is now pretty easy to get hold of most of them, either on, or, I can't deny that French pharmacies are a little bit of heaven (for me, at least) and yes, the products are undeniably cheaper too. So if you ever fancy crossing the Channel - whether to stock up on wine, admire the architecture or simply for the unique experience of being shouted at by a grumpy Parisian -, here are a few key products I highly recommend checking out :

(For an updated version of this post and even more suggestions, don't forget to check out this post I wrote recently.)

The very much hyped-up Caudalie "Eau De Beauté" needs no introduction, but it is not the only water spray worth trying. Avène "Eau Thermale" and Evian facial spray are amongst my favourite ones, mainly because they are very gentle and hydrating on my sensitive skin. Some people like to use them as a toner, I personally use them to hydrate my skin when sunbathing in the summer and also to refresh my makeup throughout the day.

Rogé Cavaillès Savon Surgras Extra-Doux soap used to be my holy grail cleanser, back when I was still living in France. It kept my skin feeling extremely clean, yet moisturised - a must have if you have super dry skin like me. Pretty inexpensive too.

In the past few years, Nuxe Rêve de Miel night cream has become a staple in my skincare routine. Despite being quite thick, it manages to soothe and nourish the skin, without feeling heavy or sticky  - a bonus when your face is about to hit your freshly laundered (well, washed) pillowcase.

If like me, you suffer from dry, dehydrated skin, I strongly suggest popping the following three products in your basket, next time you step into a French pharamacie or parapharmacie. Caudalie Vinosource Serum, Avène Masque Apaisant Hydratant and Nuxe Crème Fraîche moisturiser are a perfect combination to help nourish, soothe and protect the skin, especially during the cold winter months. 
Ok, so L'Occitane isn't technically hard to come by in England and it's not a brand you can find in French pharmacies either, but I do love it and it's French so I'm adding it to this post anyway - I like to break the rules like that. L'Occitane actually originated very close to my hometown, in the South of France… funny, eh? I particularly love their L'immortelle line, notably the Precious Serum and Precious Eye Balm, which are all natural products and smell absolutely divine!

Cattier Masque à l'Argile Rose, a pink clay mask, is perfect for sensitive skin. It leaves your skin feeling clean, your pores looking tight and has a brightening effect on the complexion. What's not to like, I say. For acne-prone skin, try the green clay version, which helps draw toxins from the skin and calm inflammations.

Something also worth trying if you suffer from acne is the Vichy Normaderm line. The cleanser and daily moisturiser literally saved my skin when I was a spotty teenager. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo and Effaclar K creams are also really good to get rid of the odd pimple, but be careful if your skin is on the sensitive side as it can be quite drying - and no one wants to have to conceal a flaky zit!

Nuxe Rêve de Miel lipbalm has been featured on so many beauty blogs this year, most of you are probably familiar with it already. I am on my fourth pot and can honestly say that it is the best lipbalm I have ever tried – by a mile. It is a bit on the thick side and doesn't sink in very fast, but it does leave your lips feeling extremely smooth and deeply nourished. It is also matte, which is a nice change from all the shiny Vaseline-like lipbalms on the market. Oh and did I mention that it smells like lemon curd too? Exactly.

Nuxe Baumes Prodigieux are amongst my favourite lipglosses. They have a non-sticky formula, an SPF of 15 and double as a lip treatment. The perfect product to throw in your handbag when your lips are feeling a bit blah. The colour range isn’t amazing though… I personally like the nude and pink ones.

Maybelline Instant Anti-Age concealer – or Instant Age-Rewind concealer depending on where you live - has been all the rage amongst American beauty bloggers and although it is not currently available in the UK, it is widely available in France. Win!

Dental hygiene… Yes, I am actually going to go there. It is not exactly glamorous, but I never leave France without stocking up on Elmex toothpaste. This toothpaste is highly recommended by dentists for its high concentration in fluoride and since it is always on offer in French parapharmacies, you have no excuse not to pop it in your basket next time you’re in France. No lipstick will ever make up for grubby choppers! I might need to have that printed on a T-shirt.

