The French Pharmacy
My love affair with France began in high school. I was studying the Romanticism, Neoclassicism and Social Realism art movements and became utterly fascinated by the country's rich history, particularly the French Revolution. Since I was fifteen, it had been a dream of mine to visit Musée du Louvre and see these grand paintings I had learnt about in real life. In 2012, I got to do that with my best friend as we travelled around Europe together, and in fact, I dragged my poor best friend back twice because I didn't get to see all the paintings I wanted to the first time around!
My family and friends all associate me with Paris and everyday, I yearn to go back to my favourite city in the whole entire world. One of my fondest memories during my first visit was simply wandering the streets of Paris and getting excited when we stumbled upon those neon green lit cross signs; my best friend and I exclaiming, "Pharmacy!" every time. Or should I spell it, "pharmacie". We also couldn't get over the cute French spelling! We browsed around many quaint little Parisian pharmacies, though I remember surprisingly not buying a lot because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of product! The French are known for taking good care of their skin and their products make up a good majority of my skincare routine, so in today's post, I thought I'd talk you through my French pharmacie favourites that even have cult classic status. I wrote a similar post back in the beginning of the year called Australian Beauty, if you'd like to read that too. I didn't intend on this post to coincide with the recent tragic events in Paris, and acknowledging the equally as devastating attacks in Beirut and Yola, I guess you can consider this is my tribute to the beautiful City of Lights. Vive la France!
Most famous for their Thermal Spring Water, the Avène story begins in Southern France when the Marquis de Rocozel’s horse was cured from stubborn pruritus (severe itching) by the healing properties of the water after a few swims. Naturally soothing, anti-irritating and rich in components recommended for the most sensitive skin, Avène Thermal Spring Water can be used to tone the face as well as offer relief to inflamed skin. It's also something I love whipping out during the warmer months in the muggy, sweltering heat of the summer when cold showers just won't cut it to keep cool! I'm not one who has sensitive skin at all, though I appreciate the gentle nature of Avène's skincare range and when it comes to cleansers, I prefer to keep things simple. Their Gentle Gel Cleanser is one of my all-time favourite cleansers - it's pretty basic stuff and though I'm not currently using it as I already have a few other cleansers on the go, it works wonderfully as a second step in the double cleanse. The Avène Micellar Lotion was also my first foray into micellar waters and while it did the job, there's a product I prefer more that I'll go on to mention in the next paragraph - I have no doubt you already know what it is!
Founded in the 1970s by leading pharmacist, Jean-Noël Thorel, the name Bioderma is derived from the brand's philosophy: "biology at the service of dermatology". Bioderma seek out effectiveness and tolerance for each skin type and each condition in their products by using optimally dosed active ingredients, while ensuring dermatological safety. Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution (formerly known as Crealine H2O Solution Micellaire Cleanser), or more commonly referred to simply as Bioderma, is a cult classic amongst beauty enthusiasts, makeup artists and celebrities, and has been a staple in my skincare routine since I picked up my first two bottles of it back during my time in Paris. It cleanses impurities and removes makeup while respecting the skin's natural balance, though I specifically use it to remove my eye and lip makeup only, going in with a "traditional" cleanser for more thorough makeup removal on the rest of the face. Once hard to get a hold of and with no trip to Paris including a restock, our favourite micellar water is now widely available in pharmacies around the world. My favourite time to stock up is when Priceline have their 40% off skincare sale! I've never tried anything else from Bioderma because I have enough in my skincare routine and while there are now many cheaper commercial brand alternatives, Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution will always be the original and the best, and the one I always come back to.
Caudalie was founded by Mathilde Thomas and her husband, Bertrand Thomas, in the vineyards of their family estate in Bordeaux. Combining the antioxidant power of grape extract with the benefits of the hot spring water discovered on their estate, Caudalie bring us a powerful and luxurious skin solution for all ages and skin types. I was first introduced to the brand back in 2012 when everybody started raving on about Caudalie Beauty Elixir, and knowing I would be going to Paris later that year, I could not wait to try it out for myself. A refreshing and invigorating mist, it sets makeup, tightens pores, awakens the skin and is even a favourite of Victoria Beckham. I mostly use it as a toner, though a few spritz of the stuff on hot summer days and during flights feels oh, so heavenly. I always carry a small bottle in my makeup bag. Truly revitalising the senses for the ultimate pick-me-up, a whiff of the grape, orange blossom, rose, mint and rosemary scent, and I'm right back in Paris. Oh, the nostalgia!
Upon returning from Paris, I then went to discover more beauties from Caudalie, including the Grape Water, which is not dissimilar from Avène Thermal Spring Water; the Caudalie offering having the ever so slightest grape scent. I also enjoy their Divine Oil, an enriching oil for the body, face and hair, though I tend to only use it on the body. The scent is luxurious and pampering, and more importantly, contains vegetable oils and grape oils for absolute nourishment. Also providing nourishment is the Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum and Hand and Nail Cream. The Thirst Quenching Serum replaced Indeed Labs Hydraluron in my skincare routine and in terms of hydration and application, I prefer it so much more. The Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream doesn't beat my holy grail, Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, but it definitely comes close. The only Caudalie product I've been disappointed by is their Pulpe Vitaminée Eye and Lip Cream, which really did nothing to hydrate my eyes and wasn't pleasant to use on the lips. I've also tried the Gentle Cleansing Milk in the past and it was good, though the scent wasn't my favourite! Having said this, Caudalie are definitely a leading brand in the French pharmacy with an amazing array of skincare products.
