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10 French Pharmacy Beauty Finds

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I used to spend every June in Paris. I called it my “month of inspiration.” I’d tour the museums, walk along the seine, relax with a book in the Jardin du Luxembourg, sit amongst the sculptures of Rodin and write, and, of course, shop – St. Germain, Avenue Montaigne ,and Le Marais were among my favorite destinations.

And while roaming the city on my month of discovery, I would venture into the french pharmacies and peruse the aisles for the most innovative beauty finds.

I actually just returned from a family function in Paris and, while there, I was able to make my way back into those beloved pharmacies to rediscover some of my favorite french beauty finds. Here are the french products you need to own today (click on name of product to buy it from an online retailer, or bookmark this post for your next jaunt to Paris):

1. Bioderma Crealine H20 ($26) – I am often asked to list my favorite products and this soap-free, water-free face wash and makeup remover is always a the top of the list. Recently, Style Bistro posed the question and here was my response: “I was first introduced to Bioderma Crealine H2O by a friend in Paris. It’s both a makeup remover and a face wash—but without water! Parisian women fear that water dehydrates their skin, leading to premature aging, so they are keen on using products such as this cleansing water as a soap-free, water-free alternative. While I still do wash my face—kind of obsessively—I love this product as my makeup remover. It is ideal for sensitive skin, gets everything off, including stubborn waterproof mascara, and has never made me break out! It’s quite honestly the perfect makeup remover.” This cult-classic can be found at any corner pharmacy in Paris.

2. Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré ($28)- I’ve raved about this in the past (read my review here), but to summarize, Embryolisse, another Parisienne cult favorite, is a staple in almost every makeup artist’s makeup bag. Why? Because it is, quite simply, the perfect moisturizer for all skin types. Gentle and packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins, Embryolisse leaves skin hydrated and glowing without any of the FDA preservatives. It’s an ideal pre-makeup prep product as foundations and powders glide on with ease, post Embryolisse.

3. Avène Cold Cream ($20)- This revered French skin care line can be found at every French pharmacy. While the brand is known for its special water – thermal springs – it’s also rigorous in the quest for creating product that target specific skin disorders including sensitive skin and eczema. The Cold Cream is a staple moisturizer, adored by the Parisienne women for its ability to moisturize even the most dry, cracked and sensitive complexions. While the cream is too thick for my skin type, many of my friends, including Alice + Olivia designer Stacey Bendet, swear by this product to keep their complexions hydrated and healthy.

4. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Usage Dry Oil ($29) – You can’t leave a French pharmacy without purchasing something from Nuxe and the Dry Oil is the most adored product in the line. It’s not reserved solely for your body – although it does produce a gorgeous, subtle glow on skin. Use the dry oil as the French do – on hair and face as well. It’s 98.8% all natural, preservative and silicone free so it’s suitable for almost all skin types.

5. Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($18) – Sure, you can find this brand at your local Sephora, but the Beauty Elixir originated in France. Part-toner, part-serum, this mist is chock-full of essential oils that both tighten pores and work on fine lines. And as a mist (Parisienne women love a good face mist), you can apply it pre moisturizer as a boost or after your makeup to set your face.

6. Boiron Homeoplasmine ($21) – The French equivalent to Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream, I was first introduced to this multipurpose ointment by model Jessica Stam. It soothes, protects and moisturizes the skin without the greasy aftermath of Aquafor or 8 Hour. Think of it as a matte finish ideal to use pre-makeup application on dry patches (and lips!) to create a smooth, silky palette. It can also be used on dry hands, cracked cuticles and sunburns.

7. Klorane Dry Shampoo ($20) – By far, my favorite dry shampoo on the market — and while it’s now sold stateside, its French origin makes it a “buy-in-bulk” item from our beloved French pharmacies. Why is this dry shampoo better than all of the rest? The short answer is oat milk. The products main ingredient not only cleanses and absorbs oil but it also leaves hair smooth instead of crunchy and/ or product-heavy like so many of its competitors.

8. Decleor Aromessence Neroli Essential Serum ($68) – The French have been raving about this 100% natural serum for years, but its American following isn’t as loyal. While our marketplace is inundated with hundreds of face oils, Decleor’s Essential Serum is one of the originals and some would say, the best. Essential Serum hydrates, soothes and brightens without leaving an oily residue in its wake. As with most French beauty products, this oil is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive.