Another not so glamorous product is Gifrer Liniment Oléo-Calcaire. Composed only of organic olive oil and limewater, this moisturiser is originally meant to be used on babies. However, it is so moisturizing, I like to use it all over my body about once a week, before I go to bed. The smell isn’t the yummiest, but my skin is left silky smooth for several days. And hey, if it's good enough for a baby's bottom… it sure is good enough for mine!

In my opinion, France produces some of the best hand creams on the market. Two of my favourites are Caudalie Crème Gourmande Mains et Ongles and Nuxe Rêve de Miel cream for hands and nails, which both leave your hands deeply moisturised and smelling gorgeous.

There are a lot of healing balms and creams available in French pharmacies. Avène Cold Cream and Biafine balm are two absolute gems. They can both be used on dry, chapped skin, but Biafine is particularly great on burns and sunburns – brilliant when you grow up on the French Riviera and forget to take your sunscreen to the beach… I am not talking about anyone in particular. Obviously.

I’ll be blunt: If you haven't heard of Kérastase haircare by now, chances are you are currently living under a rock. My favourite shampoo is their Bain Nutri-Thermique, but let’s be honest, I cannot justify spending that much money on something that washes down the drain within minutes and has to be followed by conditioner anyway. Their hair masks however are totally worth investing in. I swear by their Masquintense, which deeply nourishes my hair and leaves it soft, shiny and super healthy-looking. A little goes a long way too, so although it is a bit pricey, a tub usually lasts me several months.

I doubt I could live without Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse dry oil. Bold statement, but bear with me - Not only can it be used EVERYWHERE on both hair and body as a quick nourishing and softening oil, it also gives your skin the most amazing velvety shine. I love using it on my legs and collarbones, especially the Huile Prodigieuse OR version, which has tiny flecks of gold glitter running through it - perfect to highlight a (real or fake) tan.

Worth the Hype? I don't think so.

Growing up in France, I have worked my way through quite a few beauty products over the years, especially as a teenager. If some of them are still a big part of my hair and skin regimen, a lot of them are - in my humble opinion – seriously overrated. Here goes:
This one is going to be quite controversial, I’m sure! This product has been sooooo hyped up amongst beauty bloggers and yes, I know, it is a staple for many makeup artists too. I was so excited to try it, yet this clear as water, harmless-looking makeup remover gave me one of the worst allergic reactions I have ever had – and considering the fact that I am pretty much allergic to every other product I try, that's saying something. Before you start shouting at your screen, let me just add that it is not only me! My sister, whose skin is not sensitive at all, took off her eye makeup with it and her skin was so red and tight afterwards, it was even uncomfortable to look at! As it is not exactly on the cheap side, I would definitely advise you to give it a miss or maybe get the smallest bottle before investing in the giant ones.

Phytodéfrisant is a leave-in conditioner that is meant to leave your hair straight and smooth. It was all the rage after Jennifer Aniston's stylist mentioned using it on the Hollywood star’s hair (which everyone and their mother wanted to copy at the time, me included), but to be honest… it didn't do much for me, just left my hair looking limp and a bit greasy. I have naturally straight hair, so it might work great on coarser, frizzier hair but if your hair looks remotely like mine, then don’t do it, kids.

Again, this was a beauty junky’s favourite ten years ago and I remember it being featured in magazines constantly when I was growing up. It was one of the very first dry shampoos available on the market and I still find myself reaching for it when I’m in France - don’t get me wrong, it is a decent dry shampoo -, but if you are in the UK, or even in the U.S., there are so many cheaper alternatives out there! Batiste makes one of my favourite dry shampoos and it does everything the Klorane one does, for only a fraction of the price. 

I would love to know what your staple beauty products from your country are… Please, share! It can be so overwhelming to try and decide what to pick up when you are abroad!

- Elodie x


  1. I have the Avene Cold cream sitting in my basket at home but not really sure what to use it for?! Is it just for your face?
    Elodie I want to try everything on this page!