In 1950, French dermatologist, Dr. Tricot, created Embryolisse as a pharmaceutical skincare brand. Containing plant extracts and active ingredients, which benefit and restore skin tone and elasticity, the brand's most famous product is Lait-Crème Concentré, a French cult classic loved by both beauty aficionados and industry professionals. It's a multi-purpose moisturiser, which thoroughly hydrates the skin, removes makeup and can even be used as a makeup primer and nourishing face mask. I used to use it strictly as a nighttime moisturiser, but as my skin has become a little more dehydrated over the years, I now enjoy using it during the day too and my skin feels supple, plumped and baby soft after each use. I have no qualms with it containing the controversial ingredient, mineral oil, because if it works well for your skin and doesn't cause a bad reaction, I don't think it even matters. As well as providing deep nourishment, Lait-Crème Concentré reconstitutes the hydrolipidic film (the barrier that protects the skin from aggression) and accelerates cell renewal. I haven't tried any other products from Embryolisse before, but Lait-Crème Concentré is definitely a firm staple in my routine.
Developed and recommended by dermatologists all around the world, La Roche-Posay focuses on skin sensitivity with minimalist formulas limited to active concentrations of only what is essential. At the heart of La Roche-Posay products is thermal spring water (a reoccurring ingredient in French skincare), enriched with antioxidant selenium as well as natural soothing and healing minerals to restore the skin's balance. Also containing anti-irritant and decongestant properties, I've tried three products from the brand - Effaclar Duo (both the old and new formula), Serozinc and Anthelios XL Spray SPF 50+. Effaclar Duo is a firm favourite for fighting against pesky blemishes as it deeply penetrates the skin to purify, refine, exfoliate, repair, as well as unclog pores and blackheads. People talk of the "purging" stage the skin goes through when first using it, which my skin did indeed do (little white bumps, so nothing too serious), although I never experienced this issue with the reformulated version, Effaclar Duo [+]. While the original formula simply reduced blemishes, Effaclar Duo [+] does this as well as reduce the appearance of acne scarring. To be honest, the results aren't all that visible and for hyper-pigmentation, I do prefer my Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Having said that though, since using Effaclar Duo [+], I haven't experienced a major breakout in a long, long time.
When Serozinc came onto the beauty blogging scene, I couldn't wait to give it a go. Last year, I ordered a can of it off of eBay as it's unfortunately not available in Australia and with commercial online retailers have strict shipping restrictions for aerosol cans. On the surface, it seems like pretty basic stuff, but it really does work wonders to soothe, reduce redness and grease, and refresh the skin. I particularly love using it when I've got the occasional spot or when I'm experiencing some redness. It's pretty widely available in the UK now and hopefully they follow suit with Australia, but in the meantime, hunting this product down from Europe is so worth it! Last year, I also picked up the Anthelios XL Spray SPF 50+ and it instantly became my favourite body sunscreen. Housed in a spray bottle, application is fuss-free and it blends well into the skin, ensuring there's no awful white casts. The formula is lightweight and not at all greasy or sticky, and with summer not far off, it's a great one to check out if you're in the market for a new sunscreen.
Nuxe is simply the combination of nature and luxury. Founded by Parisian woman, Aliza Jabès, in the early 90s, she was passionate about the power of plants and sought to create a brand of natural cosmetics. Rêve de Miel is perhaps their most famous product, an ultra-nourishing lip balm comprised of precious oils and honey to restore suppleness and comfort damaged lips. It's my go-to lip balm before bed as I find it quite exfoliating and upon awakening, my lips feel silky smooth. The Comforting Cleansing Milk is the most beautiful, gentlest cleanser with a subtle rose scent I simply adore. Infused with rose petals and kind enough to use on the eyes, I use this cleanser both morning and night, and it leaves my skin feeling so lovely and soft. The final product I own from Nuxe is their Huile Prodigieuse, a multi-purpose dry oil similar to Caudalie Divine Oil. Onto my second bottle, I prefer the Nuxe offering over Caudalie as it's more lightweight, the spray a lot finer and the scent more to my liking. It contains a unique blend of six precious plant oils and will even improve stretch marks.
Vichy is yet another French cosmetics brand containing France's mineral rich thermal water. The water with its therapeutic properties is combined with active ingredients (the French sure do love their "active ingredients") in order to create formulations with real and lasting results. I've only tried one product from Vichy, their 48hr Anti-Perspirant Treatment Roll On, which I've been using for a good couple of years now. You'd think buying something as basic as deodorant online and paying over $5 is a tad excessive, but I was having issues with drugstore brand products staining my clothes with white marks. I've since not had this problem upon turning to Vichy and it really works well to provide all-day protection... I'm not sure about 48 hours, however!
What are your French pharmacy favourites?