9. Avibon Vitamin A Cream ($50-$250) – Widely considered the over-the-counter French Retin-A, this cream is full of vitamin A, one of the most effective anti-aging ingredients, but it’s also the perfect antidote to acne, too. Stock up on this stuff, ladies, it’s quite difficult to find stateside (and when you do find it, it’s extremely costly. Click on the product link to purchase it for the lowest price I could find in the U.S.). Besides being a favorite amongst its native women, Gwyneth Paltrow is also a fan. Says the actress: “Avibon is hard to find outside of France, but it’s one of my very favorites. It’s full of Vitamin A, which is wonderful for the skin, getting rid of blemishes, tough dry spots and preventing wrinkles (they say). I know an older movie star who uses this every night and she has the most amazing skin!” Note: This product is rather thick so use it like your would Retin-A – a little goes a long way.

10. Oenobiol Tanning Skin-Prep Pills – I’ve never actually tried the “tanning pill” but my American friend living in Paris constantly raves about it. And when I saw her skin – the perfect golden brown bronzy hue – I understood why she is a fan. While the pills are extremely popular in Paris, they don’t yet exist in the United States. In fact, I can’t find a single place to buy them online… so this is a product you’ll have to cross the Atlantic to purchase. What does a tanning pill do? The way my “American in Paris” describes it, you take them before, during and after sun exposure (great to use while on Holiday). Apparently, it preps the skin for the sun (some Frenchies go as far as to say that it protects against sun damage, although I highly doubt that), brings out the natural golden color in your skin, and prolongs the life of your tan. Not to mention the shade of bronze that the pills manage to produce – a perfect golden hue.

When You Can’t Have Crealine H20….

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There’s always Caudalie’s Cleansing Water – another French alternative offered in the US of A (because, sadly, Bioderma’s Crealine is not).

Like Crealine H20, Caudalie Cleansing Water is a water and rinse-free face wash that removes dirt and makeup. It is gentle, non-irritating, soothing and can be used on the most sensitive of skins.

I have a serious obsession with Crealine H20. Whenever a friend from France travels to the states, I beg them to bring over a jumbo bottle of the solution. While I use it mainly as a makeup remover – it is so sensitive I have absolutely no adverse reaction – it’s also a great face wash supplement for skin types that are overdryed by washing too often.

The bummer of it all is that Crealine is impossible to find in the states. And I just ran out of my last bottle. Sadly, my only friend traveling from abroad was flying via carry-on and the bottle didn’t make the trip. Hence, my need to find the alternative…

And I’m not mad at Caudelie’s take on the water-free wash. While this formula does contain fragrance so it’s not a mild (in my opinion), it still gets the job done. It removes my makeup effortlessly, doesn’t irritate my eyes or skin and makes washing my face post removal, seamless. Again, the second wash in unnecessary. You could just leave your skin happy with the cotton pad removal of dirt, makeup and grime, but I’m a stickler for a little water love, so I do the double duty service.

Compare Caudalie Cleansing Water review to Crealine H20 review by clicking here! And if you find yourself in France, do bring back a bottle for moi, s’il vous plait?

PRICE TAG: $26.00

French Find: Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre

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A photographer friend of mine in Paris turned me on to this wonder cream. A Parisian secret, Embryolisse Lait-Creme is a must-have on photo shoots, says my friend. Apparently, makeup artists use Crealine H20, which I discovered last year on my trip to Paris, click here for a recap, then prime the skin with a dab of the Lait (meaning milk) cream before applying makeup.

The face cream is suitable for all skin types, packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins and dermatologist recommended. It plumps, soothes and softens the skin while creating a satiny finish. All this and it actually moisturizes!

Naturally, I had to try the cream for myself. So I ventured into one of those fantastic parisian pharmacies and asked in my broken french for a tube of Embryolisse Lait-Creme. The consistency is quite nice — not too thick nor too thin, rather in the middle. It is definitely hydrating but not overly moisturizing on my normal skin type. And it totally left my skin glowing to the point where my American friend asked if I was wearing makeup and I gave her the cream to try… now she, too, is hooked! I am stocking up before my return stateside.