  2. I live in Serbia and luckily we are well stocked on French cosmetics. I was introduced to it by my mom years ago and to this day I still use mostly French products. There is an odd one here and there (read not from France) that may be of interest to you. Here is my list of products:

    * cleanser: Noreva Actipur (for combination skin). I used to use Avene CLEANANCE Cleanser gel without soap and I liked it because it didn't irritate my skin but my dermatologist said it was not suited for my skin so I switched. But based on what you said about your skin I think you may like this.
    * eye cream: Decleor Hydra floral eye cream
    * face cream: Decleor Aroma Pureté / Caudalie moisturizing matifying fluid. Like them both but Decleor one works a bit better
    * sunscreen: LRP Anthelios XL (not greasy and absorbs quickly)
    * face mask: nothing I could recommend
    * makeup remover: Bioderma. Before this one I used Avene extremely gentle cleanser and loved it. I switched only to try overly hyped Bioderma and continued to use it because it tends to last me a bit longer than the Avene one. But do try.

    *lips: best lip balm hands down is Avene cold cream lip cream, but sadly they do not import it here since few months ago so I had to switch and currently I use A-Derma Intense repair lip balm which I also like. (It is made by Pierre Fabre - same company that does Avene)

    *hand cream: Neutrogena concentrated - I only use cream at night and this is the only one that keeps my hands hydrated without having to apply it throughout the day.
    *nail care: Mavala cuticle oil - I swear by this! A must for me and last ages

    That's about it when it comes to favourites of mine. I didn't want to go into makeup because this comment would be the length of your blog post. :)
    I do hope you'll do more posts like this in the future - they are always fun to read.

  3. Great post!

  4. Your post describes me when I slip away from my parents in Hyper U into the next door pharmacy every few months - luckily I'm coming back to Europe soon as I'm running out of gold Nuxe oil; I honestly would not ever be able to wear bare legs without it! When I was still in England it was the only way my legs never looked pasty, and now I am a tanned person you are right that it is the perfect enhancer!

  5. Love this poist Elodie, french skin care gets me everytime! I already have quite a few of these items from recent trips to city pharma in Paris but now I want to add the cold creams and face masks on to my list for my next visit. A shame about the bioderma bringing you out in a rash, i have quite sensitive skin and it's lovely on me but I do think it's over hyped and I would only ever get it if i was in france or knew someone else going, i certainly wouldn't bother with eBay as there are plenty of great alternatives in boots etc

  6. I loved everything about this post and I feel like I need to go through it again and write down all of these products. Thank you so much, so many great recommendations!


  7. I'm loving these! I can't wait to try everything!

  8. Anonymous21 July, 2013

    Great recommendations, thanks a lot. Just to let you know: Elmex is not a french tootpaste, it´s a German brand. And it is important to know that Elmex is one toothpaste out of a combo - Aronal and Elmex. Aronal is recommended to be used in the morning and Elmex at night for extra protection.

    1. I had no idea! I've never seen Aronal sold in France and dentist only ever recommended Elmex to me but thanks for telling me. I'll make sure to have a look out for Aronal next time! x

  9. which body lotion would you recommend? New to Paris and my skin feels so dry! Will try the oil you suggested as well.

  10. Interesting blog. I normally use the Avene products for my dry skin until a friend introduced me to Tropika skincare, a brand that uses tropical oils such as refined Avocado oil in their formulation. The brand seems focused on the dark skin but this products works perfect for my white skin.
    Their Body lotion works perfectly for my dry skin and their prices are fair.

  11. Wonderful post, I found so many products that I think I need to try now. Too bad I didnt read this before I actually went to Paris, last week!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing these tips with us. I've always wanted to visit France (Paris specially) Now, I feel like I really have to visit France, and when I do, I will bring everything you mentioned on this post!

  13. Just read your article! Love it! I am an ex model and everyone has always rushed out to the French pharmacie as soon as possible to stock up on items such as the crealine, embryollisse etc.
    I would love to share with you my favourite Australian products if you are interested?

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