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When I lived in Paris, visitors only ever asked for two things: to see the Eiffel Tower, and to stop by a French pharmacy.
France is famous for its quality skin care readily available in local pharmacies, and the not necessarily conscious thesis statement of gentle products that coddle skin rather than sterilize it is a stark departure from the astringents commonly found in the US. The legend of the French pharmacy is prevailing — and, I believe, well-earned.
However, flying to Paris every time you need a new face cream is not convenient per se. Luckily for us, you can find most of the cult-favorite products online these days if you just know what you're looking for. Below, you'll find a list of 17 of the most beloved, and where you can find them online.
Below are the 17 French pharmacy skin-care products to buy, and where to find them online:
A multi-purpose cream for everything from setting makeup in place to quenching dry skin
If you recognize this product's packaging, it's likely due to its immense popularity in the States and abroad. The formula, created by a Parisian dermatologist, is a cocktail of natural ingredients like shea butter, soy protein, aloe vera, and beeswax that intensely hydrates as well as sets makeup in place. Like many of the products on this list, natural ingredients lend themselves well to being multipurpose. Use Embryolisse as a day cream, makeup remover, primer, and even as aftershave. It's earned its spot as a cult-favorite among makeup artists and models alike.
A water mist that calms and hydrates skin
Especially wonderful for sensitive skin, this thermal spring water coats skin in a protective, hydrating, mineral-rich mist that soothes, softens, and calms as it works to restore skin's natural balance. The company sites over 300 clinical studies that determined Eau Thermal does all three. If you're looking for healing and hydration, this is for you.
A micellar water that cleanses skin, removes makeup, and respects your skin's natural barrier
If you asked a beauty veteran what to pick up from a Parisian pharmacy, this micellar water would almost undoubtedly be on the shortlist. The company estimates that a bottle is sold every two seconds, and it's firmly seated on Amazon's best-selling skin-care products. It gently cleanses skin and removes makeup without disrupting the skin's natural hydrolipid film. Thanks to the water's unique physiological pH, you shouldn't even have to rinse. It's also formulated to work with any skin texture.
A dry shampoo that adds texture and volume with zero white residue
Just like Bioderma, Klorane has garnered impressive and far-reaching fame; a bottle is supposedly sold every 10 seconds somewhere in the world. It can help you extend the life of a blowout, manage grease, and give you the volumized, textured, and altogether effortless look that seems to go hand-in-hand with the studied "je ne sais quoi" of French Girl cool. Loyalists will also mention that it doesn't leave any white residue behind. The formula hasn't changed since 1971, and its fans are undoubtedly glad.
A multi-purpose ointment that can treat everything from minor burns to being used as an overnight mask for lips
A multi-purpose ointment that soothes, protects, and moisturizes skin, Homeoplasmine is a noted favorite of renowned makeup artists and the average person alike. The product is a non-greasy, matte homeopathic ointment that's packed with plant extracts and Vaseline to hydrate and soothe. Use it on hands, light burns, skin irritations, and lips (ie. pretty much anywhere). Since returning to the States a couple weeks ago, I've used mine nearly every day (and I wish I'd grabbed more than one at local prices). My lips have never been better moisturized.
An old-school burn treatment that helps to soothe, hydrate, and heal skin wherever applied
As the story goes, this household staple was created when French chemist M.Wenmaekers hurriedly made an emergency emulsion ointment for his daughter's ironing burns in 1971. One of the more difficult products to source from the US (you can find it on Amazon currently), Biafine is an impressive blend of natural ingredients like water, avocado oil, and paraffin that help to regenerate skin unbelievably fast. You can use it on burns, small cuts, or even as some (myself included) use it: to help skin bounce back after a blemish.
A 98.1% natural oil that you can use virtually anywhere for softer skin
This all-purpose oil is 98.1% natural and filled with seven precious plant oils that work wonders on your body, face, and hair (and really anywhere). Packed with ingredients like Tsubaki oil, sweet almond oil, Camellia oil, and Borage oil, the multi-purpose tool aims to hydrate, soften, and give skin a youthful appearance. Now widely available, you used to only be able to snag Nuxe Paris Huile Prodigieuse locally. And if you're concerned about preservatives or silicones, you won't find any here. It also has a pleasant, subtle smell and makes limbs look "glowy".
An overnight moisturizer with retinol
It's unclear if this is the new Avibon (reportedly discontinued) or just the closest approximation of it, but A313 does about the same thing as the famous overnight hero. Mix into your favorite overnight serums, use as a blemish treatment, or treat wrinkles, fine lines, stretch marks, or enlarged pores. No matter your preferred usage, make sure it's only at night since vitamin A is photosensitive.
Shampoo for dry, damaged hair
Formulated especially for those of us with dry, damaged hair, Klorane's Desert Date works to restore hair fiber with rich, fatty acids and proteins. It's also SLS-free, paraben-free and silicone-free.
Gentle, soap-free cleansing gel
This gentle, soap-free cleansing gel follows from the general mindset that using harsh astringents isn't the best road to clear skin. This cleanser works gently to purify skin with organic Citrus Medica and Mentha Piperita essential oils to purify and soothe.
A powerful wrinkle cream
Sometimes referred to as the anti-aging cream, the Filorga Time-Filler is a powerful cocktail of collagen and hydrochloric acid meant to effectively fill in facial lines (ie. the name).
A thick but gentle moisturizer
A deep moisturizer with the company's go-to mineral-rich thermal spring water, this cream manages to be thick and gentle without clogging pores. If you have acne, this is a good option to try in the winter when skin needs some extra coddling.
An intense hydrating serum that can also work as a makeup base
A natural toning, priming mist that sets makeup and tightens the appearance of pores
Inspired by Queen Isabelle of Hungary's famous "elixir of youth", Caudalie has yet to be dethroned in the 20 years since its making. Formulated with grape, peppermint, orange blossom, and rose extracts and clarifying ingredients, the elixir hydrates and brightens skin and is 99% natural. You may not find yourself courted by the King of Poland (35 years your junior) like the product's muse, but you can expect younger-looking, more radiant, and more even skin. Use it to bump radiance, set makeup, and tighten pores.
Balm Cream for hands, face, and body
Use on everything from small cuts to irritated skin for a soothing reaction almost immediately. It's non-greasy, fast-absorbing, and uses a mix of powerhouses like glycerin, shea butter, and zinc to hydrate, soothe, and protect skin.
Lightweight, matte-finish face sunscreen with antioxidants and Cell-Ox Shield technology
A consistently solid brand (and one that you've probably heard of before), La Roche-Posay has created a cult-favorite sunscreen that finds dermatologists among its most enthusiastic fans. It's lightweight, blends into skin easily, and has a matte finish that means you can use it as a primer.
A moisturizing hairspray that keeps hair in place without weighing it down
This spray has a satin finish that holds hair in place without weighing it down. The Vegetal spray utilizes cakile extract mixed with vitamin b5 to maintain hydration at the core of the hair (which is very important) without leaving it looking or feeling greasy.