Composition: Emollient oil and natural active ingredients: shea butter, beeswax, aloe vera and soy protein. Symdiol 68T paraben-free preservative complex.

PRICE TAG: About 15 Euros/ $18.00 in France
To buy online, click here. $25.00

J’adore French Pharmacies

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One of the most amazing things about Paris is the pharmacies. Okay, the fashion’s pretty incredible, as are those sexy accents, but nothing compares to the style and substance of a french pharmacy.

The greatest products, organized to perfection with lovely french pharmacists in white lab coats. You can literally find the most delicious, high-end products or obscure homeopathic remedies and it’s only skin, hair and body products. No random candies or aisles of school supplies like the U.S. This is purely beauty.

It’s all such an experience. I can’t help but walk in every time I see the blinking green Rx sign. It may actually be more addictive than Sephora.

Brands they carry (and I adore):
Caudalie – Obsessed with the face mist (beauty elixir). They have a great vine peach shower gel as well.
Weleda – Calendula cream is my must-have
Klorane – Their dry shampoo is genius.
La Roche-Posay – The most incredible sunscreens available on the market with UVA and UVB protection
Avene – Great skin products for sensitive types
Phyto – My stylist lives for their hair growth pills
Nuxe – The oil with golden specks makes for a wonderful body bronzer
– Love the baby body mist (hydra spray)

Have any favorite french product lines?
Let us know so that we can grab some samples before leaving!

French Find: Crealine H2O

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Leave it to the French to sell bottled water specifically for the face… for over $15.00! But, wow, this stuff is awesome.

While most French beauty companies make a similar product, Bioderma’s Crealine H20 was the first of its kind. A face wash without the need for water. Apparently, Parisian water is harsh on Parisian complexions. Bottled face water/ solution is all the rave over in France.

Of course, I had to try the goods and I’m beyond impressed. Works impeccably as a makeup remover (safe for eyes too) and it actually does clean the skin. I poured a bit onto two cotton pads, rubbed each side of my mug and that was that. Clean skin, no irritation. The solution is soothing and emollient, soap-free, fragrance-free and PH neutral.

Fatty acid esters, both emulgatory and filmogenous, enables dirt to be emulsified and surface hydrolipidic film to be reconstituted, says the site.

Basically, this stuff is perfect for anyone with sensitive skin (not just Parisians), as it does everything that soap will do but without the harsh and drying effects of soap and water. The solution comes in two other formulas, one for very dry skin and the other for oily complexions.

Hey, the French have great skin. Consider this their best kept secret (or one of them)…

French Find: Homeoplasmine

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There’s nothing like a French pharmacy, with all of those amazing brands and incredible products stacked on top of one another. It can be so much fun and slightly overwhelming.

Luckily, I walked into the place with a purpose: Pick up a tube of Homeoplasmine: a product that my friend, Jessica Stam, said is a must-have. I trust Jess’ picks so I uttered in my broken French, “Homeoplasmine, s’il vous plait?” And the grumpy French pharmacist handed me a box of the ointment.

Mind you, I had NO IDEA what this stuff was… I just knew that my gorgeous, supermodel friend who gets beautified for a living implored me to stock up. She said it’s the most amazing product for dry, cracked skin, sunburn and lips. She continued that every French makeup artist has a tube of the ointment in his/ her beauty bag…

Okay, tried and tested and I’m obsessed.

Basically, Homeoplasmine is the French version of our Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream and Japan’s Yu-Be. It’s a multi-purpose ointment that soothes, protects and moisturizes the skin. A little bit like Aquafor, sans the sheen and more natural. What I love about this stuff is that it’s not at all greasy like 8-Hour cream. In fact, it kind of has an au naturel, matte finish. And it is KILLER for dry lips, literally reattaching the flakey skin and filling in the cracks for hydration without the sheen. Perfect to use prior to makeup for a smooth, silky palette. So great for all flaky, dry areas including sun or wind burn. A little goes a long way and the ointment penetrates for hours.

Click here to buy! You can’t find in the US (I don’t think…)

About Beauty Banter
Beauty Banter was launched in July of 2006 as a comprehensive beauty blog covering trends, tips and tricks, insider secrets, and weekly must-haves. Beauty Banter has a reputation of being on the cutting edge of emerging trends and product launches so our readers are always the first to know what’s hot and what’s just not.